Unpackin’ It: Former Baylor University basketball player Isaiah Austin

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dream-again-9781501107399_hrIsaiah Austin joins us on UNPACKIN’ it to talk about his journey and new book. Austin, former Baylor University standout, candidly shares his inspiring faith journey upon being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome and no longer being able to play basketball. Click HERE to listen to the entire interview.

BRYCE JOHNSON: Before we talk about who you are today, talk about what life was like growing up, and how important basketball was when you were young.
ISAIAH AUSTIN: I was just a young kid with a dream. I grew up in a privileged household. My mom and my dad professed to keep a strong faith in my life and that’s what I grew up knowing. I grew up going to church, studying my Bible, and learning to trust God’s plan for my life. As I was growing up, my parents surrounded me with basketball and let me have the privilege of being able to play, and I started getting good. I wanted my dream to become an NBA player to come true, so I worked day in and day out for it.

BRYCE JOHNSON: So you always worked very hard. Even before being diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, you played basketball, despite being blind in your right eye from an injury you sustained in middle school. How did dealing with the blindness in your right eye affect your faith?
ISAIAH AUSTIN: It affected my faith a lot. I really questioned God at times and I didn’t understand what His plan for me was exactly. The whole time I thought He wanted me to be this huge basketball star, and to not go through any problems, and basically have an easy walk in the NBA…be rich and famous. But it really wasn’t what His plan for me. It’s one thing to have faith in God, but it’s another thing to really sit back and trust His plan for your life.

BRYCE JOHNSON: When you received the devastating news that you had Marfan Syndrome, right when you were expected to be a first-round draft pick, what did that do to your faith?
ISAIAH AUSTIN: It definitely made me stronger in my faith because I know that God wants me to share His Word with everybody in the world. He wants me to share my testimony and to be able to bring people closer to Him. Going through all of this made me realize all of the lives I can touch. I can’t tell you how many people have sent me emails or tweeted at me or commented on my Instagram pictures telling me that they’ve prayed for me and telling me how much I’ve inspired them to change their lives in a positive direction. So God has really blessed me with that ability to be able to connect with people around the world…I feel like I’m doing the work that He wants me to do.

BRYCE JOHNSON: You talk about growing and understanding God’s picture in this whole situation, and your willingness to inspire other people. What are some additional messages that you are trying to encourage others with?
ISAIAH AUSTIN: I know that a lot of sports people are going to look up to me because I played basketball, and because I had a tough story, but I’ve been through the days like everybody who wakes up thinking they just want to give up and don’t want to get out of bed. They just want to quit, and it feels like the weight of the world is beating down their shoulders and people are all in their ears telling them this and telling them that. I’ve been through all of that, so I feel like I have that connection with each and every person on this earth, and can tell them that there is a way out and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel…no matter how dark it seems. It’s just a matter of whether you’re going to keep walking forward and trusting in God’s plan…that He’s going to clear the pathway for you. That’s really what it all boils down to.

BRYCE JOHNSON: Being diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome before the draft ultimately saved your life. Talk to me about that.
ISAIAH AUSTIN: It definitely did save my life. I will have to have open heart surgery in a couple of years because my heart is enlarged. I’m glad I was diagnosed. If I had to go back and change anything about it, I definitely would not.

This column was published in Sports Spectrum’s Summer 2015 DigiMag. Log in HERE to view the issue. Subscribe HERE to receive eight issues a year. Click HERE to learn about what Sports Spectrum is doing around the world.