This week, I started writing First Down Devotions: Inspirations from NFL’s Best Vol. 2, which is due to my publisher in June.
Last professional football season, I spent time in several locker rooms after games and caught up with players I wanted to feature in the book. I call it research while my friends describe it as fun.
One of my favorite discussions was with Minka Fitzpatrick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The free safety from Alabama was a delight to speak with.
I could tell he was raised to respect others as he answered with “yes, sir” or “thank you, sir” all throughout our brief conversation.
Minka grew up in New Jersey and in 2011, his family lost everything to Hurricane Irene.
They were left with nothing.
His father was a truck mechanic and worked hard. Soon after the storm hit, their house was destroyed, and they did not have flood insurance. Within hours, they were homeless.
His parents and four siblings moved into his grandparents’ basement and lived there for a year.
Minka went to Jersey City St. Pete’s Prep High School which was not cheap. His football talents caught the eyes of many college scouts.
But his family struggled financially, and Minka ate lunch in the “peanut butter” room, which was designed for students who could not afford a regular school lunch. He offered to quit football and go someone else to help his parents.
He told me he felt selfish, but they assured him all would be okay. They relied on their faith to pull them through.
Four years later, he was on the football field at Alabama, the powerhouse of the SEC. He made it.
His accomplishments speak for themselves.
Last year in the NFL, he made the Pro Bowl and was First Team All Pro.
In college, he helped the Crimson Tide to win two national championships and was a Consensus All American in 2016 and 2017. He won the Jim Thorpe Award and was twice selected First Team All-SEC.
The young man can play, and after only two seasons in the NFL, he has a long career ahead of him.
But his experiences and his faith in God have kept him going, especially through the tough times.
“My faith is the reason I play this game,” he told me. “God has been faithful to me and my family during the most difficult times in our lives. And now we are reaping the benefits of going through the trial and depending on Him to bring us out.”
There is more to Minka’s story, but you’ll have to wait until the book comes out next year to read it.
But I learned a great deal from talking with him.
Faith is not considered faith if you are not faithful in times of trouble.
I’ve had job losses and personal struggles and contemplated turning my back on God at times. But that would make me a quitter, which I’m not.
Minka told me he also questioned the Lord’s plan in his time of trial, and I have too. Doubt and confusion does not come from God but is a tool used by the other team.
But he made it through and now uses his platform to tell others about his journey. He loves to give God the glory in all he does.
How have you come through challenging times? Here are some suggestions.
- Accept what has happened: You might not like it, but don’t be in denial.
- Draw closer to God: You don’t have to understand the why, just get in the Word, pray, and allow Him to comfort you and give you peace.
- Ask for help and guidance: Put away pride and seek wisdom.
- Praise your way through: If you can praise Him in the valley, the mountain will be sweeter.
- Get ready for victory: The day will come. You are being prepared.
Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.
(Micah 7: 8 KJV)
Minka’s trials got him ready to play at Alabama and then go on to the NFL. He went through the fire and flood for a reason. God never left him or his family.
Most everyone will face a battle in life. But never compare your struggles to those of others, because yours is unique. But follow Minka’s lead. Go through it without complaining, and adopt a positive outlook.
It’s easy to worship when you are on the mountaintop,” Minka added. “But can you do it when you are in the valley? That’s the true testament of faith.”
What struggles have you gone through? How did you respond?