Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Colts rookie QB Sam Ehlinger finding peace in God as he grieves brother's death

Rookie quarterback Sam Ehlinger had been walking through the Indianapolis Colts’ practice facility for the first time when he got the call. When head coach Frank Reich got word and left his office, he found Sam on the floor in disbelief.

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“It was the type of grief you only see a handful of times in your life,” Reich recently told The Athletic. “Where the loss is so great and the pain is so great that there are just no words.”

The night before, Sam was on the phone with his younger brother Jake, who wished him good luck as he got ready to begin his NFL career. Less than 24 hours later, Jake — a walk-on linebacker who played with Sam at the University of Texas the past two seasons — was gone.

When his mom, Jena, called her oldest child upon learning the news herself, Sam instinctively recited Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 

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The Colts’ sixth-round draft pick then flew home to Texas and spoke at his brother’s funeral.

Unfortunately, it was not the first time the Ehlinger family experienced tragic loss. The four-year starter who grew up cheering for the Longhorns lost his dad when he was 14.

Ross Ehlinger passed away during the swimming portion of the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon on March 5, 2013, at the age of 46. Even though he was barely a teenager at the time, Sam quickly shifted his focus to serving his mom and siblings as best he could instead of dwelling on his own pain.

“Thirty minutes after I had heard the news and my whole family was together at the house, something — I think God just told me, ‘Your little brother’s sitting right next to you and you’re thinking about how bad you’re hurting. Think about how bad he’s hurting and help him,’” Sam said in a video for The Players’ Tribune. “And so then from that point on, my role switched. It wasn’t, ‘What can I do for myself to feel better?’ It was, ‘What can I do for my family to make them feel better?’”

 

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An outspoken Christian, Sam revealed in an interview with the Indianapolis Star last month he has recently gained a new appreciation for the eternal hope provided by God.

“The peace in eternity, eternal satisfaction, that concept, was something I clung onto when my dad died, but I didn’t truly comprehend or understood what it meant until probably about a year ago, when I really dove into my faith, really put God first in every single aspect of my life,” he said. “Instead of saying I was a believer, actually, truly living it and following what He told us to do.”

Sam’s performance during training camp has drawn praise from Reich, so much so that he started getting reps with the first team while Carson Wentz recovers from foot surgery. Ehlinger completed 10 of his 15 passes for 155 yards and engineered a game-winning drive in the team’s first preseason game on Sunday.

The Colts face the Minnesota Vikings in their second preseason game Saturday night, when Ehlinger is likely to see significant playing time again.

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