Too often news stories feature professional athletes acting badly, but there are many pro athletes that inspire us through their Christian faith and their example. Being good at athletics, so good that you play professionally, can bring money and fame to an athlete. Money and fame can bring notoriety, or it can give players a platform from which to promote good choices and life-changing charity. Here are five professional athletes who inspire us and nudge us to reach a little higher.
1) Clayton Kershaw
This Christian athlete won the Cy Young award as a pitcher three times between 2011 and 2013. In 2012, the year he didn’t win, he was still in the top picks for the honor. Kershaw maintains a strong Christian presence and uses his fame to sponsor several beneficiaries through his foundation, The Kershaw Challenge. The charity raises money for causes by encouraging people to “use their God-given talents to give back to others in need.” Through the foundation he has helped many causes including an orphanage in Zambia.
2) Tim Tebow
Vocal Christian athlete Tim Tebow knows the highs and lows of fame. Although he has received criticism for openly praying at games and being outspoken about his faith, the Christian community has largely supported the athlete. Tebow played for the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets. He left football and played baseball for the New York Mets in the farm league. He is doing well there, and just received a promotion. The athlete has always inspired others to stand up for their faith, and he has put his faith into action in the Tim Tebow Foundation. The first year it raised four million dollars to support orphans and kids who are dealing with life-threatening diseases.
3) Allyson Felix
This British track and field star is one of the fastest women in competition. She feels her athletic ability is a gift from God that allows her to glorify him through her performance as a Christian athlete. Allyson is also active with a foundation called “Right to Play.” The charity was started by Norwegian athlete Johann Koss with a goal of promoting education in disadvantaged areas through the medium of sports.
4) Kurt Warner
The name is well-known among sports fans and also among evangelical Christians. Warner has played football for the St. Louis Rams, the New York Giants and the Arizona Cardinals. He has twice led struggling teams to the Superbowl. He says his secret to success is faith and family. Warner is a strong voice for both. His foundation, First Things First, sponsors health-related projects and other causes like education in Sierra Leone and a hospice in Ethiopia. The charity also helps entrepreneurs from disadvantaged areas start businesses that will benefit their communities. Warner’s philanthropies co-sponsor the NFL “Punt, Pass, Kick” competitions that give children from all ethnicities, backgrounds and abilities the chance to compete against their peers and perhaps to move on to the national level.
5) Hunter Smith
This Christian athlete and former punter for the Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Redskins enjoys country music. He listens to it, and he makes it. He tells people that he has beaten the odds because so many former NFL players leave the game with concussions or injuries and struggling with financial insecurity. Smith credits his values of faith, family and music for the successful life he has today. He performs with his “Hunter Smith Band” all over the country and opens for some well-known celebrities. Often interviewed, he downplays his Superbowl ring and tells people that things like football are temporary. He looks more toward things that last forever. His sports fame is what gives him the platform to present his music. His music is what allows him to reach out to people about faith and family.
That is the way it seems to work for all five of these athletes. Fame and success aren’t ends ion themselves, but doors to opportunities to present their faith. That’s why these five Christian pro athletes are successful in life and in sports.