Summer 2024

Former NFL player Kurt Ploeger says God used football to bring him to Christ

Kurt Ploeger remembers vividly the moment his life changed.

It came when he attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event as a student, and Vikings linebacker Wally Hilgenberg was speaking.

“We had no idea what Wally was going to talk about,” Ploeger recalled to The Christian Post. “We had all been Vikings fans growing up, so we thought he was going to tell football stories. He began to share how Christ changed his life, how there was a radical transformation of the kind of person he was.”

The message from Hilgenberg struck Ploeger, who points to this as the moment he gave his life to Christ.

“When he gave an invitation to respond to Christ, I responded to that call because I realized that I was an all-American football player at the time and I had put a lot of effort into football, but my faith, any belief I had in God, was sort of put on the back shelf, compartmentalized somewhere. And I realized that if I wanted to be serious about this, that it took something more than what I had been giving it,” Ploeger said.

Years later like Hilgenberg, Ploeger would make it to the NFL playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. His career was cut short due to injury, but 30 years later, the former defensive end is now looking to tackle something greater by planting a church back in his home state.

The seeds for NorthLight Community Church in Bryon, Minn. (just five miles west of Rochester), were planted during a 2016 meeting between Ploeger and two pastors. Despite the town only having a population of 5,500, Ploeger and the pastors believe the church will have a great effect in an area that is growing due to Rochester’s Mayo Clinic campus expansion.

“They had a vision for not just planting a church, but planting churches that would plant other churches, and a process of multiplication,” Ploeger told The Christian Post.

With its first service in March, Ploeger said 60 people were in attendance for the 9:30 a.m. Sunday worship service. He’s looking forward to reaching the community with the same message of faith that changed his life when he was in his youth.

“A few of those were well-wishers, but most of them were people from the community. Some I know, some I didn’t know. And so we’re, we’re trying to build from there,” Ploeger said.

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