NFL Closeup — David Akers

Fall 2013_Spreads (dragged) 6Each time David Akers was cut by his last two NFL teams, his departure oddly followed deep runs by his teams in the playoffs.

It didn’t deter him from continuing to succeed, though.

Now with his fourth NFL team, he is once again one of the NFL’s top kickers, this year playing for the Detroit Lions and their high-powered offense.

Akers, who has made six Pro Bowls, played in two Super Bowls (2005 with Philadelphia and 2013 with San Francisco) and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000s, owns three NFL records. During the 2011 season, while playing for the San Francisco 49ers, he set single-season records for most points by a kicker (166) and field goals made (44). Last season, he tied the NFL record (held by three others) for the longest field goal when he kicked a 63-yarder at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.

Akers understands, though, that success on the field is empty unless a person is focused on something more meaningful.

“We can use this platform to make a difference,” Akers told Sports Spectrum for the 2012 Summer issue. “When all eyes are trained upon us, let’s give God the glory in all we do. Trying to make a daily difference in the life of someone and be as Christ-like as possible. That’s my message and what I try to live by.”

- Brett Honeycutt

This story was published in the Volume 27, Number 4 issue of Sports Spectrum magazine. Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum. 

NFL Closeup — Russell Wilson

Fall 2013_Spreads (dragged) 5Russell Wilson, one of the top rookies in the NFL last season while guiding the Seattle Seahawks to the second round of the playoffs, had Seattle off to a fast start again this season and dreams of making another postseason appearance.

Last season, Wilson passed for 3,118 yards and tied Peyton Manning’s NFL rookie record with 26 touchdown passes in the regular season, before passing for an NFL rookie playoff record 385 yards in a 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and earning a spot in the Pro Bowl.

But Wilson, who became a Christian when he was 14, isn’t all about football. He is known for his strong faith and uses his popularity to point people to Christ by tweeting Bible verses to more than 380,000 of his Twitter followers.

“You have to stand for something and (God) has given me this tremendous platform,” said Wilson, while speaking at Northwest University, a Christian school in Kirkland, Wash., during the school’s third annual athletic Hall of Fame Benefit in March.

Football wasn’t always his only sport, though. Wilson was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 41st round of the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft out of high school, but turned them down to pursue football and baseball in college at North Carolina State. He played for the Wolfpack from 2008-2010 in both sports (earning ACC Rookie of the Year in football) before being drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies.

While playing in the minor leagues with the Rockies organization, Wilson continued to play college football. After three years at N.C. State where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications, he transferred to Wisconsin where he led the Badgers to the Big Ten title and a berth in the 2012 Rose Bowl, while being named the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and setting the FBS record for passing efficiency (191.8).

His accomplishments defy what pundits feel he should be able to do.

“I should not be in the NFL—I am 5-10 and five-eighths,” he said. “All the adversity and naysayers, God doesn’t care about that.”

-Brett Honeycutt

This story was published in the Volume 27, Number 4 issue of Sports Spectrum magazine. Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum. 

Airing it Out — Someone else’s responsibility?

aaron-hernandez-618gettyThe beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

Parents, in general, rear their children to get an education, excel at sports, and excel at life, sometimes in that order, and sometimes with sports before education, but usually, excelling at life seems to come last on the importance meter.

Strangely, those same parents wonder what happened when their children fail at life. Questions abound like: Why did they disobey? Why did they get involved with the wrong crowd? Why did they start doing drugs? Why didn’t they do something that would have led them in a different direction?

Then the light comes on, or seemingly, with accusations more plentiful than the questions: It’s the teacher’s fault. It’s the coach’s fault. It’s their boss’ fault. For some reason, though, they never take responsibility for never putting life first or never putting responsibility on the person who made the wrong decisions.

It’s always, or so it seems, someone else’s fault.

A great example of that is the case of Aaron Hernandez, the young, former rising NFL star who was playing with one of the league’s best teams over the past 10 or more years, the New England Patriots.

After news broke that he was alleged to be involved with the killing of minor league football player Odin Loyd, and possibly several others from previous years, some people in the media began looking for answers.

Why would he do this? Their answers were shockingly irresponsible, blatantly void of logic and common sense, and, one could say, naïve. They hurled accusations at Urban Meyer, who was Hernandez’s college coach at the University of Florida, and Bill Belichik, Hernandez’s NFL coach with the New England Patriots.

It must have been their fault. Why? They reasoned that Meyer and Belichik could have prevented his bad decisions by doing more to discipline Hernandez, and they could have done a more thorough background check, which would have helped Hernandez turn his life around.

They asserted, in essence, that Loyd was killed because of those two coaches, and they shouted it from the top of their lungs hoping everyone would hear and cast stones at the two people who were the furthest from the situation—without thinking one simple, yet common sense thought like, “Maybe it was Hernandez’s fault.” Maybe it is the fault of the person who is alleged to have been involved in the murder, and other murders, as well. Maybe Hernandez just didn’t care and maybe he did what he wanted to do, regardless of the well-being of others.

Here’s a revelation: People who know to do right, do wrong, despite being told that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. Seriously. It happens. And people who know to do right, do right. Yes, that happens, too.

People have freedom to choose, despite what their coaches, teachers, parents, friends and others might tell them. We can either choose to do right or wrong. It’s each individual’s choice and their choice alone.

Ultimately, the responsibility is on the person who took the action, good or bad.

But personal responsibility isn’t popular, and it’s not easy, either. What is easy is blaming someone else.

Lacking in the media’s dissection of the situation was the more obvious, and logical, question: Why didn’t Hernandez take more personal responsibility for his actions?

For some reason, the light bulb didn’t come on for the media, and the blame game ensued. It’s a common tactic in our culture. We have a wreck, it’s someone else’s fault. We’re late to work, it’s someone else’s fault. We forget to pay a bill, it’s someone else’s fault. Our child doesn’t excel in school, it’s someone else’s fault (and that someone else rarely includes the child or parent). Our child doesn’t excel in sports, it’s someone else’s fault (and rarely is the question asked if maybe he or she isn’t fit for that sport or could possibly excel in something else or benefit from more help by their parents).

Let’s begin asking the questions that lead to personal responsibility instead of the questions that lead to blaming others, because our actions, whether influenced by good or bad role models, are ours and ours alone.

We make the choice to do right or wrong each day.

By Brett Honeycutt

This column was published in the September 2013 Sports Spectrum DigiMag and Vol. 27, No. 4 print issue. Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine. His column addresses topics from a biblical perspective. Follow him on Twitter-@Brett_Honeycutt

Starting Anew

BenPikeStoryBen Pike will not be charging into “The Swamp” on Aug. 31 when the University of Toledo opens its football season at the University of Florida.

He also won’t be running onto the field at the Glass Bowl, the Rockets’ home turf, on Sept. 14 when Toledo plays its first home game this season against Eastern Washington.

Instead, his surroundings will be a little different and more than eight hours away.

Pike traded in his senior year at Toledo, where he would have been fending off offensive lineman to chase down quarterbacks or plunging through the line to stop running backs, for teaching and coaching teenagers at Fort Zumwalt West High in O’Fallon, Mo., about 45 minutes outside of St. Louis.

But there’s more to the story than someone giving up college football to start their career.

Pike’s motivation to forgo his senior season was borne out of a love, not to help himself but to help someone else.

Jolting News

Ben Pike met Ashlee Barrett at an Athletes in Action Bible study on Toledo’s campus. Pike was a freshman and Barrett was a junior who had transferred from the University of Evansville, along with her coach, to play basketball.

Pike pursued and Barrett, Pike admits, was a little reluctant. A freshman pursuing a junior? That was the holdup, but only for a little while.

“When we started being around each other and hanging out, it was an instant connection. It was pretty special,” Pike tells Sports Spectrum. “I always tell people, first time I saw her, the first thing I noticed was her outward beauty; she was tall, 5-foot 11, long, blonde hair, big, blue eyes. But as I got to know her more personally, I got to see what a great person she was. She was kind to others, which was amazing to me.”

They were engaged in December of 2011 and set their wedding date a year and a half later, for June 15, 2013.

But five months after their engagement, in April of 2012, Pike received a phone call that his fiancée had to be hospitalized.

“I got the first flight out of the Detroit airport,” Pike says. “You walk into this room and you see the person you love hooked up to a ventilator…it’s very, very heartbreaking…What had happened, she had become septic, so the infection had spread through her blood stream. The doctors weren’t sure she would make it through the night.”

Barrett, who had been teaching after her graduation, made it through the night, and Pike thought he and his fiancée would be going home soon. Then her parents and a doctor walked into the room.

“That’s when we could tell something was wrong and that’s when we got the news that she had leukemia,” Pike says. “When we heard that, it was very, very emotional. A lot of tears were going and a lot of people were not sure what was going on because it’s kind of hard to believe.”

“In the midst of all that’s going on, I was standing by her side, and she took my hand and looked me in the eye and said, ‘I’m so glad it’s me and not you.’ For her to just say that when she’s going through the worst thing that’s ever happened to her just kind of speaks to what kind of person she is in her substance and her kindness for other people. It was just truly remarkable to me.”

Admittedly, Pike struggled with reconciling his faith with what his then fiancée was going through in the hospital.

“For me, initially, I was mad. I was,” Pike says. “I didn’t understand why it was happening. I didn’t think she deserved it. I couldn’t see how it could come to this. But I think that was a very natural response to have. As I got time to step back from the situation and look, I started to realize…I talked with God and prayed and had many conversations about this…He was able to give me a peace that it was okay; that in the end, it was all going to work out. I may not understand why, but I’m not supposed to understand why right now. But we just know and we trust in God that at the end of the day, that something amazing is going to happen, the glory is going to go to Him.”

Prayer, treatments, and loving support from Pike and seemingly everyone helped during Barrett’s ordeal with leukemia.

Nine months passed, including Pike playing his junior season at Toledo as he helped the Rockets to a 9-4 season, including an eight-game win streak and a bowl bid to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Utah State on Dec. 15. Toledo lost, but it was the first time the program had back-to-back nine-win seasons since 2004 and 2005.

Because of everything that had happened, Pike had begun discussing with his coaches, at some point during the season, about the possibility of not coming back his senior year so that he could be with Ashlee.

“I told him there’s a good possibility that I won’t be coming back for my senior year,” Pike recalls, telling head coach Matt Campbell. “He said, ‘Ben, that’s fine. We’ll treat you like a senior this year. You can do all the things the seniors get to do…At the end of the season, if that’s still what you want to do, that’s great, you go ahead and do that. If you want to come back, you can come back.’”

His coaches understood what was important and things seemed to be going well for everyone.

300034_4513234622923_1822078595_n

A Fateful Visit

In late January, Pike was greeted with a visit from his parents.

“It was a Friday night. I had called and texted (Ashlee) that night and she hadn’t responded,” Pike recalls. “So I kind of knew something wasn’t quite right, but didn’t know what…My parents came to tell me and I knew something wasn’t quite right…They came to tell me Ashlee’s cancer had come back. Again, that moment, I wasn’t quite sure why it was happening, because I thought we were out of the woods and that we were moving on to bigger and brighter things.”

This time, though, it was different. There was a resiliency and a toughness in his mind and heart that had been cultivated from the first experience.

“We both were going to hunker down and do it again. At the end of the day, we know that God is in control,” Pike says. “This second time around is where we’ve really seen some good things, how it affected other people and what’s come from it…We know that through all bad things, that if we trust God, He’s going to work it for His glory and His good…When times are hard, and you think you can’t go on, He’s given us the strength to get through another day.

“Going through this whole thing, it’s been pretty remarkable to me because I’ve never once heard Ashley question, ‘Why me?’ ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I’ve never once heard her question that, which is another thing I think is pretty incredible. Because I would think that would be a pretty normal reaction, normal response for someone to go through this.

“She’s an inspiration to me…her positive attitude is remarkable to me.”

28046_4594470373766_1657996885_n

The Decision

That was enough to compel Pike to give up football. So, in February he did just that. He knew he wanted to be with Ashlee, the person he wanted to marry, and he knew she needed him.

Pike doesn’t want to be admired because of his decision, though. All of the admiration, he said, belongs to Ashlee. Giving up football to help her fight cancer was an easy decision.

“A lot of people are saying how that I’m doing something admirable or sacrificing something, and I just don’t see it that way,” Pike says. “I see it as I’m gaining the love of my life and I get to spend every day with her. At the end of the day, it was an easy decision because I need to be here for her. I need to be here to make sure she gets through this and I can support her and be with her every day to love and support her. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a hard decision at all. I’m not the one who needs to be admired or looked up to, she needs to be the one who’s looked up to and admired for how she’s…fighting day in and day out.”

946431_10200712067178040_1284309047_n

Wedding Bells

They were married this summer, on June 15. There was no receiving line because of the fear of germs from hugs and handshakes. Their honeymoon will be at a later date, too, so that Ashlee can remain close to her doctors, who are still monitoring everything.

His coaches and teammates, who had supported him emotionally and given him rides to and from the airport while he flew back and forth from Toledo to St. Charles, Mo., before finally moving to be closer to Ashlee, were supporting him once again.

One teammate, Hank Keighley, was Pike’s best man, two other teammates were in the wedding, and head coach Matt Campbell, defensive line coach Eli Rasheed and several other teammates were there in attendance.

Even more important is that their life with each other began with a faith journey, which both committed to before Ashlee found out she had cancer.

They both had committed to follow Christ, but Ashlee wanted to get things straight with her baptism.

“When we first met, we would talk about faith a lot,” Ben Pike says. “She was born and raised Catholic, and I was born and raised Baptist. We began to go to churches together and started to kind of explore that route. She found a church that she really liked, First Baptist Church Harvester in St. Charles, which is where she lives. That weekend before she found out she had cancer, she made the decision to be baptized.”

The pastor of the church has been someone the couple has leaned on for guidance.

“Bob Engle has been a huge, huge support for her and us,” Ben Pike says. “He has just been there for us. So, we’ve had support from every direction.”

“Even though cancer will be a part of our daily lives for a few more years,” Pike told the Cleveland Plain Dealer before his wedding. “We’re both very excited to be able to close that chapter on our lives and start a new chapter.”

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sport Spectrum magazine. This story was published in the August 2013 Sports Spectrum DigiMag. Print and digital subscribers, log in here to view. Not a subscriber to Sports Spectrum? Subscribe here

Devotional of the Week — Hope-Inspired Moments

teamphoto-520“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.” Psalm 34:17-20

Marshall beat Xavier 15-13 on Sept. 25, 1971, in a college football game. Nothing about that seems spectacular, noteworthy or would make anyone have goose bumps—except a Marshall fan or someone who knows college football history.

That game was memorable and spectacular, not because Marshall quarterback Reggie Oliver threw a touchdown pass on the last play of the game, but because it was the first home game for Marshall since a Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash killed all 75 people on board (37 Marshall players, eight coaches, 25 boosters and 5 flight crew members).

Merely putting a football team on the field after losing nearly everyone from the program inspired hope; the victory made the game sweeter. An inspiring movie simply titled We Are Marshall was made in 2006 about the events surrounding the tragedy and the program’s revitalization.

Have you ever felt so hopeless that you couldn’t see how things could work out? Remember that God sees you, and He hears you when you cry out to Him. Continue to ask God for His help and guidance in the midst of your pain. He does hear, and He will answer.

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

In the News — Pittsburgh Pirates

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh PiratesSome are calling it the best story in sports this year. And why not?

For 20 straight seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been losers. The Pirates aren’t merely a franchise that hasn’t won their division, or hasn’t made the playoffs, or hasn’t won a playoff series or hasn’t reached the World Series.

But a franchise that hasn’t won anything, finishing with a losing record each of the last 20 years to claim the dubious record of the longest losing streak by a team in North American pro sports history.

This year looks to be different, though.

The Pirates have held one of the best records in baseball all season and have gone back and forth with the St. Louis Cardinals, vying not only for the top spot in the National League Central but also for the best record in baseball.

And it starts with manager Clint Hurdle.

“Every player is responsible and accountable to represent the name on the front (Pittsburgh) more than on the back,” says Hurdle, who spoke to Sports Spectrum for a story that appeared in this year’s Spring issue. “Don’t take that for granted.”

In his three seasons with Pittsburgh, Hurdle has led the Pirates to three of their best first-half starts since winning the National League East in 1992. And they seem poised to make the playoffs for the first time since then, as well.

Hurdle was recently one of several Pirates to participate in the team’s first Faith Night, on Aug. 1 at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. After the game against St. Louis, Hurdle, and team members Jay Bell, three-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen (who has also been featured in Sports Spectrum), Neil Walker, Michael McKenry, Jose Tabata, Mark Melancon, Charlie Morton and Jeanmar Gomez spoke about their faith. They shared their personal experiences on how their faith had impacted both their lives and their careers in baseball.

Hurdle’s influence, though, isn’t just on the baseball diamond. It’s off the field, as well.

When he advises men, he encourages them to follow his example and asks, “Are you making a difference? Jesus doesn’t want a finished product. He wants to help you become a finished product.”

Even if the Pirates took a nose dive in the standings, ended up with a losing record and missed the playoffs, they already seem to be headed in the right direction—on and off the field.

By Brett Honeycutt

This was published in the August 2013 Sports Spectrum DigiMag. Print and digital subscribers, log in here to view. Not a subscriber to Sports Spectrum? Subscribe here

Devotional of the Week — Breaking the Mold

 

Boston College Football“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Hebrews 11:31

Doug Flutie was someone who didn’t fit the prototypical quarterback. He only stood 5-feet, 9 inches tall, but he had a strong arm, a huge heart and a belief that his team could win.

On Nov. 23, 1984, with six seconds left on the clock, and Flutie’s Boston College team trailing the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes, fans saw all of Flutie’s qualities and more.

With Boston College at Miami’s 48-yard line, Flutie scrambled back and unleashed the ball at Boston College’s own 36 and the ball traveled more than 64 yards into the waiting arms of Gerard Phelan for the touchdown and a 47-45 victory.

Flutie passed for 472 yards and three touchdowns in the game, and became the first collegiate quarterback to pass for more than 10,000 career yards. One week later, Flutie was named the Heisman Trophy winner for the best player in college football.

Rahab didn’t fit the mold of someone who would help the Israelites (she was a prostitute, rejected and despised by most and an enemy of the Israelites), but she did because she had faith that they served the only true God.

Don’t let your circumstances or position in society determine what you can or cannot do for God, because God is the only one who can determine that. Believe in God.

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Airing It Out — Michael Vick forgives; why can’t you?

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins

If the statement below came from anyone else other than Michael Vick, we would glance over it, miss the potential lesson that we could learn (or be reminded of) and not think about how impactful it could be if we all did what Vick did.

When asked about his teammate Riley Cooper, who used a racial slur while at a concert, Vick told reporters this: “As a team we understood because we all make mistakes in life and we all do and say things that maybe we do mean and maybe we don’t mean. But as a teammate, I forgave him. We understand the magnitude of the situation. We understand a lot of people may be hurt and offended, but I know Riley Cooper. I know him as a man. I’ve been with him for the last three years, and I know what type of person he is. That’s what makes it easy, and at the same time, hard to understand. But easy to forgive him.”

Which brings me to this question: If Michael Vick can easily forgive others, why can’t others easily forgive him or just plain forgive him even if it’s not easy to do?

From the vitriol that spews out at Vick every season over dog fighting and killing dogs, you would think that people in general a) don’t’ believe in forgiveness; b) are perfect and have never done wrong; c) are people who are not being honest about their own failures; d) believe that one mistake dooms you for the rest of your life; or e) all of the above.

And even if some can’t forgive Vick, why, at the least, can’t Christians forgive him?

I understand the world not forgiving Vick (because they don’t have a grasp of forgiveness and unconditional love and are, in general, contradictory in much of their logic and reasoning), but when and who to forgive shouldn’t be a question with Christians. It should be automatic. It should be ingrained because we are Christ followers.

And we know what Christ did when he was hanging on the cross, with blood dripping from his battered body that had flesh hanging off exposed bones from the tortuous whipping that he took even before he was nailed to the cross. We know it was even worse because Isaiah 52:14 says, “…his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness.”

He hung there, disfigured and marred beyond human likeness, writhing in pain. And, looking down on the pious religious leaders and even those with no religious affiliation, he forgave. We know this, too, because Luke 23:34 says, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

So, Christ followers forgive. We forgive because we follow someone who forgave. And if we follow someone who forgave, then we do the same because we follow his example. It’s simple, but complex. But if the One we follow forgave when he was in excruciating pain, a pain caused by those who spit, mocked, jeered and clamored for his death, then we should, too.

So, why don’t we forgive?

It’s because “Christians” a) aren’t really Christians or b) don’t’ believe the Bible is true, which would go back to “a” or c) don’t know God’s Word.

I understand “a” and “c” because truth reveals unbelief and ignorance, but I don’t understand “b” because that suggests a willful ignorance—something odd for anyone who would even suggest they are a Christian. It’s a defiance that is scary.

Before you try and justify any type of willful ignorance by saying “Michael Vick did something worse” or “Michael Vick killed dogs and Riley Cooper only used a racial slur” or something else that goes along that line of thought, consider this: if we don’t forgive, Jesus said, pretty plainly, that God would not forgive us.

Sobering, isn’t it?

We know this is true because Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Knowing that should cause us to forgive in a nanosecond from when the wrong is committed (against us or against others we know or don’t know—like Vick).

It should cause us to live differently from the world, not just like the world, and make our lives look a little more like…Christ.

That’s what following Christ looks like.

That’s what Michael Vick did (the same Michael Vick who came to God, who you believe and follow, at an early age and recommitted his life in a dirty, secluded prison cell while thinking about all the terrible things he did).

Why can’t you?

By Brett Honeycutt

This column was published in the August 2013 Sports Spectrum DigiMag. Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine. His column addresses topics from a biblical perspective. Follow him on Twitter-@Brett_Honeycutt

Devotional of the Week — Miss Kay, An Example of Patience

“But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace, patience…” Galatians 5:22

Kay Robertson looked out in the parking lot of the place she was working and saw her husband, Phil, slumped over in his car, his head on the steering wheel.

Several months prior, Phil had said he didn’t want to be around his wife or his children. He told them this, then he left. Alcohol was his love, and his wife and children were a distant second.

Kay walked out to the car, thinking Phil was drunk again, and asked him what was wrong. He wasn’t drunk. He was crying. He wanted her back. He wanted his children back. She gave him an ultimatum. Get sober, leave your wild friends and come to church with her.

The church visit led to a radical conversion where Phil Robertson now proclaims his love for Christ and his family. The love for alcohol is his past, not his present or future.

Kay showed patience with Phil and she demonstrated a peace that is rare in this world. In similar circumstances, would we do the same? If not, then why? Let’s strive to honor God by loving Him, knowing Him and asking Him to live through us on a daily basis so that we can show peace and patience— critical fruits of the spirit.

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Who’s Al?

As Willie Robertson sits at his desk, signing what appears to be posters or lithographs, his oldest brother, Al Robertson, stands behind the desk, casually placing a new poster or lithograph in front of Willie each time Willie finishes signing.

It’s a perfect picture of who Al is, a behind-the-scenes (or behind-the-camera) guy who helps to keep things moving.

He is married (to Lisa) and has two daughters (Anna and Alex), he is the oldest of the four Robertson brothers (Jase, Willie and Jep) and he is the only brother not on the hit TV show, Ducky Dynasty.

He is also easily distinguishable as he’s the only Robertson brother who is clean shaven; there is no trademark beard like his brothers, father, uncle and other Duck Commander employees have. And, until about a year ago, he was the only brother not in the family business; he had been a preaching pastor at White’s Ferry Church of Christ (where the Robertson family attends) for 20 years before leaving to help with the ever-growing family business.

Even when we interviewed Willie, Phil and Miss Kay for Sports Spectrum’s special Duck Dynasty issue (an interview that Al set up), Al sat out of the view of the camera. When he thought of things to add to the interview, he would help fill in the gaps by offering anecdotes, facts or asking his family to share stories with us about certain events in their lives.

He was the glue that held things together, yet he stayed inconspicuous and seemed fine with that.

In a society, and in a reality TV world, where people are constantly looking to bring attention to themselves, it was refreshing to see someone who seemed comfortable just serving, helping and wanting to keep attention on others.

It was also refreshing talking to him on the phone and through email because we sensed a genuineness, goodness and trusting nature about him even though he didn’t know us and we didn’t know him.

At the end of the interview, when we were getting directions to attend Wednesday night church with the Robertsons, Al was getting ready to drive down the road to attend a viewing of someone from the church who had died. The following day he was going to the funeral.

He said, even though he had left being a pastor full time, that a pastor never truly relinquishes roles like trying to provide comfort to others in times of need.

It’s easy to see how his time as a pastor prepared him to be a servant leader—even as the oldest brother in the family.

It’s also easy to see that he took Jesus’ words in Matthew 20:26-28 to heart when Jesus said, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Mandid not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine.

Uncommon Challenge