I was born and raised in the church, so I knew a lot about Jesus and the gospel, how He came here and died for us. But there were multiple reasons why I never truly accepted it.
I invested my life in so many other things that ultimately failed me. I figured this out when I broke my elbow last year in the last game of the season. My sport failed me, my health failed me, and people's flattery failed me. I felt abandoned and alone. I came to the realization that none of it mattered. None of it was going to save me, and I needed to find something that would. Because I had all the information on being a true follower of Christ, I knew what that was. I went out to Athletes in Action’s Ultimate Training Camp with the idea that I wanted to put Christ first in my life for real.
“I thought He was going to take all my fun away”
But there was something blocking that, which was sin. I knew if I became a Christian, I wasn't going to be able to do everything I wanted to do anymore. I was pretty reluctant to relinquish all the control of my life. At camp, I got to talk to Aaron Henry (safety at Wisconsin), who was my mentor there. He was a lot like me with a similar background. From talking to him, I learned that once you do let Christ come into your life, He’s not trying to take anything from you. I thought He was going to take all my fun away, all the stuff your average college student does. I saw that something about Aaron and the other athletes at camp was different; they all looked so vibrant. So I looked into it some more.
Someone told me about John 10:10, where Jesus says He came to give us life abundantly, and that spoke to me. I knew that the fun I thought I was having right now is not going to get me anywhere. Jesus said He’s going to give me life, and that made me warm up to it some more. It finally hit me when someone explained that when Jesus tells you not to do something, it’s not because He wants to abuse His power but it’s really to protect us from ourselves. If you listen to God in the first place, things will be a lot easier for you. When God tells me not to do something, He’s looking out for my best interest. That spoke to me and I decided to finally give up control over my life. I finally decided to let Jesus Christ come in and take control, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
“The best decision I've ever made”
I accepted Christ on May 14, 2011, at camp, and that's where Christ's love came in. I realized that He will never fail me regardless of my imperfections, and on top of that He died for me! I've dedicated my life to serving Him ever since, and it was the best decision I have ever made in my life!
Before I accepted Christ, I did everything to impress other people or for money. I did everything for reasons that were ultimately unfruitful. Afterward, I had a whole new perspective on Christ and on sports, and I can use my sport to glorify Christ. I just want to use this as a mechanism to get other people to learn about God and His love and how He came to save people. My whole motivation is different, focused on something that will affect eternity.
“A lot bigger than college football”
I realize that God, the Maker of the heavens and earth, and His Son Jesus Christ, are a lot bigger than college football, a lot bigger than Michigan State University, a lot bigger than the Big 10 Championship game and the Rose Bowl. My relationship to God matters more than the other things I’m doing now. That’s not saying I’m not having fun or I don’t want to be playing football, but I’m not relying on sports to sustain me. I get to focus on something much bigger.
My life verse is Philippians 3:8, where Paul said he counted it all as loss next to knowing Christ. I think that verse really speaks to my priorities in life right now. Football is good. The Big 10 Championship game is good. But compared to knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior and growing in my relationship with Him, it’s incomparable.