As summer transitions to fall, the evenings cool, autumn clothes emerge from the back of the closet and attention turns to, among other things, football. And this week, as many NFL teams wrap up their training camps and head into the pre-season, fans are ready.
Football season is also a favorite at Fellowship of Christian Athletes, especially as young athletes, coaches and staff have a chance to interact with NFL players who are committed to Christ as much as the game.
“Here at Fellowship of Christian Athletes, we love to hear stories about how faith and sports collide,” said FCA President and CEO Les Steckel, “how Christian athletes rely on their faith in God rather than the fame or fortune, which the world tells them to do. And when these athletes give of their time and talent to show their faith to young fans, it can truly be a life-changing experience—for everyone involved.”
Earlier this summer, several San Diego Chargers players participated in an FCA Camp in San Diego, and among them was Darrell Stuckey, a native of Kansas City, Kan., who has been actively involved with FCA and was featured last year in FCA Magazine, where he talked about the influence an FCA Camp had on his life.
Stuckey was a team captain for the Chargers in each of the last three years, and he was Special Teams Player of the Year in 2013. He played in the Pro Bowl last January. He has also helped with school football camps in Kansas City, Kan.
The summer before his senior year of high school, when he was a student at Washington High School in Kansas City, Kan., Stuckey had a tough choice. He had accepted a scholarship to attend a local FCA Leadership Camp, but it was the same week as a football camp at the University of Kansas.
The young athlete was torn, as he said he didn’t want to miss out on landing a football scholarship, yet also realized the FCA Camp could change his life. He decided to attend the first day of Kansas’ football camp, then head to FCA Camp for the rest of the week.
“Sure enough,” Stuckey told FCA, “I injured my hamstring in my only day at football camp and left feeling mad at God and dejected that I hadn’t done my best. The whole way to FCA Camp, I was asking God why He’d put me in this situation.”
Stuckey said he felt broken and angry, even as campers readied for an obstacle course activity. His competitive spirit won out, and Stuckey and another camper wanted to leave their mark by being the only ones to complete the course bound together and blindfolded.
“As we worked our way through the course with only limited senses, I heard God speaking directly to me,” Stuckey said. “I realized I was angry with Him for nothing. All my life I’d played a sport that required so much faith and trust in other people, yet I was struggling to give my life to God on a daily basis and trust Him with my future.”
Later in the week, Stuckey stood trembling in front of 300 other campers and gave his testimony, confessing that “all my life I had tried to control everything, to do things my way.”
“For the first time, I felt like I understood that God just wanted me to surrender my life to Him and give Him all the glory and praise,” he said. “My priority was no longer to get a scholarship, but to allow God to show me where He wanted me to go to share His Word.
“Turns out, that place was Kansas,” Stuckey continued. “I accepted a scholarship offer the next day. At that point, it was amazing how much my life had turned around.”
Just a couple of weeks later, however, Stuckey’s world came crashing down around him, when an incident of family abuse surfaced. Suddenly, his stepfather was gone, and at 17, Stuckey was the man of the house, leaving football practice early to work nights and help support his mother and family.
“The whole experience crippled so many areas of my life—except for my faith,” he said. “My heart was hardened toward people but still open to learning what God was teaching me. I learned what it means to be a man, to be responsible, accountable and reliable.”
At Kansas, Stuckey continued his involvement with FCA, where he worked closely with FCA’s John Shore.
“I don’t know if he knew how badly I needed a positive male role model, but he provided that for me. He helped me launch KU’s FCA Huddle and took me to FCA events and men’s Bible studies. My time at KU was so special, both on the gridiron and away from it. I met my wife after recommitting my life to God and fully immersing myself in Him.
“My faith has not wavered even since reaching the NFL,” Stuckey continued. “I’m surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and I keep my eyes focused solely on Jesus as I go down His path. I have a responsibility to my family and the world around me to be selfless, to be an example of the Lord’s love, to share His Word and advance His Kingdom.”
For its Camps season, FCA focuses on ministering to the whole athlete—physically, mentally and spiritually—through its popular Camps program. With the 2015 theme of “Undefeated,” FCA Camps offer student-athletes the opportunity to develop in their chosen sport through outstanding instruction, skill development and intense competition, along with spiritual guidance from dedicated coaches and staff who concentrate on training the total athlete.
This year, FCA Camps focus on 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As the FCA Camps web site reminds, “We serve a God who has never lost. His string of victories is unmatched. He has dominated the competition throughout history … God is holy. God is mighty. He is undefeated!”
For more information on FCA Camps, visit www.fcacamps.org.
(Story from Fellowship of Christian Athletes)