Houston Texan Samkon Gado fulfills his purpose on the football field, the medical field and the mission field
By Janet Goreham
Seven to 8 million Americans hold multiple jobs.* That’s nothing special. But how many of those millions can say that they suit up in NFL pads to clock in for their first job and in scrubs for their second? Probably only one: Samkon Gado.
|Photo courtesy of Houston Texans|
Samkon Gado #35
Position: Running back
College: Liberty University
NFL Experience: 2 years
FCA Connection: Gado donated his time to FCA in Green Bay by speaking at local events
For Gado, a running back with the Houston Texans, the choice between his childhood dream to play in the NFL and his desire to become a doctor and practice missionary medicine in his native country of Nigeria was easy. Why choose? Just do both.
During his first NFL season with the Packers (’05-’06) Gado “wowed” Green Bay management and fans as he set multiple rookie records only a few weeks after being promoted to the Packers’ active roster. After his milestone season was over, Gado anonymously volunteered at Green Bay’s Bellin Health Hospital, drawing blood, measuring vital signs and helping patients get out of bed.
“They’re both tools,” said Gado of his two pursuits. “They correlate in so many ways, because this is what God is using at my point in life to make me more like Jesus Christ. When I’m done with football He will use my desire to go to Nigeria as another means to sharpen me in the image of Christ.”
According to Gado, becoming more like Christ is more important than any job, even competing in the NFL. When asked about the lessons God has taught him through the NFL he said, “I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily about my success, it’s not about doing well. It’s about my looking like Christ, and His being glorified in the process.”
The 5’10”, 226-pound running back was born in Nigeria in 1982 to Christian parents and moved to the United States at the age of 9 with his mother and four sisters. It was a move that reunited the family with his father, Jeremiah, who had come to Columbia, S.C., the previous year to study divinity at Columbia International University.
Shortly thereafter Gado discovered American football, a sport he knew nothing about except that it was played with a very “weird-shaped ball.”** He and his friends began to scrimmage in the backyard of the church, and when he realized that he loved to play, he begged his father to let him join a team.
Gado became a four-sport high school letter winner (football, track, soccer and basketball) at Ben Lippen School, a private Christian academy in Columbia. He excelled in football and was recruited to play at Liberty University.
It was there at Liberty that Gado realized God was calling him to become a doctor. “It was about my sophomore year of college that I really started thinking about it,” said Gado. “And as time has progressed it’s really been emblazoned on my heart. I’ve wanted to completely surrender my life to the Lord and do something that not many people are willing to do – something that can test my faith.”
"I remember praying to the Lord that He would send me somewhere where it was very difficult to live, and the people I was around were not familiar with the gospel. I
had no idea that the Lord was going to send me into the NFL.”
The Liberty coaching staff recognized Gado’s spiritual acumen from day one. “He was a young man everyone looked up to – I’m even talking about the more mature Christian coaches,” said former Liberty offensive coordinator Frank Rocco. “He was a guy who was respected across the board by everyone as a mature Christian young man the moment he stepped foot on our campus.”
Former Liberty head football coach Ken Karcher agreed. “He’s a young man who understands what life is really about. Athletics is strictly a tool; it’s not a god.”
While at Liberty, Gado achieved a 3.66 grade-point average, was awarded academic all-conference honors and earned a degree in health promotions. The coaches would often joke that someday they’d be lying on the operating table and look up to discover it was Gado operating on them.
An occasional starter for the Flames, Gado played in 39 games, amassed a total of 273 carries for 1,631 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 38 passes for 486 yards and six receiving touchdowns. But his contributions weren’t enough to earn him a spot in the 2005 NFL Draft. With the help of Karcher, however, a former Denver Bronco, Gado signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs in May 2005.
He attended the Chiefs’ training camp but was unable to make the active roster due to a neck injury. As a result, he was released from the practice squad only a month into the season.
“I was struggling with trusting God because I couldn’t understand why He had opened the door for the NFL, and then it seemed like the door had shut,” said Gado of his release from the Chiefs.
The supportive Gado family watched and prayed from South Carolina. “When the going is good and when the going is bad, it’s a character molding experience,” said Jeremiah Gado. “I’m discovering more and more that we need to be serious with our prayers for him. We watched Sam respond by saying, ‘Lord, I don’t know what You’re doing, but You have my best interest, so I’m not going to follow my feelings but follow my faith in You.’”
Added Gado, “I prayed to God that if football was what He wanted, then He was going to have to make it happen.”
And sure enough, He did. On October 17, 2005, the Packers signed Gado to their practice squad. Due to injuries in the starting line-up, including nagging injuries to running backs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport, Gado and a handful of others were promoted to the active roster.
Only two weeks after being signed, Gado made his NFL debut. During the game on October 30 against the Cincinnati Bengals Gado played but only carried the ball eight yards. But, one week later, Gado’s playing time increased significantly.
Against the defense of the eventual NFL champion Pittsburgh Steelers he carried the ball 26 times and scored his first NFL rushing touchdown. After the game, Gado reportedly thanked every one of his offensive linemen for helping him score.
“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was God who brought me to the top,” said Gado. “He gave me the ability to do well at Green Bay. And even in times that have not been so great, He’s been there just as much.”
Gado’s 2005 season ended on December 19 with a sprained MCL, which he suffered in a game against the Baltimore Ravens. The injury landed him on the injured reserve list. Still, at the end of the season he had accumulated 143 carries, 582 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns, 10 receptions, 77 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.
|When Samkon Gado decided to work at Bellin Health Hospital in Green Bay (Wis.) it was no publicity stunt. He tried to maintain a low profile, not telling anyone who he was; but he eventually lost his cover when a patient in a drug-induced stupor told his wife that the man in scrubs played football. When asked if it was true, Gado confessed.
“Once one person knew, it spread like wildfire,” said Gado. “There wasn’t too much anonymity at that point; but I expected it.”
In a small city like Green Bay, good news travels fast. But Gado was willing to take his chances. “I just genuinely wanted the experience, so I figured the best thing to do was start getting used to it.”
Samkon Gado (second from back row left) and his family
His six rushing touchdowns tied Offensive Rookie of the Year Carnell “Cadillac” Williams for the NFL lead among rookies and was the first Packers’ rookie in 25 years to score as many as seven overall touchdowns.
In 2006, Gado was traded to the Texans after the first week of the regular season. While his location may look different now, his goals have remained the same. And as the season comes to an end, Gado hopes to volunteer at hospitals once again and continue preparing for the day that God assigns him to the front lines of medicine.
“I genuinely want the experience. I see myself doing [medicine] much longer than I see myself playing football.”
In the meantime, Gado has found a way to pay for med-school. “God has really put me in a position to start preparing for the mission field right now,” said Gado.* “I remember praying to the Lord that He would send me somewhere where it was very difficult to live, and the people I was around were not familiar with the gospel. I had no idea that the Lord was going to send me into the NFL.”
But according to Gado, the NFL fits those criteria perfectly.
*U.S. Department of Labor
** as told to World Radio
*For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com