One, Two, Three Strikes Against Me
Profile on: Anthony Munoz, NFL Hall of Fame 1998
Growing up in a poor suburb of Los Angeles, Anthony Munoz dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. Although baseball was his first love, his immense physical stature led him to pursue football instead. Coming from a single parent home in a neighbourhood riddled with gangs, drugs, and violence, it didn’t seem like the young man had much hope of making it. But by combining an affinity for academics with his athletic prowess, Anthony earned himself a spot at the University of Southern California (USC) – both in the classroom and on the football field.
Bumpy road ahead
Despite getting into such a prestigious school, the road to the NFL would not be a smooth one for Anthony. Four years of college football wreaked havoc on his knees, forcing him to undergo three knee surgeries and extensive rehabilitation. By the time he made it to his first NFL tryout camp, the scars on Anthony’s knees made the team doctors nervous about investing in the young prospect. The old Anthony Munoz, the one who entered USC as a timid 17-year-old, might have been discouraged by the news. But something had happened to Anthony during his sophomore year that allowed him hold onto his dream despite these setbacks.
It all began when Anthony met a man named Ed Holtz during his freshman year. Ed was a Christian, but he wasn’t like any Christian Anthony had ever met. For Ed, Christianity was not about religion, ritual or tradition. It was about having a loving relationship with Jesus, God’s son. Ed freely shared God’s love with others, including Anthony. And it was this love that changed Anthony’s life. “For the first time, someone took time for me and showed that he really cared about Anthony Munoz the person, not Anthony Munoz the athlete,” Anthony says.
Time to make a decision
Ed’s influence led Anthony to make his own decision to follow Christ during his sophomore year. Having already sustained his first knee injury, the young football player realized he would need God on his side if he were going to go all the way to the NFL. “At six foot six and 280 pounds, I was strong, but I was not strong enough to handle life all by myself,” says Anthony. During this same year, Anthony also fell in love with Dee-Dee, the woman who was to become his wife. These new relationships, with God and Dee-Dee, sustained him during the ordeals to come.
Even though Anthony had already been rejected by over half of the NFL teams because of his knee injuries, he still felt God calling him to pursue a football career. So Anthony threw himself into the rehabilitation process, spending hours working to restore his injured muscles. A year later, he returned to NFL camp. This time he was chosen by the Cincinnati Bengals as the third draft pick overall. “Talk about a spiritual motivation not to play for man but to play for God!” Anthony says.
During his subsequent twelve years with the Bengals, the offensive lineman went to the Pro Bowl eleven times and was eventually elected to the Football Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy whose football career appeared to be over even before it had begun!
Are you tired of trying to do things on your own? Why not ask Jesus for help? If you don’t know Jesus, we encourage you to pray the following:
Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life. Make me be the person You want me to be. Amen.