Why I Said No to the NFL

Why I Said No to the NFL

If a picture is worth a thousand words, an 11-minute video could be worth a million. Still, more can always be said, and probably should be.

Desiring God gave me the opportunity here to clarify God’s calling on my life and share from my heart to those who may have questions after watching Drafted.

Did I Have to Quit Football?

Some might ask if I think football is evil. When I decided to follow Christ, did I have to quit playing football? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I think football is a beautiful thing, and I have a deep appreciation for any brother in Christ who labors on that mission field.

Football is a game that is filled with passion, intensity, and effort. Football can be a safe haven that propels character development in young men. And football is a gift from God that has been graciously given for millions upon millions of people to enjoy.

All that being said, while football is very good, it should never become a god — something ultimate or central in our lives and worship. As I gaze on the glory of the Lord, I have learned more and more that he alone is God, and there is none like him.

So for me, as I came to this major transition in my life, I sensed God leading me to show his greatness specifically by giving up football, which I loved, to pursue vocational ministry. There’s no question God could have used me on the field and in the locker room, but I believe he has called me to something else.

How Do I Know This Is What God Wanted?

Discerning God’s will looks different for different people. For me, there were five key steps along the way. Collectively, they gave me confidence that God was leading me to seminary, not the NFL.

First, this did not happen apart from my own desire, or against my will. The Bible says, “If anyone desires the task of an overseer, he desires a noble task.” So the process began with my heart.

Second, I searched the Scriptures. Although I’ve been redeemed, my desires can still be deceiving because of remaining sin. So I went to the Bible, which never misleads or deceives, and I was overwhelmed by the countless number of saints who made difficult and countercultural decisions for the sake of following the Lord.

Third, I sought godly counsel because the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. And I praise God because I received confirmation after confirmation from the body of Christ. That might not have been evident in the video, but God absolutely used the community of Christ-followers around me to give me the necessary clarity.

Fourth, God intervened. I was blessed again and again to witness God leading and providing in unexpected ways. The offer of a free education while getting ministry experience is just one example amongst many.

Lastly, I wanted to obey, which is the real drive under it all. By God’s grace, I have been saved. Therefore, I make it my aim to please him because it’s in his will that I will find the most rest, comfort, and joy. As I searched my heart, read my Bible, listened to counselors, and watched God work in my life, I became convinced the field he wanted me on was no longer the gridiron.

Did I Ever Question My Decision?

Even after all of that, I still felt very real pressures to change my mind — opinions from family and friends, familiarity and comfort, future uncertainty and more. But the factor that weighed on me most was the potential loss of a platform for the proclamation of Christ.

I can say in all honesty that there was nothing that made me more indecisive than this — that I would be sacrificing the amazing ability to proclaim Christ as a professional athlete. I loved that idea because my heart’s desire is that the fullness of the beauty of Christ be made known to as many people as possible!

Then I read a book called Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur. I saw the sacrifices other brothers and sisters in the faith were making around me. And I found lots of regular, common, and simple people in the Bible who God has used powerfully throughout history. I came to this conclusion: what the Lord is asking from me more than anything else is faithfulness. A big platform is great, but it is greater to obey and follow where God is specifically calling me.

My Prayer for You

The one prayer I’ve prayed since early January was that people would see the value of Christ in my life and decision. I am a sinner saved by grace. Christ is the hero of the story. He is the one in whom the fullness of God dwells, the Alpha and Omega, the Lion and the Lamb, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He died for my sin, and he rose so that I might live through him. He set me free! He gave me a new heart, he gave me a new mind, and he calls me his own.

I pray that I and all the saints would be able to say with all our hearts and lives and decision-making that Jesus is worthy. I long for the day when we all with the apostle Paul will wholeheartedly say, “Indeed I count everything as a loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for his sake I suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”

So what do I want you to walk away with from Drafted? When it’s all said and done — when all the games have been played and championships won — if you have Christ, you have everything. Your wildest dream has already come true.

Chris Norman recently graduated from Michigan State University, where he played football and served as team captain. He now attends Moody Theological Seminary and ministers with Highland Park Baptist Church outside Detroit. Our video, Drafted, tells his story.