We’re halfway through the season, and I thought I’d take some time to reflect on my adventure as a semi-professional football player. It has been frustrating, exhilirating, sobering, and rewarding. So far I’ve played in three games (one was an exhibition). In two of them I was the starting right tackle. Our team record is 3-2. We started 1-2. We have five games left, and still have a shot at the playoffs if we keep winning.
I’ve been frustrated by my body and my schedule. I’ve missed three games. I missed one for a wedding I officiated. I missed another on the weekend I was ordained (Yes, it’s officially Rev. Dawg now). I missed a third because of an injury. The whole season I’ve gone from one annoying ailment to another. Right now I feel relatively good, and I’m looking forward to five straight games without a bye starting on July 10.
I want to share a little about what goes on in my mind on a Saturday as a game approaches.
One of my favorite parts of the day is arriving at the field. There are guys getting ready around the team bus. I am greeted with hand shakes, fives, fist-bumps, and nods. I am with my teammates, getting ready for a game, and I feel good. There is a special relationship between teammates before a football game. I think this feeling, above all else, is what I was wanting to find again when I started on this preposterous adventure. I take my time as I prepare my pads – putting them in the right place, adjusting straps, and taping parts. Eventually I walk down to our bench.
I walk out onto the field. I feel the sun on my face. I look at the field, the clean white stripes. I look out at the sea of green corn fields. I look up at the watertower. I look over at our opponents getting ready in much the same way we are. I find a place to sit, a little seperate from the rest of the team. I pray, usually something like this:
“Thank you God for all that you have given me. Thank you for my wife and daughter. Thank you for the incredible blessings in my life. Thank you for my church and my home, and for the chance to serve you. Thank you for the ability to play this game. Thank you for my teammates, for the relationships that I have built. Thank you for allowing me to pray and to play with them.
“I know God, that it is a violent game. I know Jesus said that the meek that will inherit the earth, and that meekness is seldom valued on a football field. Yet meekness is about putting the glory of others in front of my own. That is, after all, the job of an offensive lineman, right? And so I feel in my heart that you have sent me to this field. I believe you have called me to play for your glory.
“I ask that you bless this field. Send your Holy Spirit to guide me, my teammates and my opponents. Let us play this remarkable game with dignity and respect. Keep us free from injury, and allow us to go home from this place with heads held high.
“Again, I thank you God for this chance. There is no way I could be here without you. Use me today, as you do everyday, for your will. Let me be your instrument of grace so that someone may know the love of Jesus Christ, even on a football field.
“I thank you above all for your Son Jesus Christ. I thank you, the source of life, life abundant, and life everlasting. I pray these things in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
After I pray, we usually stretch as a team and do some warmups. One of the first things I do is find my wife and daughter. I almost always tear up when I see them – its a wave of emotions I cannot really describe.
I try to take it all in as much as I can. I savor every moment. I enjoy the sweat dripping off my brow. I enjoy taping my hands to get ready for battle. I enjoy looking into the eyes of my teammates knowing that we are in this together. I enjoy looking out at the crowd that is gathered, knowing they have come to watch us play our game. I enjoy hearing guys whoop and holler. I am usually quiet, yet inside my stomach is turning, my blood is pumping. I am simmering, ready to boil over.
It is time for football. It is the greatest game I have ever played, and I know that there are thousands of men wishing they could be doing what I am about to do. I thank God again for the chance to be doing something I love. I am ready. Kick-off.
If you want to read about the earlier parts of my journey, you can read my previous posts called “Putting on the pads,” “Pastor Dawg,” and “Glory Days.” You follow the Twin City Dawgs by CLICKING HERE.