Friday, Oct. 19, 2012
NFL star challenges students to find true identity
Chiefs kicker Succop motivates students to put their hope in God
By Bethany Bashioum
Kansas City Chiefs Kicker Ryan Succop, 26, was in the house at the Harrisonville Memorial Stadium Oct. 10.
However, he wasn’t there to hook any field goals for the Chiefs or the Wildcats.
He was there to share his faith with about 350 middle school and high school teens from several area school districts.
Succop’s visit was the third time for him to visit Harrisonville for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event.
During a 15-minute message, Succop encouraged teens to eliminate the things that they have become idols in their personal lives.
“When I think about how we live our lives as human beings, and even as Christian, I think a lot of the times, we put our hope in things that are false. We believe in things that aren’t true,” Succop said. “I don’t stand here and preach perfection because I got plenty of things in my life that I want to work on, that I battle. At the end of the day, God’s grace is sufficient.”
The evening, known as “Fields of Faith,” is an annual event sponsored by the FCA, held in communities across the nation, bringing professional Christian athletes to high school sporting arenas.
Fields of Faith is a peer-to-peer event, in which students invite their classmates and teammates to hear testimonies, be challenged to read the Bible, and follow Jesus.
Succop shared his own story of how he has learned to put his identity in Christ.
“When I was high school, I had a lot of goals,” Succop said. “I was a driven person and I wanted to be successful. I wanted to be great. Freshman year I wanted to make the varsity football team. I ended up making the varsity football team, and that was great.
“Then, I wanted to play varsity soccer. I was blessed, and was able to play varsity soccer. Basketball season rolls around, I wanted to be on the basketball team. I made the basketball team.“
Succop shared that as his high school years went on, he continued to set higher goals for himself.
“Those goals began to change because I would accomplish one thing, and it wasn’t enough,” he said. “I would be on the football team, and when I accomplished it, it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. Then, I’d make the soccer team, and it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be.”
“By now, I’ve been in high school a couple years, I decide I’m going to date the prettiest girl I can. So I go after the who I thought was the prettiest girl in school. I start dating the prettiest girl in school. I think that’s going to fulfill me...that’s going to be what I need. That happens, and after a few months, that’s not enough, so I have to move on to the next thing.”
The next goal on Succop’s list: Get a scholarship to play football at a Division I school.
“I worked hard, and was able to accomplish that,” Succop said.
He played for the South Carolina Gamecocks, and after some success in college, Succop was drafted to play in the NFL for the Chiefs.
Succop was the last pick in the 2009 draft, 256th overall, giving him the interesting honor of being known as "Mr. Irrelevant.”
“I play a couple years here, and once again, I think this is it. I’m playing in the NFL,” he said. “Then, it’s just if I could only sign another contract, that would fulfill me.”
But it didn’t.
“My point of telling you all of this is that I think it is so easy to put our hope in things of this earth,” Succop told the students. “And at the end of the day, our identity does not need to be in being a football player or signing a new contract, our identity needs to be in our relationship with Christ.”
Whether it be academics, popularity, or serving as the captain of an athletic team, Succop said that he believes everyone probably has something that we try to put our identity in.
“All those things are great but can’t become more important than our relationship with Christ,” he said. “I know for me, when I was going through high school, college, and now in the NFL, the things I was trying to put my identity in were things that were always changing.”
Like fashion, Succop said all the goals in his life were always changing, but were never fulfilling.
“At the end of the day, we need to put our hope in something that doesn’t change,” he said. “That was what I need to do, and that was God’s word - that is something that doesn’t change. “
Succop said the change occurs by the renewing of our mind.
“In Romans 12:2, it says, ‘Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God,’” Succop stated.
“Our mind is going to be renewed every day, so my question is, ‘What are you going renew your mind with? Are we going renew our mind with scripture, God’s word? Or, are we going to be renewing our minds with watching some junk on TV that we shouldn’t be watching, or listening to something on the radio that we shouldn’t be.”
The Harrisonville event drew students from area school districts and several local student athletes also had the opportunity to share their personal faith testimonies.
From the sidelines of the football field, the worship team of Cornerstone Community Church in Harrisonville opened and closed the event with songs of praises and worship.
Students, standing in the bleachers, along with their adult sponsors, worshipped together despite their personal denomination differences.
Fields of Faith was launched in 2004 in three states. In 2011, more than 160,000 students attended one of 475 Fields of Faith event across 36 U.S. states.
“We have been hosting this event for the past six years at the stadium and continue to see bigger groups every year,” said Brian Bliss, Harrisonville’s FCA sponsor. “I'm glad to see so many people there, but it's even better to know that everyone is there for the purpose of praising and worshipping the Lord.”
According to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the athletic field provides a neutral, interdenominational rally point where communities can come together.
“It’s an awesome, special night that I always look forward to and be a part of,” Succop said. “I know that when I was in high school, you have a lot of tough decisions to make, and hopefully this will challenge them to really accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, and to know that it’s OK to stand up for Christ. We don’t have to live according to the pressures to this world.”