Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a guest last month for the ManUp Pittsburgh virtual conference, during which he discussed his faith in Christ openly and honestly. He talked about being raised in a Christian home, making his own decision as an adult to follow Jesus, and how he’s dealt with some personal struggles throughout his 16-year NFL career.
“It’s cool to be a Christian and be an athlete,” he said. “Go ahead and be the best athlete you can possibly be, and see if you can be a better Christian. That’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to be a better Christian than I am athlete and football player. I push myself to do that every day and it starts here (puts his hand on his Bible).”
Roethlisberger expanded on his faith journey Wednesday in an interview with former MLB All-Star Matt Holliday and his wife, Leslee, on their “Table Forty” podcast (part of the Sports Spectrum Podcast Network). The Hollidays discussed Roethlisberger’s childhood and rise into NFL stardom, and asked how his faith played a role.
New podcast with Ben. Great stuff, I think y’all will enjoy! pic.twitter.com/m7L7h2qIRJ
— Matt Holliday (@MattHollidayOSU) July 15, 2020
Roethisberger’s parents divorced when he was young, so he often spent weekends away with one of his parents. His dad, who had played football and baseball at Georgia Tech, was his hero and modeled a Christian life. When Ben was 8 years old, his mother died in a car accident. He remembers it obviously being a hard time, but he recalled thinking confidently, “I’m going to see her in Heaven soon.”
When he went off to college at Miami of Ohio, Roethlisberger said he didn’t lose his faith but he didn’t grow either. That carried into the first few years of his NFL career as well.
“I went through a phase of my life when I wasn’t growing. My college coach always said, ‘You either improve or you deteriorate; you never stay the same.’ So I’d have to say if I wasn’t improving, I was going down. I wasn’t growing in my faith. Those are the few things I regret and I wish I would have done better in college,” Roethlisberger told the Hollidays.
He also didn’t remember much Christian community when he first joined the Steelers in 2004. He found much success early on — winning Rookie of the Year, earning a Pro Bowl selection and capturing two Super Bowls within his first five seasons — so he admits that maybe his eyes weren’t open to any fellowship that may have been taking place.
“But now we do Bible studies on Friday mornings and there might be 20-some guys in there,” Roethlisberger said. “At chapel the night before a game there’s so many people … I don’t think you have to be either a really good athlete or a really good Christian. You can be both.”
He said the last 10 years or so have been great because his family of five has found a church family, and he and his wife, Ashley, are a part of a good small group.
“But there was that period of three, four years in college, and then three or four years in the pros where I wasn’t growing as a Christian, and I wish I would have because I can only imagine where my walk would be now,” he said. “But you have to remember these things, that it’s His plan, and He knew what He was doing.”
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