For as long as I can remember football has set the “rhythm” of my life. I have been playing it since I was 9 years old. Growing up in Connecticut, football meant something to its communities and their respective high schools, not like it does in Texas or California, but for a small state, it was important. This meant we had spring practice, and summer workouts, and winter conditioning. That’s when football became “my god” or “my idol”. I love football, and somehow, at the age of 34, I am still playing it. That’s almost 25 years of something being at forefront of my life.
As I sit here now, just getting done with my 12th year in the NFL, and not knowing if the 13th year is going to come or not, a thought has hit me square in the face.
I have allowed football to be my god.
I grew up in a traditional church, and a traditional catholic school, but in high school and college, I veered off path and became very much so a part of the world, and not a part of faith.
In my 2nd year in the NFL, accompanied by some incredible mentors and men of faith, in 2006, I gave my life to Christ. I was on fire, and my life radically changed overnight, and my journey since then has been incredible. If you asked me in early 2017 what the most important thing(s) to me are, I would have answered “my faith, my wife and kids, and my family/friends.”
Now that Free Agency has come and gone, and summer is about to hit, I remain unsigned. It is the longest time since I was that 9-year-old kid that I have gone without playing some organized form of football.
I sat at our kitchen table a few weeks ago, as teams in the NFL were reporting for their off-season programs to start, and was teary-eyed talking to my wife. I was trying to express to her that I wasn’t overwhelmed with “is my NFL football career over?”, but more somber that the thing that has been the most constant thing in my life, that I have had the longest relationship with, may be over. It felt like I was losing a part of me. All the questions run through your head; Who am I? What will I do? What will I be known for?
Listen, the NFL is an incredible organization and an incredible job to have, but it’s an even more alluring mistress.
Proverbs 5 says, “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it. Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house.”
Solomon surely was talking in literal terms here, but the correlation is easy to be made. I would sit by my phone and wait to see if it was my agent calling, it was like I was a teen waiting for the girl I liked to call me. I had allowed football to be Lord of my life, instead of Christ.
And as I wrestled with the emotions for days and days and days, I spent time in my Bible and time in prayer. I guess God was tugging at my heartstrings, to remind me, “you’re not in control, do you not trust me”? One morning, as I was sitting in prayer, two songs popped into my head out of nowhere. One of them was a song that’s been a part of my journey for years now, and another is more recent, but they each shared a message of “trust”. The song that first hit me is by a guy named Josh Wilson. There is a verse that he sings “how in the world do I think I could only get to love you when my life was good”?
It became apparent to me that I had gotten comfortable loving God, because I had that consistent rhythm in my life of football. I knew my schedule, my months and weeks and days and how they looked because of football. When it came to life, there wasn’t much unknown for me because I had fallen into the trap of allowing football to dictate myself as well as my family’s rhythm of life.
Natalie Grant has a song where the chorus sings, “when did I forget that you’ve always been the King of the World”? In that moment of hearing that song God tugged my heart and reminded me of those exact words. It was almost a moment of confirmation where it felt God was reminding me, “don’t forget, I am still on the throne.” And no matter what happens, God is still on the throne. He is still the King of the World, and it was a reminder that I need daily to allow Him to be King of MY World.
God is the ultimate, in all things, and that includes teaching. In this season of my life, He has been the ultimate teacher.
I still want to play football, and I think I am fully capable of it. I feel as good physically and mentally as I ever have, and I truly love the grind that the NFL represents. I truly love being part of the locker room, and being with my teammates, and impacting the quarterback room, and the competition that the NFL is.
I would be lying if I told you I didn’t want to play or don’t care. I do and I want to. I love football and the NFL family, and I am hopeful that opportunity presents itself this season.
Often times we hear people say “God has a sense of humor.” I think there may be some credence to that. I find it funny how God has taken me on this journey these past few months of reconnecting, and reminding and re-setting. The valley He has allowed me to walk through has me replacing God back in His proper place for me and everyone else, on the throne. I’ve allowed God to be back to setting the rhythm of my life. Back to letting God be God.
Editor’s Note: Dan Orlovsky has played quarterback in the NFL for 12 seasons (2005-16). He is currently unsigned and a free agent with the hopes of playing again in 2017. You can reach Dan on twitter at @DanOrlovsky7