Matt Hasselbeck is famous for a lot of reasons. Most people know him as a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the Super Bowl XL quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. Some associate him with his father, Don, who played nine seasons in the NFL. The less-football-savvy crowd knows him for his TV star sister-in-law, Elisabeth, from ABC’s “The View.” And a growing number of people are getting to know him for his dancing skills. (Thank you, Reebok!)
Regardless of what category you place him in, however, there’s one thing about Matt Hasselbeck that can’t be separated from his inner athlete, son, dancer or field general: his faith in Jesus Christ.
Tom Rogeberg: Your dad was an All-American at the University of Colorado who also played nine years in the NFL. Your mother, Betsy, had seven brothers, and five of them were quarterbacks. Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe you were born to be a quarterback?
The NFL Hasselbecks: Tim, Don and Matt
Matt Hasselbeck: Well, it occurred to me that I was born to play football. I wanted to play football my entire life. Ironically, my mom and dad didn’t allow us to play football. It wasn’t until I was maybe in the sixth grade and 12 years old, that we finally convinced them to allow us to play organized football. My parents were trying to steer us toward other sports—soccer, golf, baseball—pretty much everything but football. So, it’s sort of ironic that my two brothers and I went on to get full scholarships to play Division I college football.
TR: Growing up, though, you did get to play quarterback in high school and got to work out with some of the NFL quarterbacks your dad played with. Tell me about those experiences.
MH: Looking back now, I see what a great opportunity it was. That was just who my friends were. All their parents happened to be players in the NFL, and the people that I was around were all quarterbacks, wide receivers or tight ends. I didn’t really want to play quarterback. I wanted to play tight end like my dad, but I wasn’t big enough. I was skinny and had no muscles. I couldn’t block, and when I was in high school, the coaches were like, “Uh, why don’t you go out for quarterback?” I said, “OK, I guess.” But it wasn’t necessarily my plan.
TR: Were there big expectations on you?
|“There’s never been a point in my life where I didn’t trust Him, but there have been times when I’ve put more trust in myself than in Him. That’s not the right way to do it.”|
MH: There were. There were huge expectations, but not from my parents. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Would I fail or embarrass my family name, or whatever. But it was always fun. It was never something that was forced on us at home. It was the other way around. We were forcing our parents to allow us to play.
TR: I know your parents became Christians when you were in elementary school. How did that impact your life?
|Team: Seattle Seahawks|
Weight: 225 lbs.
Born: Sept. 25, 1975
College: Boston College
Drafted: 6th round, #187 by the Green Bay Packers (1998)
NFL Experience: 9 years
Super Bowl Appearances: 1 (2005 Season)
Pro Bowls: 3 (2004, 2006, 2008)
Father, Don (Patriots, Raiders, Vikings, Giants)
Brother, Tim (Panthers, Eagles, Redskins, Giants, Cardinals)
MH: I was probably in first grade when my mom became serious about being a Christian. Second grade for my dad. But I was so young, I don’t really remember any of it. My experience was, "Hey, I got great parents who raised us in a great church.” They were the best role models for what Christian parents should be.
Now when I meet their friends and hear stories about them, I say, “Really, you were like that then? You struggled with that, seriously?” But, as kids, we never saw that. What we saw was both of my parents waking up early and reading the Bible, and just seeing things that they did every day. There was just so much evidence in their lives of who was in control for them. That was all that we knew.
TR: When did you make your own decision to follow Christ?
MH: The first time I remember making that decision was when I was 11 or 12 years old at Vacation Bible Camp at our home church in Boston. It was the first time in my life that I said, “OK, I make this decision.”
It’s definitely been a journey. There’ve been moments along the way where someone would say, "Do you trust Him?” And I’d say, “Yeah, I trust Him.” And they’d say, “No, do you trust Him or do you trust Him with all you’ve got?” There’s a difference. For me, there’s never been a point in my life where I didn’t trust Him, but there have been times when I’ve put more trust in myself than in Him. That’s not the right way to do it.
TR: What Bible verse gives you the most guidance in your walk with Christ?
MH: The one that probably makes the biggest difference on a daily basis would be Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” (NIV). It’s obviously a Bible verse that a lot of people know, but it’s hard to do. It’s really hard to do. So, a lot of times when I sign an autograph, that’s the one I’ll put on there. It’s definitely one I think about, especially when I’m not in the mood to get in the weight room or get out there on the practice field.
TR: Today, you’re one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL. You’ve had success in high school, college and the pros, but at each level you’ve had to work very hard to become the starter. What has that taught you about life?
MH: That nothing’s easy. I can look back and remember the struggle over not being the quarterback, not being the starter or being hurt and not playing, and I’m like, “Why does it have to be so hard? I’m doing all the right things.” And it’s not until years later that I see that the struggle helped me become the person that I am.
But also, there have been so many times that I’ve had teammates come up to me and say, “What do you think I should do right now? This isn’t working out. I think I’m going to get cut.” Or, “I should be playing, and I’m not.” And I can legitimately empathize with them because I’ve been there. I’ve been cut. I’ve been benched. I’ve been traded. I have been that guy. Had I never been through that, I’m not sure I could be there for my teammates.
At the same time, there have been guys who have gone through the same things I did, and they’ll do so much better than I did. That just brings me so much closer to my teammates because I have so much respect for guys on our team when I can say, “Hey, I really respect how you’re handling this situation because I was in that same situation once and didn’t handle it as well as you did. So, good job.”
|“I’ve been cut. I’ve been benched. I’ve been traded. I have been that guy. Had I never been through that, I’m not sure I could be there for my teammates.”|
TR: Having been “that guy” in so many different situations, what kind of lessons can you give the FCA Campers and student-athletes who will read this? What do you wish you would have known when you were a young athlete?
MH: For me, when I was in high school and in college, I knew I wanted to be this great Christian guy. I knew the plan and knew that I wanted to follow Jesus. But this image of Jesus that I had in my head was sort of like “Easter Jesus.” He’s wearing a white dress with, like, long hair and flowers in His hair. It’s hard to be that on a football field or in school. And I just didn’t see how that fit.
As I got older, particularly when I got drafted by the Green Bay Packers, I saw so many Christian guys on that team—Reggie White, being the guy who comes right to mind—who’d study the Bible and study Jesus. And I realized who Jesus really was. Jesus was a man’s man. He was a stud. I mean, He was hard core! And that’s kind of how Reggie was. Reggie was the best player in the game at his position, maybe ever. He would come out and dominate you. As a defensive end, he would play physical. He would knock you down. He would get around you and sack the quarterback. He would knock your helmet off, and then he’d help you up. He lived [his faith] every single day.
But to see player after player who was legitimate in his faith, and just a tough, fierce, hard-nosed, competitive football player—it was the first time in my life that I got to see that you could really be both. Then when I got to Seattle, I saw it even more. So, I don’t know what kind of advice that is, but there are people who are doing it real. And the Jesus who walked on the earth is a stud. And if He played football, I know how He’d play. He’d play all-out.
TR: I’m sure, as a quarterback, you have to have confidence in yourself, but sometimes confidence can be interpreted negatively as cockiness. How do you differentiate between confidence and arrogance?
Why do YOU go to FCA?
Matt Hasselbeck has a great story about how he got involved with FCA in college—specifically the role his wife, Sarah, who was his girlfriend at the time, played in the experience:
“One of the older girls on the field hockey team and the new strength coach at that time had decided to start a Huddle. I don’t think they’d ever had one before at Boston College. My wife played field hockey, and she was like, ‘Hey, there’s this thing called FCA. Do you want to go to the FCA Huddles?’ I think I was 17 years old at the time, and what I heard was, ‘Blah, blah, blahblahblah. But my hot girlfriend wants me to go to FCA.’ So, I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go to FCA!’”
Hey, whatever God uses, right Matt?
MH: There’s definitely a fine line. I’ve probably been accused of both. So many times there are pressure situations where it may appear as a cockiness, but really it’s just a looseness and a confidence. I think the biggest thing for us—for our quarterbacks—when we leave the tunnel before we go out on the football field in pregame, it’s very much like the movie Gladiator where Russell Crowe’s Maximus is in the tunnel. It’s kind of a dark, dingy place. And I’ll be honest with you, you get nervous sometimes before you play. You get butterflies. You get anxious. You’ve got to have confidence. Your teammates see that. You’ve got to have peace where you can be truly calm and do your job.
So, I’ve got teammates with me, and we say a quick prayer. It’s never the same, but essentially the theme is asking the same thing: “God, I pray that we go out and play today for an Audience of One, and we play for Your approval and not for the approval of thousands of people here and the millions watching or even our teammates, our coaches or our families.” To just know that we worked hard all week to prepare to play to the best of the ability that He gave us. There’s a peace in that, a comfort that I think is beyond comprehension.
TR: Of course, we’ve seen the promo for the NFL Network where you talk about getting your first piece of fan mail as a Green Bay Packer, and you open it only to find that it’s a request to get Brett Favre’s autograph. You also champion your baldness. You’re teased about your clothes by some of your teammates. Are all these things done just to keep it light in a pressure-packed atmosphere, or is it just you?
MH: Some of it is. I just think that each year I get a little bit older and my teammates get a little bit younger. It’s funny. Sometimes I’m messing with my teammates, but we’ve got a good family atmosphere on our team. There are moments where you’ve got to keep it loose and be funny. But at the same time we’re all just big kids playing a sport. There’s something to making fun of yourself.
For me, my game plan is usually just beating people to the punch. So, like, dancing would be a thing. Nate Burleson, one of my teammates—a great guy—at our Christmas party was like, “Oh, we’ve got to see you dance. Can you dance?” So, he was going to drag me up on the dance floor. I know this, so I’m out there already. You know, let’s just beat him to the punch. You embrace it, and it dissolves a little bit. You fight it, and it’s going to be a bigger deal.
TR: What did they think?
MH: The dancing moves? Mixed results. Mixed results. I have some work to do.
TR: We’re not going to see you on “Dancing with the Stars”?
MH: No, I don’t think my wife would go for that. But I do have a commercial out right now where I’m dancing. It’s supposed to be bad dancing. Little do people know that’s pretty much all I’ve got.
--For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To subscribe to STV, click here.
Photos courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks.