This week, Super Bowl winner, Clint Gresham checks in, to talk about making it in the NFL and how he now finds his identity in Jesus.
What was your first experience of American Football that you remember?
So my dad played football at the university of Texas, for the Longhorns and in the state of Texas they have quite a bit of pride for their football. When I was a kid, my dad had season tickets so we went to all the games when I was eight and nine years old. We would be in a stadium of eighty thousand people going crazy and I was so mesmerised by that moment. The excitement of the game and real-life drama sucked me in. Football was the highest goal, in the UK it may be to play for Manchester United, for me that was my dream.
You represented the Saints and the Seahawks in the NFL, was hitting the big time a steep learning curve?
Yes I would say so, the business element, the level of expertise was intense and the stakes were very high. At the same time it was really cool to be around people who were so dedicated to their craft, just the top performers and that was so inspiring.
You’ve got Super Bowl champion on your CV, proudest career moment to date?
Oh man yeah, that’s up there for sure. As a kid, I didn’t even have a hope to someday win a Super Bowl. I was like I may as well wish for a condo on the moon or something, it seemed like such a far-off concept. Then all of a sudden it just felt like it happened to us. One thing that I noticed about the Super Bowl and this ties in with my faith too, is that for men, when it comes to pursuing their passions and their dreams, we put everything into it and I found time and time again that once you actually get there it doesn’t satisfy you the way that you thought it would. That is the nature of idolatry, we put all our hope into things and then when we get it, it doesn’t satisfy you in the way that you’d wished. That’s why our life is built around Jesus and I realised pretty early on, a couple of days after we’d won.
Someone got up and said that unless we win two Super Bowls we haven’t done anything and I was thinking that we have just won a freaking Super Bowl and you are telling us forty-eight hours later that it doesn’t matter. It was ridiculous.
Another thing that I kept hearing people saying was that they were waiting for it to sink in, that we had won the Super Bowl. What that actually means is that I keep waiting for this thing to satisfy me in the way that I expected it too, but it never will. There are still moments where I look at my Super Bowl ring and think that this is really cool, but it’s like with anything, God doesn’t mind if we have things as long as it doesn’t have us.
So currently, being unattached to a club, how have you adjusted to the change?
It’s the first time that I haven’t been playing football and it’s been hard at times just because football was familiar for me. I could preach a message about how important it is to not build your life on what you do. I think that ultimately, it is inevitable that we are going to put some of our identity on what we do and the trick is to have the awareness that as humans we have the potential to do that.
Once it was taken away from me, it made me have to define where I am getting my sense of value and importance from. Is it that I played football or from being on an NFL roster? I think ultimately anything that can be taken away from us can give us a fragile sense of ego and masculinity. I am thankful that, whilst it hurt, it did feel like getting dumped by a girl, ultimately it pushed me closer to Jesus and has helped me grow in my walk with him. The most painful moments in our lives, God says to rejoice in those things, which is tough when you are going through it but looking back you realise that’s when I felt the closest to Jesus.
What would you say are the keys to becoming a top quality long snapper?
Because the position is so mechanical, in that it doesn’t change, it’s all about the mental element. There isn’t much difference out there between the number one long snapper and the guy who didn’t make the roster. Having the mindset of not worrying about what’s coming or has gone before, just being set in this present moment to throw the football between my legs is key. It’s about making the job for my kicker and punter as easy as possible, it’s quite a service position that doesn’t get any glory or attention unless you mess up. No one is buying their jersey at the club shop!
Tell us a bit of your testimony, how did you find God?
I grew up as part of a church, they did the best that they could but I didn’t really see any passion for Jesus. When I went to college I had an experience with a guy who prayed for my back, which got healed. At this point I was treating God like a fire truck, I need you fast when I need you but when I don’t need you if you could stay a long way off that would be great. God in his kindness came and touched my life in that moment and that just shook my notion of him, I thought that he was mostly frustrated with me but I started to challenge that and see that what I thought of him was not accurate.
It birthed this pursuit of finding out more about God, instead of using my perception of him through my experiences. What I found was a really kind, amazing and loving God who wasn’t disappointed in me and even in my worst days, still smiled over me. When I discovered that, it changed my life.
I think if I had of gotten into the NFL without knowing God the way that I did, it would have been bad. I was just really insecure and lived for affirmation from people. Even when I was making hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, because I was now giving my life away and living for something outside of myself, I found Jesus, community and joy. It was much, much easier to navigate the difficult temptations of the NFL.
Jesus spent most of his time on earth, hanging out with the people we try to avoid…give your life away and love on everyone
— Clint Gresham (@Gresh49) February 9, 2017
Is it true you were baptised in the River Jordan?
I got to go to Israel in 2011 with my church and we went to the river Jordan. The pastor said that if anyone wanted to get baptised, even if they already had been, to come down and he will do it. It was a pretty cool experience, just to think that Jesus got baptised here, this is good water!
You do a lot of speaking events? Is it about using the platform that God has given you to point others to him?
For sure, I have been speaking for years but also three years ago we shot a film called ‘Making of a Champion’, it’s a fifteen minute long film and we produced it at the training camp before we won the Super Bowl. It was about interviewing different guys on the team and sharing their faith, at the end of the film I did a prayer to lead people into receiving Jesus. Probably about five million people have seen that film since it came out so I have always viewed my time in the NFL as a platform and it just so happens to be the influence that God has given me. I want to be faithful with it and point people back to him, because I wouldn’t be here had it not been for the things that he did in my life.
Watch: ‘Making of a Champion’
So looking forward, any inkling of what comes next for you?
Yeah, I have a book that is coming out in September. Apart from that just travelling and speaking, I have about nineteen engagements lined up for the coming year, all of them church related. From men’s events to summer camps, I will just be travelling, sharing and speaking about what God has done in my life.