I wonder if NFL defensive linemen would recognize this Shaun Alexander. The Alexander they’re used to is a game-changing, offensive genius who makes his living carving up defenses for extra yardage. But this guy is so…disarming. He’s laughing with kids, putting his arms around them, and even praying with them. In this environment he certainly doesn’t look like the typical NFL megastar.
Believe it or not, this is Shaun Alexander—a man who loves God, loves people and loves life. Oh, yeah. He also just happens to dominate one of the toughest sports in the world. He loves that, too.
This summer at FCA Camp, the reigning NFL MVP sat down with FCA Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing Tom Rogeberg to talk about success, delighting in God and what finally made him “cool.”
TR: You had a sensational season last year. You led the league in rushing, set the NFL single-season record for touchdowns, were named the NFL’s MVP, and led the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. Yet, the Seahawks didn’t win the Super Bowl. What has coming that close taught you about what it will take to win it all?
SA: The whole year was exciting. You can be proud of so many things—all the records and actually going to the Super Bowl—but being so close and not winning is just mind-boggling because it’s so hard to get there. Things have to go right with injuries and making plays and guys on the other team not making plays. All those things count in a great season.
The exciting thing is that you get to suit back up and go play again. We have a bunch of guys who really became one. We make phone calls and send texts saying, “Hey, Bro, I’m thinking about you. I’m praying for you.” Some are believers and some are not; but that love is there. And I’ve always told people that true love is an action wrapped in truth, and the truth is Jesus Christ. With that kind of love you can’t help but be successful, and that’s where our team is right now.
TR: After the season one reporter attacked your reputation and questioned whether the Seahawks would want to re-sign you—all just before they actually did sign you, and to a long-term contract as the highest-paid running back in history, no less. Why do you think some media try to disparage certain players and create conflict?
SA: I think anytime there’s a light on somebody it’s a natural, worldly thing to tear it down. Take Satan, for example. He wants to bring down and squash out the Holy Spirit. He wants to degrade the Father. That’s what he does so he can get the world to do the same. And it does. Anytime we see something good or something bright, we try to rip it down. “Aw, was it really that good? Oh, you’re not that good.” You could even be playing checkers with a friend and say, “You’re not that cool. I could beat you yesterday.” What happened to good ol’, “Congratulations! You beat me”? But that’s the spirit of the world. It wants to pull people down. And that is usually what happens with the media. That’s just the way it is.
TR: How do you handle that?
SA: What I’ve always done is to truly believe I’m not playing for man’s approval, or for love or their honors. I set my own goals. I try to line up with God’s perfect will and then just go at it. And whatever I end up with I’m going to be satisfied with it. I don’t have to worry about what other people are saying.
• NFL Most Valuable Player
Weight: 225 lbs.
College: University of Alabama
NFL: First-round draft pick of the
Seahawks in 2000
• 28 touchdowns
(NFL single-season record)
• NFL-leading 1,880 yds. rushing
• Pro Bowl selection
Wife: Valerie; Daughters: Heaven and Trinity
TR: A couple of years ago Sports Illustrated ran a cover story about you that was entitled “Do You Know This Man?” The premise was that you played in one of the NFL’s smallest markets and didn’t get much media attention. Now you’re on the cover of the Madden NFL ’07 video game. How important is the public’s awareness of your name and the honors you’ve received?
SA: It is always an honor and always exciting to be on a great platform. I tell everybody to prepare for that. I honestly believe God’s children should be the best. So, for me I’m not surprised, but I’m still honored.
I think my cousin said it best. He asked, “Hey, you’re going to be on the game?” And I said, “Yes, I am.” Then he said, “You’re cool now.” I said, “Oh, I’ve got all these NFL records, and I was an All-American in college and an All-American in high school, and it takes a video game to make me cool in my cousin’s eyes? Thanks.” So, it’s exciting to be on the cover of the game, and it’s going to be fun knowing that kids are going to be watching me more than ever. It’s just an awesome platform.
TR: I watched you come up the hill today from camp and quiz the [FCA] campers on what Bible verses they had memorized since you last talked with them. The one you were especially interested in was Psalm 37:4. I know that’s your favorite Psalm, and it doesn’t seem to be much of a coincidence that your number is 37. What does Psalm 37 say to you?
SA: It was one of the first Scriptures I memorized to be my life verse. Like, “God, I’m giving you my life, and I’m going to find You through this Scripture.” It’s, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV). It’s saying, “Man, take joy in learning who Christ is. Take joy in honoring the Father in all your actions.” When that becomes your true desire, God’s going to start giving you other desires. “Oh, you want a great wife? Well, here she is. Do you want a great family? Well, here it is. Do you want a great job? Well, here it is.” It all starts in learning who Jesus Christ is.
I tell everybody that no one has to be perfect. You just have to be willing. Let’s go after Jesus Christ. Let’s go find out who He is and who we are in Him and then just watch what happens. He promises His Word is 100 percent flawless. As soon as you go after Him, He’ll turn around and give you the desires of your heart.
TR: You’re known for your bold witness in the league. Is it difficult to be a Christian in the NFL?
SA: It’s not hard being a Christian at all. I tell everybody this. You just have to have your mind made up. A real Christian loves. I don’t have to beat somebody up with the Word. If somebody needs something, they know I’ll be there for them—if somebody is sick or if they or their family needs something.
See, that is true love. That’s Jesus Christ stuff. And the next thing you know they’re saying, “Tell me why you’re the way you are. Why you don’t get upset if it goes bad. Why you don’t feel like you should be drenched in pride when it’s going really, really well. Why are you on that constant focus?” I just say, “I love where I’m at, and I know Who got me there.” And that’s what it is.
TR: How do you keep your Christian testimony when there are so many temptations around you?
SA: You know, everybody is tempted, and it’s Christ-like to stand up to temptations. We all have flesh, and we want to say, “Well, maybe, I should just go [out].” No, that’s your flesh. I think that 80 percent of the people who fall into any kind of sin get there because they’re physically in the wrong place. So for me it’s, “Bro, I love you all, but I’m going to be real with you. If I go there with you, I know I’m going to do stuff I shouldn’t.” And everybody respects that. It’s not because you did something wrong, it’s because I’m weak, and I’m giving them my weakness. I’m saying, “Hey, I’m not strong enough to go there and not behave, so I’m not going.” Everybody respects that, but that’s a humbling thing.
TR: With nearly all the NFL games on Sundays, how do you find your own time for worshipping God?
SA: God says, “Every day, love Me.” Every day, wake up and say, “Holy Spirit, good morning. Let’s rock.” Every day, get in the Word. Every day, be praying for your family, for yourself, for your friends, for your enemies. Every day.
I don’t have to [be in] church to read the Bible. I’m going to do it every day, anyway. A lot of people think that they can only find God in a church. You should never forsake the church. That would be the dumbest thing you could ever do. But the closest thing you have in getting in a relationship with Him is spending time with Him. Just talking and being real. That’s how you have an intimate relationship.
One of the greatest secrets that I learned was just to change what I listened to in my car. When I was in college, I decided I was going to start listening to [Christian] speakers and Gospel music, just to wrap my whole life around Jesus Christ. And I’m not saying if you listen to any other kind of music you’re going to Hell. It’s not that deep, but my heart is so for God. If I have time to find God, I’m going to find Him.
TR: Even before you were drafted you established the Shaun Alexander Foundation with the specific mission of mentoring young men. Can you tell us why you established this foundation?
||For a complete bio, visit your local bookstore after August 15 to pick up a copy of Alexander’s autobiography, Touchdown Alexander or click here to pre-order it online. For more information on the Shaun Alexander Foundation visit www.shaunalexander.org.|
SA: My foundation’s vision is to mentor young men to change the world. And basically I just want them to grow in their faith, grow in their education and grow in their vision for the future, so I set up other programs to help them succeed. I love what FCA does for young men, so the Shaun Alexander Foundation will help FCA grow.
I also have another group called Americans for Chess, and that’s focused on teaching every second and third grader in America how to play chess—growing in vision and learning how to plan steps ahead so they start thinking about more than just the here and now. And I have the Choice Foundation, which teaches kids about the value of staying in school and making wise decisions, handling money, dating and things like that.
TR: You mentioned your involvement with FCA, which goes back to your high school years. And now you send athletes to camp, you come to camp, you speak at camp. Why do you continue to speak at FCA Camps when your football career and your foundations keep you so busy?
SA: I think that the most powerful thing is Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (NIV). If you take two pieces of iron and you bang them together, everything becomes sharp. When I first got to camp, I was around other college guys as a Huddle Leader, and I was like, “Man, we go through the same struggles, but we’re all going after Jesus and we’re all going to win.” Now you see us and we’re all married. New generations have come in, and the kids that we were Huddle Leaders for are now the Huddle Leaders themselves. You just see this great process of iron sharpening iron.
I think that’s the thing I love most about FCA—it’s that you see other people saying, “Hey, we don’t know it all, but we’re going to fight for what we do know.” And that’s being obedient and living with integrity.
TR: What would you tell an athlete who may go to church, but is so focused on playing sports that he thinks he doesn’t have to be involved with FCA?
SA: It’s funny. When you read the Word, God has everything explained in there so perfectly; but if you don’t get into it, you miss the blessing. I think what it is for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul (Matthew 16:26). I’m living a blessed life being MVP and going to these awards banquets. I get to see the top emcees, the top singers, the top movie stars, and they all come around and say the same thing, “Dang, you know, I’m kind of lonely sometimes.” And I say, “How can you be lonely when you have access to get on your own private jet and fly to the Bahamas with your family? You have access to everything. How is that?” Well, it’s because there’s only one thing that brings real peace, and that’s Jesus Christ. I don’t care if you’re the MVP, or not.