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Glorifying God on the Gridiron

This is what it takes to produce a Ryan Mossakowski -- friends and mentors, a church and a school, a coach and parents who are committed to making him strong in spirit.  It takes effort to produce a Ryan Mossakowski, and yet the story is not about him.  Ryan, as he would tell you himself, is not the point of the story.  His father has taught him "to believe and to know in your heart that every talent is given from God and meant to be used for His purposes."  His coach has sought to prepare him for when he will "have a huge platform in which Christ will be glorified."  And as Ryan himself says, the "main purpose" of his existence is glorifying God and reaching people for him.  As long as he focuses on those things, then "no matter what happens on the football field, I will be doing something valuable."  Absurd it may be that a young man can reach more people for God simply because he can throw a football.  But it is true.  "That's a real gift," says Ryan, "and I'll use that gift as best I can."

Timothy Dalrymple interviewed Ryan by phone.

Ryan, what has God called you to do as a football player?  Does God intend for you to succeed on the highest level?

Honestly, I have no idea yet what God has in store for me, mostly because of the craziness of my injury and recovery.  What I do know is that He wants me, with the abilities He's given me, to go out and bring people to God.  If I focus on that, then, no matter what happens on the football field, I will be doing something valuable.  I'll be glorifying God, and everything will be okay.

That's the main purpose why we're here.  It's amazing that I can touch more people just because I can throw a football.  That's a real gift from God, and I'll use that gift as best I can.

We see football players reach the end zone and point heavenward, and we see interviews where athletes "give the glory to God."  Is there anything else a football player can do to witness his faith through his sport?

When the camera is on, it's easy to do things like that.  When the camera's off, sometimes it's not so easy.  It's not easy waking up in the morning and going to church on Sundays, or going to the Bible study during the week.  It's not easy going the extra mile to help someone in need.  The little things are what change people's lives.

It's awesome to see guys do those things on television, because you know that they can reach a lot of people.  But it means a little more when we help people off camera.  It's more personal to the people we affect.  That's huge when we can affect people in their lives, especially in their walk with God.  It can be really remarkable if you go and do the little things.

Do you make it a habit to get involved in the lives of the people on your team and be a source of encouragement there?

Yes, sir.  Ultimately, it's a decision that every person has to make for himself.  Sometimes it's tough to lead people in the right direction, but all you can do is try as hard as you can.  That's what God intends for us to do, to give it our all and trust Him with the rest.  If you put a little seed of information in a person's head, they might think about it and think about it, and over time that seed grows.  I try to do things like that.

How has your faith shaped your career as a football player?  How are you different, as a Christian football player, than you would be if you were not a believer?

Football has given me a lot of attributes in life, qualities like hard work, dedication and perseverance.  Those qualities have crossed over into my faith.  I'm devoted, day in and day out, because I have to do things in football that you don't want to do.

But at the same time, God's given me a gift to play this game.  I just cross that over into my faith.  That's what leads my faith to grow a little more, day in and day out.  Because I want to read the Bible, I want to grow.  I get up early in the morning and do all my things, and then I come back and read the Bible.  I have a set schedule.  Everyone's different, but that works for me.  I'm really devoted to what I have to do, and I think that's really carried over from football.

How about in the middle of games?  Are there ways that your faith makes you behave differently than other football players on the field?

Yes, sir.  Before a play, before games, or even before I work out, I close my eyes for a moment and ask for God's help.  I ask Him to give me strength -- something quick, something short, but I think it goes a long way.  It encourages you, and at the same time other people get to see the effect it has.  It really can cross over.  Like I said, that's just a very little thing.  But those little things can really go a long way.

3/2/2010 5:00:00 AM
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