Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Kirk Cousins on Vikings' early-season struggles: 'That drove me closer to the Lord'

Following a 10-6 regular season in 2019, and an overtime playoff win over New Orleans before a playoff loss to San Francisco, the Minnesota Vikings had high hopes of building on that success in 2020. Then they started the season 1-5.

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After a crushing 40-23 defeat to previously-winless Atlanta in Week 6, the Vikings entered their bye week. And coming out of their week off, they would face all three of their NFC North divisional opponents. The season was certainly not going how Minnesota had hoped.

And it was weighing on the leader of the Vikings, quarterback Kirk Cousins. So he turned to the Lord.

“So many of us [NFL players], we still face daily stresses, we fail time and again on the field, off the field. The tough start to our season was a great reminder of that,” Cousins said Wednesday on the Sports Spectrum Football Special. “But I also know that when we went to that bye week after starting 1-5, I had some of the best moments with the Lord during my quiet time that week than I have had in a long time.

“And a large part of it was because we were struggling so much in what I do professionally. I think that drove me closer to the Lord. Not that I wanted to start 1-5, but at the same time, God can use that to bring me closer to Him and develop things in me that otherwise might not get developed.”

Things for the Vikings immediately took a turn for the better after the bye. They knocked off Green Bay in Week 8, then Detroit and then Chicago. They fell to Dallas in Week 11, but bounced back to defeat Carolina and Jacksonville to bring their record to 6-6 with four games remaining. Minnesota now sits in seventh place in the NFC, which would give them the final playoff berth (this is the first year the NFL will have seven playoff teams in the AFC and NFC).

And Cousins has been a big reason for the team’s turnaround. In the first six games, he threw 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In the six games since the bye, he’s tossed 15 touchdowns with just two picks.

Cousins has long been a strong man of faith, but even at 32 years old in his ninth NFL season, he knows he still has much to learn from the Lord.

“I trust that God’s not going to waste a hurt, He’s not going to waste a failure; He’s going to use it for my good and His glory,” Cousins said. “And I believe that’s the life of the Christian walk. I believe that as you read the teachings of Jesus, He doesn’t promise material wealth, but He does promise suffering. So you understand when you choose to follow Jesus, it also means you take up your cross. He makes it clear that there are sacrifices to be made when you follow Him.”

During the show, Cousins also touched on some of the unique challenges he and fellow Christ-followers on his team have faced this season. Instead of chapel services and Bible studies in person, they’re doing them virtually.

“It’s different but we’re doing our best. Our Saturday night chapel, the night before the game, is not in person. We simply sit in our hotel room, log on to a virtual call and we listen to a chapel speaker virtually. We’re all on the call together, we can see each other’s faces, but we’re also by ourselves in each of our hotel rooms.

“The same is true of Bible study; we do a Bible study on Mondays after each game. We would normally do that somewhere at the facility or in someone’s home, but instead of that we’re doing it virtually from our own homes. There’s still good discussion, still a lot of learning and connection taking place, but obviously there’s a different level of community that you go to when you’re in person. And we just haven’t been able to do that as much as we’d like this year, but we’re making the best of it and God is still showing up,” he said.

Cousins joined the show to discuss two projects close to his heart. One was Football Sunday, an annual sermon-replacement video shown in churches on Super Bowl weekend. Cousins was one of the featured athletes in 2019.

“I believe that while God has blessed my football career, He hasn’t just blessed my football career so that I could just feel good about myself. He’s blessed my football career so that I could then steward that as a platform to point people to Him,” Cousins said. “I don’t know of a better opportunity I’ve been given to do such a thing than when I was asked to participate in Football Sunday, and share my faith centered around Super Bowl Sunday, and be able to have part of my testimony appear in churches around the country.”

The quarterback also discussed his involvement with Compassion International, a Christ-centered, church-based ministry dedicated to releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. The organization recently launched its “Fill the Stadium” initiative, led by many in the pro sports community, including Cousins and his wife, Julie. The campaign seeks to provide essential food, medical care and support for children and their families during this pandemic, and the goal is to reach 70,000 children, which would fill an average-size NFL stadium.

“I know for me as a Christian, I don’t want to be a fan in the stands, I want to be on the field participating,” Cousins said. “So I wanted to get in the action and help fill that stadium by participating. Julie and I want to help financially, but also we want to make a difference eternally and steward what God has given us. We all have something to steward, so we all have to think about how God is calling us to participate in His redemptive work in our world.”

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