With just under two minutes left in what ended up being a 34-24 victory for the Philadelphia Eagles over division rival Washington Redskins, Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden had a very interesting conversation about emerging Eagle’s star quarterback Carson Wentz:
Sean McDonough: “He’s a tremendous young man. [He] says his faith is the most important thing in his life and he is one of those people who lives it. When you are around him you can feel the inherent goodness that he has coming from his faith.”
Jon Gruden: “It’s unbelievable—he thinks his Lord Jesus Christ helps him play better, gives him more confidence, and allows him to cut things loose. He has really done an unbelievable job at North Dakota State. He ran his own Bible study. He’s doing that here in Philadelphia. He doesn’t push it down anyone’s throat. But good for him. He is a great person that has made a great impact on and off the field. If you’re into good stories, follow this man around.”
Aside from the encouragement of hearing two ESPN announcers speak so highly of a man who loves Jesus, it’s what they said that left me grateful for Wentz’s impact.
Before we unpack their conversation, it’s worth pointing out: There’s always a subtle danger when we elevate a person of faith in sports. We need to do so against a backdrop that acknowledges none of us are perfect. What we celebrate is not moral perfection, but a moment that reflects the person and work of Jesus.
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I am reminded of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” There is something beautiful when someone lives in such a way that ESPN cannot help but talk about it, God gets glory and we should pay attention.
“He’s a tremendous young man.”
To make a statement like this requires the man to walk the walk, something Wentz apparently does well. This was documented in an ESPN article earlier in the week that highlighted Wentz’s relationship with Lukas, a 9-year old with a cancer diagnosis.
Lukas died on June 12. His parents said that “Wentz sent flowers to the funeral and penned a handwritten letter to the family, which they framed and put up in their home. Wentz and the Eagles, Rebecca said, have ‘kept them close’ in the weeks and months since.”
In the midst of one family’s tragedy, Wentz’s love towards them was and still is one of the reasons he is a “tremendous young man.”
“When you are around him you can feel the inherent goodness that he has coming from his faith.”
This is an incredible statement. McDonough is saying that not only is he a good person, but when you are around him, this goodness radiates from his very being. I wonder, what would people think of Jesus if this statement was true about all of His followers? What if we, as Christians, lived in such a way that goodness became the adjective that described us to a watching world?
“It’s unbelievable—he thinks his Lord Jesus Christ helps him play better, gives him more confidence, and allows him to cut things loose.”
It’s worth noting that Gruden’s tone in saying this reflected a man who greatly admired Wentz. In no way did he make that statement to chastise the Eagles quarterback.
Gruden’s one sentence sermon demands some explanation. To the fan who is unfamiliar with the phrase “Audience of One,” you could easily assume that Wentz believes God will bless him with athletic success solely because he is a Christ follower. I am confident that is not what Gruden was implying, nor what Wentz believes.
The key phrases to pull out are “gives him more confidence” and “allows him to cut it loose.” Because of Wentz’s faith in Christ, he is able to play free. The weight of others’ opinions are lessened because he knows God’s opinion of him matters more. The pressure of the game is still very real, but it’s put into perspective against the backdrop of God’s bigger plan to redeem the world to Himself.
“He has really done an unbelievable job at North Dakota State. He ran his own Bible study. He’s doing that here in Philadelphia.”
I love this. It shows that while Wentz has a huge platform and the ability to reach millions with the gospel, he is not neglecting the very people he interacts with on a daily basis. Yes, he is leveraging his platform for the good of as many people as he can, but not at the expense of his current and past teammates. Which one of us doesn’t want to make a big impact? Wentz shows that one of the key ways to do that is simply by being faithful to the people God puts around you.
“He doesn’t push it down anyone’s throat.”
1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Do this with gentleness and respect. Let Wentz’s reputation for not using the gospel as a baseball bat be an encouragement to us all. But let’s remember that not “pushing it down anyone’s throat” is not his idea. It’s God’s.
“He is a great person that has made a great impact on and off the field.”
For most fans, a player’s “impact” gets measured in wins and losses. A wide-angled view of Wentz shows a man who truly does want to make a dent in this world by impacting others’ lives outside of the football stadium. His foundation, AO1 (Audience of One), has three main objectives:
To care for and provide food, shelter and educational opportunities for underprivileged youth living abroad.
Hunting & Outdoor Opportunities
To provide hunting and outdoor opportunities for individuals with physical challenges, the underserved, or US vets living in the midwest.
To support youth in the Philadelphia area by providing service dogs to assist with their development and quality of life.
It’s so easy to give lip service to the idea of impact. It takes more than talk. It takes a plan and intentionality toward that plan. Kudos to Wentz for prioritizing his “off the field” impact.
If you’re into good stories, follow this man around.
What a way to close the brief commentary on Carson Wentz. Keep watching this man if you are into good stories! I will keep watching him. Even though my roots as a Lion’s fan make it hard, I will cheer for him because my allegiance to our shared Savior trumps my preferred football team.
Yes, I am into great stories. I’ll bet you are, too.
May Wentz—and others with a platform like him—continue to walk with Jesus in such a way that we are all pointed toward the most important story ever told.