Kids across America dream of one day becoming an NFL player. The thought conjures up images of Super Bowls, multi-million-dollar contracts, red carpets and the glitz and glamor of international fame. Yet for most NFL players, such a lifestyle is far from reality. In fact, the average length of an NFL career is 3.3 years.
>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<
Many players bounce around the league’s 32 franchises, eventually either catching on with one of them or drifting into other careers. For second-year defensive lineman Ben Stille, he’s doing everything he can to make sure he’s part of the first group.
Claimed off waivers on May 10 by the Arizona Cardinals, Stille is now in the midst of organized team activities (OTAs), trying to make an impression on his new team.
We have been awarded our waiver claim on DL Ben Stille from the Cleveland Browns.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) May 10, 2023
On May 17, Stille was a guest on the “Pro Mindset” podcast, where he discussed the various challenges and joys of trying to carve out his niche in the NFL.
“It was just me trying to be adaptable, trying to go with the flow,” he said. “Opportunity doesn’t present itself often in this league, so really just have to take advantage when it does.”
Before being waived, Stille had been with Cleveland since November 2022, playing in six games (and even starting one). The Browns signed him off the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad, the team that gave him his first shot in the NFL last April as an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska.
Stille’s NFL debut came with the Dolphins on Oct. 23, a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Miami won, 16-10, and Stille registered the first two tackles of his career.
His NFL debut was a long time coming for the now-25-year-old Ashland, Nebraska, native, who spent six years as a Cornhusker.
He admitted on “Pro Mindset” that he didn’t seriously consider the possibility of playing in the NFL until his final couple of seasons in Lincoln, when he was excelling as a leader along Nebraska’s defensive front. He earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors his final two seasons.
At the same time, Stille also excelled in the classroom, being named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar in 2020 and 2022, and becoming the first six-time academic all-conference honoree in program history.
But right now, it’s all about the NFL for Stille. He’s committed to his nutrition, sleep and workout routines in preparation for training camp. He even makes his signature smoothie — packed with fruits, vegetables and other dietary supplements — every day. By his side every step of the way is his fiancee, Samantha, who handles all the moving (five times in the last year) and frees Stille up to focus on football. The two are set to be married this summer, without a honeymoon due to the impending training camp.
When asked on the podcast why he makes so many sacrifices to maximize his football potential in the NFL, Stille pointed to his greater purpose.
“I think it stems from my faith in Jesus Christ,” Stille said. “In my mind, just playing for Him and really His judgment is the only one that matters to me.”
He continued later: “I think that was a huge step for me, just being able to figure out that my faith isn’t something that’s just lived out in church, it’s lived out in my day-to-day life. And ultimately, God has called me to be a professional football player. That’s where I spend most of my time and that’s where, in this stage of my life, that I’m called to live out my faith.”
Stille writes in both his Instagram and Twitter bios that “Jesus is King.”
View this post on Instagram
All God☝🏼 https://t.co/Rd3qjLpxO9
— Ben Stille (@b_stille_) November 15, 2022
Stille knows there is more to life than football. His identity is found in the One who died for his sins. And right now, God has called him to be a light for Christ in the often-discouraging career of NFL journeyman.
The Cardinals are holding OTA workouts through June 8, with a mandatory minicamp June 13-15. The team will then reconvene in early August for training camp, which has been held at State Farm Stadium in Glendale for the past 10 seasons.
“It comes down to 53 dudes making the roster and there’s a huge influx of college guys coming in year after year,” Stille said on the podcast. “So, just controlling what I can control, going about my process. … I’m going to exhaust every opportunity I have.”
– SS PODCAST: Colt McCoy – Arizona Cardinals Quarterback
– SS PODCAST: Musician Mike Donehey on disagreeing like Jesus, humanizing athletes
– SS PODCAST: Former NFL WR Golden Tate on retirement, seeking purpose in God
– WATCH: ‘I ONCE WAS’ – Former NFL Safety Jordan Richards
– Ravens’ Lamar Jackson enters new career chapter, strives to be ‘consistent with God’