Through Lines: Curtis Martin Didn’t Like Football
Todd Henry has been talking a good bit about the concept of a through line lately. As Todd describes it, the through line is the why behind the things that you do. You may not love everything that you do, but there is a reason that you continue to do it every day. In a recent podcast he recounted the story of NFL Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin, who shared in his enshrinement speech that he really wasn’t a big fan of football:
I’ll tell you this, I came into Canton this week, and everyone here who knows me, this section, everyone knows me. You know that I was never a football fan. I wasn’t the type of guy to watch football. I could probably count on one hand how many football games I’ve watched from beginning to end in my lifetime.
Also, another thing about me is I played running back. I’m up here because of how many yards I ran. Everyone who knows me also knows that I hate to run. I don’t like to run at all. I box now to stay in shape just because I don’t want to run anywhere.
But this has been an incredible road for me. When I’m in situations like this, especially when I’m being honored for something that I’ve achieved in football, it always makes me feel a little awkward and out of place because I’ve just never really been able to identify with the love and the passion that a lot of my colleagues and a lot of the other alumni of the Hall of Fame have.
Most of these guys have lived for the game of football and eat, breath, sleep football. I was someone who was somewhat forced to play football. I can remember draft day like it was yesterday. My family and I were sitting around and were watching the draft. The phone rings and it’s Bill Parcells. I answer the phone and say “Hello,” and Parcells says, “Curtis, we want to know if you’re interested in being a New England Patriot?” I said, “Yes, yes, sir.” And we hang up the phone. As soon as we hang up the phone I turn around to everyone, and I said, “Oh my gosh, I do not want to play football.”
No, you’re laughing, but this is the truth. I turned around and said, “I don’t want to play football. I don’t even know that I like football enough to try to make a career out of it.” My pastor at the time was a guy by the name of Leroy Joseph, and I’m so glad he was there to talk some sense into me. He says, “Curtis, look at it this way, man.” He said, “Maybe football is just something that God is giving you to do all those wonderful things that you say you want to do for other people.” I tell you, it was like a light bulb came on in my head.
That became my connection with football. I don’t know if he wouldn’t have said that to me if football would have gotten out of me what it got out of me. I definitely wouldn’t be standing here. And ever since he said that, I knew the only way I was going to be successful at this game called football is if I played for a purpose that was bigger than the game itself because I knew that the love for the game just wasn’t in my heart.
For Curtis, the football was the platform that allowed him to be able to do the things that he really wanted to do: help people in difficult circumstances.
Let’s face it: ministry can be tough.
There are days when Home Depot seems like a much better option to us than serving as a pastor of a local church. But it is those days that we need to remember our through line: what is it that we are really called to do?
In the midst of my most frustrating days, I need to remember my through line: I do what I do so that I can expand God’s Kingdom through the equipping of church leaders.
What is YOUR through line?