We all have heroes in our lives, and I have many. Sports heroes, musical heroes, political heroes. And we often have mentors as well, sometimes in those same areas (sports, music, politics, or maybe education).
I am sharing this story about a childhood sports hero that I met face to face a couple of weeks ago, and to share with you how blessed I am as a result.
I’ll digress briefly to tell you my childhood story…
When I was about nine years old, the NFL expanded to include a new team, the New Orleans Saints. And since much of my family on my mom’s side is from Louisiana, it came naturally to me to become a fan of this addition to the league. My childhood home had a big backyard and because of the large open field on the property, my yard was the neighborhood “football field”, and my older brothers, neighbors, and schoolmates all engaged in our favorite activity, football on a makeshift gridiron. Sometimes it was a full-blown game of tackle football, with as many as 7 or 8 to a side. Sometimes it was just my best friend an me pretending that we were various “stars” of the NFL making game-winning catches and throws, pretending to be our favorite players. At the time, my favorite was a league-leading wide receiver, who was an all-Pro with the Saints, named Danny Abramowicz. I used to envision myself running routes, warding off defenders, and making the long touchdown catches.
I followed his career and always watched whenever the Saints (or later, the 49ers) were on TV, I made sure to catch the game. As my interest in football waned in high school, college and later, I never followed other players, but Danny Abramowicz was always my football hero.
Fast forward about 40+ years to September 2016 when I heard from one of my Cornerstone brothers (I have written several times about Cornerstone – see my other posts), about a Mens’ Conference taking place near my home, and I have to admit I almost didn’t attend, but happened to visit the web page and the agenda for this conference. Several speakers were on the roster, but one caught my eye, Danny Abramowicz. I immediately signed up, and after reading his bio, went online and bought one of his books, Spiritual Workout of a Former Saint. Reading the book did two things for me. One, it caught me up on Danny’s life after football, which included his private business ventures, and eventual renewal of faith in the Church. But second, and more importantly, it showed me a different side of my childhood hero, that of speaker and evangelist.
I attended the conference, looking forward to hearing Danny speak, and maybe having the opportunity to talk with him and get his newest book, Crossing the Goal. Before the conference started I had a chance to meet and talk with him briefly and he graciously signed a copy of his book for me. Still the sports hero, but then he spoke…
Sharing his life story and the story of his own Christian renewal, an important change came. Now I was listening to a mentor, a “spiritual” hero, who was following the Lord’s calling to reach out to men and help bring them back to their faith. And to help men to understand their place in God’s Church, their place as Spiritual Heads of their families , and their role in the workplace as evangelists for the faith.
This hit home, and if you have read some of my other posts, you will quickly see how I saw parallels in our two faith journeys. Now I saw this football hero as a Brother in Christ, and a mentor in my own faith journey, validating my endeavors and encounters in the mission field as I work as a traveling professional.
So now my childhood sports hero has become so much more, and I am blessed at having the opportunity to learn his story of renewal, mission, and new vocation…
To learn a little more about Danny and his mission, visit the Crossing the Goal website. And look for this NFL legend at a Mens Conference near you. And the book is a great read, complete with a Gameplan to help you develop your own spiritual “workout” –
And always let yourself be surprised at how the Lord will guide you and place people in your path.
Twitter – @CrossingTheGoal