Like any college football player, my goal was to play in the NFL. That really was my goal ever since I was 4 years old, living in California, playing football in the park across the street. I had this sense that God put a passion in my heart and this is what I wanted to do. So I chased it; I chased it my entire life.
Prior to the draft, I recognized the limitations I had as a player — not being tall, not being long, not being fast, which goes against you in the NFL, apparently. I recognized this but I was hoping that production would carry some weight with some scouts and some teams. I had some interest from teams and had a few workouts. I didn’t expect to be a first- or second-round guy, but maybe sixth or seventh or even an undrafted free agent. I love the game so much that all I wanted was an opportunity. I wanted to be able to say, “OK, at least I’ve had my shot in the NFL.”
But draft day rolls around and no calls, no interest. And then during free agency over the next couple of days, the phone didn’t ring. I was faced with a dilemma. Internally I was asking, “Why would God put this on my heart and give me such a passion, and then not even give me a chance?” It was a challenge.
But luckily God answered and there was an opportunity to go up to the CFL to continue playing. And at that point I didn’t care if I was Monroe, La., or Alberta, Canada, I just wanted to play. I played defensive end up there and enjoyed the opportunity; I felt like I had a good rookie year. It was one of those moments when I thought maybe God had a different path for me, maybe He’s teaching me something, but surely He’s going to bring me back to the NFL. Surely.
I finished the season, went into the offseason and went home with six months off. I got a full time job in Fresno, my hometown. Then I got a call from my head coach, who said, “Hey, it was great to meet you but we’re going to have to go a different direction. We’re not bringing you back.”
Again I asked, “OK God, what are You trying to tell me here?” I was out of football for a whole year. I ended up working three jobs at a time, trying to make ends meet. In 2010, three weeks after I got married to my wife, she sat me down and said, “Hey listen, I see that you have football left in you. I see your dream wavering internally within yourself. But I want you to know you have my full support, so whatever you need to do, do it.”
So three weeks after our wedding, I went to Utah to play in the Arena Football League. I was going to start at the bottom and work my way up to the top. I played in Salt Lake City for eight weeks, living off Subway coupons, walking 1.5 miles to the gym to work out. The hardest part was being away from my new bride, who had to stay back in California to work.
On our bye week, we spent all our money to book a flight back to California for me because there was a CFL workout that Friday in Fresno, and a UFL workout Saturday morning in San Diego, and then another UFL workout Friday night in Los Angeles. That was a gut check for me, I’m thinking, ‘I’m chasing this dream of playing football, how selfish is this of me? I can’t financially support my new wife and she’s sleeping in a car with me in a parking lot of a high school in San Diego.’
It was a tough time. A lot like draft day and getting cut, I was asking, “God, what are You trying to show me? I don’t understand it and I can’t see how this is part of Your plan.” I didn’t even feel like a real man at that point. I was confused about my identity because up to that point, my identity was 100 percent wrapped up in being a football player.
I ended up deciding to go to the UFL, which was guided by the Lord. I had the opportunity after that weekend to either go back to the CFL to play defensive end or to go back for a second workout with the Sacramento Mountain Lions to play as a fullback. God spoke through my wife, who told me, “Tyler, I don’t think you’re meant to play in Canada anymore. I think you’re meant to stay here and play fullback. I think we need to take the chance and trust that God’s going to use that.”
That’s what we did. I played one season in the UFL and then immediately signed with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. That’s the step that got me a chance in the NFL — taking that leap of faith and trusting that God was doing something during that transition.
— Tyler Clutts, Former NFL fullback
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.