It was just about this time last year when I signed a contract with Baltimore. I was so ready to play the 2017-2018 season, after having been on injured reserve the past season. I was feeling the best I had ever felt — both physically and mentally. But right before the season began, I aggravated a nerve in my shoulder and found myself once again on IR for the rest of the season. I thought I was done with football forever. I was angry. I didn’t understand why this was happening. Again.
Everyone wants to go out of football on their own terms. After my second season-ending injury, I came to the realization that my NFL career was probably over. I felt helpless for a few weeks. I didn’t know what the next steps were for me. As pro athletes, we have ideas and thoughts about what we might do when our playing careers are over, but we never know when or how the next opportunity will present itself.
The team had me stay in Baltimore for a few months toward the beginning of the season and then allowed me to come back to Atlanta where my family and friends are. Those few months of being on IR were honestly the best couple of months of personal growth for me. I finally had a revelation that God had taken me away from football for a time so I could discover all the other abilities, passions and talents He’s given me. It was a time for me to clear my mind and change my perspective, uncovering the fact that I am ultimately the one who is in control of choosing to give meaning to whatever situation is given to me.
I started meditating on God and His Word a lot more than I ever had. I was forced to stop running the rat wheel routine I had become so accustomed to. I was stuck in a rut. But 2018 has been a very different year for me so far. Mentally, I can take whatever life brings me and embrace it. I am learning the importance and value of being wherever my feet are in the moment, living each day without worrying about what the past or future looks like. Completely transformed, I am full of gratitude for where God has brought me today. If I wasn’t forced to sit down and put football on hold, I wouldn’t have been able to uncover these crucial truths.
After overcoming the negative thoughts — “Why is this happening?” “What am I going to do?” — I came to the realization that God isn’t in the business of setbacks, He’s in the business of set-ups. This isn’t happening to me, but for me. There’s a reason I was injured, and I’m OK.
Then I began to ask myself, “What is the lesson God wants me to learn and how does He want me to spend my days during this time?” God was calling me to invest in myself — my spiritual life, my mental health and my marriage — what we as a couple can accomplish together. Football is not forever, and suddenly I was getting a chance to focus on a lot of intangible things that had nothing to do with my athletic ability, things that matter so much more and will go with me for the rest of my life. I began to shape my thoughts, habits, and ultimately, my focus.
I’m still working hard and giving myself the opportunity to return to football should a team invite me to play. I’d love to play again, I just don’t want to be on IR. But outside of football, God has opened a lot of other doors for me that I’ve become excited about. I’ve had the chance to do a lot of media and television work with local Atlanta stations, CBS and ABC. I’m also working on an online fitness show where I’ll be able to go around and train with some of the top trainers in the world.
Having the chance to take a step back and discover other talents and passions I have has been liberating. I don’t want to just wait for a team to call. It’s been freeing to just go for it, moving forward without fear or doubt about what might or might not happen. Instead of wondering how, when, why and where, I can be in the moment, asking myself and God how I can best impact others today.
Since I’ve been meditating on God’s Word more and spending intentional time with Him in prayer this year, I’ve begun to understand that through faith, we can speak things into existence. If we truly grasp the power of our thoughts and prayers and believe God is who He says He is, we can see His power at work in and through our lives on a daily basis.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” — Jeremiah 29:11
— Brandon Boykin, NFL free agent
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.