This week features Carolina Panthers linebacker, AJ Klein! Speaking about the Super Bowl, his faith in Jesus and who best player is in the league right now!
So you’ve been with Carolina Panthers since you made it as a pro, what’s been your standout moment with them so far?
Obviously going to the Super Bowl, also the AFC Championship game here vs the Arizona Cardinals last year. That was a special moment and it still is to this day, for me and my teammates but also the entire city. To see an entire community of people around the Charlotte area coming together to support us in that run is a special thing. The atmosphere that we felt that night has been unmatched and so I will always remember that moment.
You all must be hungry for a repeat?
Yes exactly, that’s the goal every single season, to put ourselves in that position and to win championships. That’s why we play this game, to win.
Who is the best player that you have played against in the NFL to date?
Tom Brady. There are other guys who are close, like Aaron Rodgers and a lot of other very talented players. We are talking about future hall of famers, guys that continue to do it week in and week out and they will go down as some of the greatest players of all time. It’s actually a real privilege to get the opportunity to compete against them. You have to give credit where credit is due, the guy has won four Super Bowls and I grew up watching him on TV.
Away from the game, do you follow any teams from other sports, what interests are there?
To tell you the truth I don’t keep up with the NBA, Baseball I love and it’s one of my first true loves of sports. My hometown is Milwaukee Brewers so I watch them as much as I can, I have also taken up golf as of late, during the off season. I like to watch the tournaments and I find that what they do is remarkable. How they can use a club to manipulate the ball like that is pretty crazy.
Tell us a bit about how you came to know God for yourself.
So for me, I was born and raised Catholic, got baptised and ended up going to a Catholic school. I thank my parents every single day for sending me there and it allowed me to be a part of that. Even when I went to secondary school I was still very devoted and regularly attended church. I strayed away from God a little bit when I got to college, I just wasn’t as involved as I should have been and I realised that in my life I needed God’s presence and love. Later on in college I felt the yearning of him calling me back to him and I was I started to get back into my faith routines.
Since being in the NFL I have taken a big step in my faith because here we have a mass before the game in our team hotel or wherever we are staying. One week I was called upon to do the readings, at first I kind of shied away from it but I got up and did it and now it is my niche. Every week I get up and do the readings, I have fallen back into that mould and I try to share my experiences of what I have been through, with and without God to answer people that have questions. There are a lot of things I can’t explain, but I always go back to having blind faith and I actually just finished reading a book called ‘Proof Of Heaven’ by Dr Eben Alexander, a neuroscientist who was an atheist but then had a near-death experience. The book is amazing and like I said you just have to rely on God’s love and know that no matter what happens to you in your life, he is always there for you.
What’s the support for your faith like at the club, is there chapel or time with fellow players?
Yeah, there are times where we have bible studies set up, there are a few guys who I can sit down with and we chat about our faith and our lives in general. That is good because you always need those people around you, people who share your faith and can talk about it, that’s one thing that’s tough nowadays in work environments but it’s good for us to share, even if people don’t agree with us.
Do you deliberately go out of your way to show your faith or do you prefer to quietly model it?
I am definitely the quieter type, I am more reserved but if people have questions for me then I will open up in a heartbeat. I like to stay reserved and try to lead by God’s example.
Naturally, in elite sport personal performance yo-yos, how does your relationship with God help pick you up when you’ve not been at your best?
A lot of it is the ups and downs of anxiety and worry, I always like to go back to the Psalms and those readings in scripture always bring me calmness and reassurance of God’s love. It resets your mind that at the end of the day nothing truly matters more than him.
Do you see your footballing ability as a gift from God? How much of it is down to you?
Oh yes, one hundred percent. I am a firm believer that everyone was given gifts and talents and we are all supposed to use those talents and do what God intended for us to do. Football for me is a blessing but it’s what I do with that gift from God that determines whether I am using it for right or for wrong. You definitely have to put in the hours yourself but the whole foundation of it comes from him, in any aspect of your life God will give you gifts and blessings. It is then up to you whether you use them or not, I have made the conscious decision to use my gift.