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Ironically, it was injuries that got WNBA star Tamika Catchings back on track not only physically but also spiritually. After two knee injuries in a matter of half a year, Catchings looked to God for answers. "So after all that happened, I was like 'Okay, Lord, I've torn everything that I can possibly tear in my knee. What do you want me to do now?' It seemed to be God's way of telling me to slow down and take things a little easier."
Catchings is a role model off the court, as well as a strong leader on the court. "The other day, a lady e-mailed me and said that she wanted to send her daughter to one of my basketball camps," Catchings says. "She said that she wanted to thank me for being so upfront about my relationship with Christ." Her on the court performance isn't too shabby either as she is the fastest player in WNBA history to reach 2,000 points, grab 1,000 rebounds, dish out 400 assists, and make 300 steals.
So while the injuries hurt at the time, Catchings appreciates what the experience taught her. "They (the injuries) helped me to refocus on the Lord and get my priorities right."
For Shelton Quarles, Michael Boulware, and Renaldo Wynn, playing on the defensive side of the ball allows them to demonstrate the toughness of men of faith.
Although undrafted, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shelton Quarles was an integral part of the team's victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. Nonetheless, he doesn't find lasting pleasure in bragging rights and trophies. "It's about eternity, and that's what I'm about," says Quarles.
Seattle safety Michael Boulware says his faith has sustained him whenever faced with difficulties that threaten his confidence. Michael says, "My favorite Scripture is 1 Corinthians 10:13. 'God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But, when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.'"
When the Washington Redskins signed Renaldo Wynn as a free agent in 2002, they got one of the most hard-working defensive ends in the NFL. "The most important thing with me is there aren't any surprises," he says. "You know what you're going to get. I pride myself on being accountable. My teammates depend on me, and I think you can take that back to Christian principles- being accountable to your brother."
As soon as he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, Tim Howard began to open people's eyes. He's a 6-foot-3, acrobatic and agile athlete. Here was an American goalie playing at the top level in soccer-crazy England. He spent nearly six seasons with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars before signing with Manchester United of England's Premier League.
Howard has grown much as a goalie over the years. When first making the switch from Major League Soccer to the Premier League, he talks about how intense training was. "Everything is 100 mph. There's pressure every day." But he made the adjustment.
The greatest adjustment after moving to England was finding a church and getting plugged in. He and his wife truly had to be open and follow the Lord's lead. "Maybe He wants us to shed our skin and not necessarily go with what's comfortable," he said.
As Howard continues to play, faith is still most important in the couple's life. They know that everywhere God has taken them and everywhere He will take them will be part of His plan. "We learned that God's rule is sovereign. You see God's power and presence everywhere, even an ocean away."
As the current quarterbacks for the last two national championship teams, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow have taken center stage in two of the most intensely scrutinized college football programs in America. Even as sophomores, this concept is not lost on McCoy and Tebow. They know they are being watched. They also know that with the immediate access they have to so many people, the opportunities to be a model and a spokesperson for Jesus Christ are preeminent. "In some places it's not the cool thing to do or the popular thing to be and God is not No. 1," says McCoy.
Tebow and McCoy were both hatched from close-knit, deeply Christian upbringings that saw them come to faith at an early age. Tim Tebow's father, Bob Tebow, heads the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, which claims to be the conduit of close to 9 million people coming to faith in Christ in the last 8 years.
An NFL career is a goal for both of these young quarterbacks, but they are realistic enough to know there are no guarantees. McCoy looks forward to what God has in store. "God willing, I'd like to be in the NFL, but the important thing to do is His will."
Being in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, and trying to help those in need. That describes much of Todd MacCulloch's early life, and it paints a pretty good picture of the man today. He arrived in Philadelphia with little fanfare from the University of Washington in 1999. Few people east of the PAC-10 Conference knew much about him. But MacCulloch experienced enough success in those first few years that soon all of Philly knew his name.
MacCulloch indeed steadily made a mark with his prowess on the basketball court. But it's off the court where he seems to be having his greatest impact as he strives to do the right thing. There's a great desire within him to walk in purity and integrity.
MacCulloch was raised in a loving Christian home and was taught the basics of love, faith, humility, and service from his earliest years. "We've always had the Word in our lives, and though I've struggled at times I've always believed," says Todd, "and I've always known that that's what I need to be doing." Those seeds planted early in life continue to bear fruit today.
There can be little doubt that Tommy Maddox has taken an unusual pathway to Pittsburgh.
After all, how many NFL quarterbacks have a three-year stint running an insurance company on their resume-before becoming a starter?
Maddox's ability to fire footballs took him on a circuitous ride from Denver to the Los Angeles Rams to the New York Giants to the New Jersey Red Dogs to the Los Angeles Express to (finally and surprisingly) the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That excursion has been an educational journey that has humbled Tommy Maddox. He's no longer the brash college kid who thought he could take the NFL by storm. He recognizes now that "God had to pull things away" from him to get his attention. As a result, he now says, "I've gotten better at letting God control my life."
The gunslinger's wild ride has taught him some important lessons-but mostly about keeping focus on eternal values. He tells anyone who will listen that "God has promised us so much more than what's on this earth."
That promise will sustain Tommy Maddox, whether he ends up selling insurance again or winning the Super Bowl.
Tony Dungy's gimmick is not having a gimmick. After a decade that made anti-heroes cliche (the 1990s), Dungy's single most rebellious act may be the fact that he flies under the radar and lives quietly.
Tony Dungy spends a good deal of practice alone, and when he finds me afterward he walks toward me by himself, not surrounded by the usual heel-nipping entourage that most Public Figures carry with them.
"God has expectations of you in this business. You're a lamp and how you carry yourself is very important in the midst of the spiritual challenges." What challenges? "Remaining humble when you do well, and keeping a decent attitude when you're losing. You get the sense in this league that not everyone can end up the big winner. At the end of a season you have to evaluate the spiritual side of what you accomplish."
The Colts, both Christians and otherwise, keep a low profile, choosing instead to simply "bang somebody up" and take care of their business on the field. In a league of chest bumps and fingers pointed toward the sky where even faith is a commodity, less is more on this team. As far as coach Tony Dungy is concerned, that's just fine.
At approximately 7:25 p.m. on July 9, 2002, Torii Hunter left the ground with an exuberant leap. Up until that moment, Hunter was well-regarded by knowledgeable baseball buffs and a fan favorite of the Minnesota Twins. But in the greater baseball universe, he was largely unknown. When Hunter landed, after hanging gracefully in the air for a flash of time to catch a ball hit by Barry Bonds, his life changed.
This was the beginning of attention he had not been accustomed to. It started with a playful attack from Bonds himself that literally swept Hunter off his feet. From that point on, his name became more common.
Hunter used this opportunity to speak to people, especially students, about Christ and making wise choices in life. He grew up in the church and was baptized his senior year in high school. Though Hunter admittedly has moments where he makes the wrong choices (like when his temper gets the best of him), he immediately makes the wrongs right and prays for forgiveness.
His fiery spirit is the same in matters of faith as it is on the baseball field. God has gifted Hunter, and he is using his place in life to be an example.
The new manager of the Kansas City Royals is Trey Hillman. That's Trey Hillman. "I'm a no-name," he says. "I've never managed in the major leagues in the United States." After 19 years in a variety of managing positions, Hillman finally reached the major leagues. "I had to manage 'A' ball for 8 years before I got promoted to Double A," he says, "and I believe that everything I went through is coming full circle. I believe I'll go through more. I believe that's part of God's plan for me."
Although Hillman is a no-name, he has been a very successful manager. In Japan, he led the downtrodden Hokkaido Nippon Ham franchise, which had gone 25 years without a pennant, to victory in the 2006 Japan Series.
Now that Hillman is a manager in the major leagues, he is not going to take lightly a promise he made many years ago. "I made God a promise a long time ago, and that promise was this: 'Give me an opportunity with a platform in professional baseball, and I will never be hesitant; I will not be shy about professing my faith.'"
September 11 holds special meaning for Trot Nixon.
"September 11 will always be a special day," says the right fielder of the Boston Red Sox. "I wanted to be a firefighter, a policeman, or in the armed forces growing up. They protect the very ground we walk on. I have great respect for them and let them know they are the real heroes."
Boston Red Sox fans appreciate that kind of player. Nixon shows up every day with lunch pail in hand.
And playing the baseball hero role, he nearly willed his team into the World Series in 2003.
Last fall the Red Sox made it to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in part because of a rare playoff walk-off home run off Nixon's bat in the Divisional Series.
It was after Nixon's key home run that he launched another key hit. In front of a national TV audience he boldly proclaimed his allegiance to Jesus Christ.
It is easy to see why Nixon is a popular player in Boston. What's not to like? He's intense and passionate about the game, a leader in the clubhouse and a player who brings his lunch pail mentality to work every day.