In Part I of my interview with Jay Feely, Jay shared that his faith became an integral part of his life in college, after he tore the quadricep on his kicking leg. This potentially career-ending injury brought him to a place of complete surrender and reliance on God for his future. Jay went on to reveal how his faith has given him a greater purpose for succeeding in sports and has even increased his “competitive fire.” Here’s more from my talk with Jay Feely…
Kim Anthony: Jay that really brings up my next point which is the fact that there are some people out there who feel that faith and football don’t go together…or faith and athletics, period. They think that if you’re a Christian you’ll be soft and lose that competitive edge or fire, as you mention earlier. But in essence it did the complete opposite for you. You became more competitive but for a purpose.
Jay Feely: I completely agree with you Kim and if you think about my position as a kicker, there are so many highs and lows and your results are immediate. And everyone knows whether you’ve succeeded or whether you’ve failed. You have to have the ability to withstand both the success and not allow that to go to your head as well as failure and not allow that destroy you. If you’re defined by your successes or your failures, then you’re not going to last very long. The guys who are able to handle success and continue to work hard and (those) who are able to handle failure and stare failure in the face and not allow it to destroy them are the ones who are going to have long-term careers. So many kickers throughout the NFL, from David Akers, to Matt Stover, to Vinatieri, to Ryan Longwell, Jason Hanson, who has been with the Lyons for 20 years…All these guys have been successful kickers over the last 20 years, (They) all have very strong faiths and I don’t think that is a coincidence.
When I was in New York and playing for the giants (the first time I was in New York). I had a bad game with the giants against Seattle. The next week Saturday Night Live does a spoof about it. It’s called Jay Feely Story: The long ride home. I get about 50 text messages from friends of mine saying Saturday Night Live is making fun of you. You have to be able to handle that and not allow it to destroy you and not allow it to make you afraid of failure going forward.
The next week, I’m at Philadelphia and we have a game winning field goal in overtime again. They call time out and I’m sitting there trying to bide my time for that minute and a half or so during the time out. And they’re running a montage of all my misses from Seattle and the Saturday Night Live spoof on the Jumbotron. At that moment, if you don’t have a faith, if you don’t have something that’s bigger than yourself to rely on (and it can’t be something that you just try to rely on at that moment, that you haven’t been doing throughout your life) then it’s very hard to do that by yourself.
But when you can say, “God I trust you and I trust you in these circumstances and if I don’t succeed…” In the back of your mind you know that if you miss this kick, you’ll probably lose your job and, you’ll never play in the NFL again. But you can’t allow yourself to think about that and the way that I do that, which I think a lot of the kickers do is they trust in God. They trust that he has a purpose for what you’re doing right now on the field and he has a purpose for long term, what you’re going to do in your life. And you trust him in all circumstances. I think that allows you to perform at a higher level than somebody who doesn’t have that faith and doesn’t have that foundation, who can’t reach into their heart and have something that’s stabilizing, that allows you to know which way you’re going to go.
KA: There are some readers, who are not in the NFL and may not understand the pressures you face, but sometimes they still struggle with fear in their own lives. What do you perceive to be a tangible difference between someone with faith verses the person without it?
JF: I think that if you don’t have a faith, not that you can’t succeed, but I think that you’re at a distinct disadvantage, because fear and a fear of failure is going to creep in to everyone in those circumstances. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been through it that fear of failure is always there. And it’s your ability to not acknowledge it, it’s your ability to not think about it and not allow your mind to go there, which allows you to go out and perform your best. Whether that’s in a board meeting in front of the whole board of directors; if your in a company; if it’s on a football field; or if you’re trying to ask a girl out that you’ve been wanting to ask out for a long time. That fear of failure is always going to be there.
I think that when you have a faith that allows you to have confidence in God’s plan, it allows you to not fear failure as much. When you don’t have a faith in God you’re out there all on your own and if you fail and you know that your dream is over, then what? That’s the big question: Then what? What are you going to do then? When you have a faith then you can say, “What am I going to do? I don’t know, but God has a plan and a purpose and I’m trusting him and I’m going to walk with him.” When you don’t have a faith it’s all on your shoulders and that’s a lot more pressure and a lot more ambiguity. I think that that doesn’t allow you to block out that fear or fear of failure as much as when you can trust in somebody; an all-powerful being that’s a lot smarter and a lot more omniscient than you are.
KA: Thanks Jay. Well said.
As I was listening to Jay’s responses, it made me think about my own life and how I handle the fear of failure. Do I let it get to me, or do I decide to trust God in whatever circumstances I find myself? I wish I could say the latter every time, but the truth is that there have been times when I’ve let my own fears prevent me from moving forward in life. What about you? Jay’s words are a great reminder to all of us of what we can do when those fears and fears of failure raise their ugly heads; trust in God.
Are you wondering what ended up happening at that Giants verses Eagles game back in 2005, when Jay had the chance to make the game winning kick in overtime? Well, while Feely’s missed kicks from the Seattle game and the Saturday Night Live spoof were repeatedly played on the Jumbotron, he kept his head down and maintained his focus by visualizing what he needed to do. Then he went out there with 3:55 left in overtime and kicked a 36-yarder to win the game, keeping the Eagles out of the playoffs and walking away having made 100% of his kicks. Talk about “competitive fire!”
For some of you, hearing about faith in God and “competitive fire” going hand in hand is a first. But hopefully as you’ve read Jay Feely’s story, it has given you a better picture of how an athlete’s faith can indeed be positively intertwined with his performance and mental toughness on the field. It is not used as a crutch to be leaned upon, but as a mast of strength to fortify him even in the fiercest of storms.
The field is not the only place Jay Feely feels the pressure. The life of an NFL Player also has its pressures at home. In part three of my interview, Jay will share some of those pressures with us, and how his greatest disappointment turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
What about You?
Is there a particular pro athlete you’d like me to interview about his faith or a specific question you would like me to include? How has this story impacted you? To submit your suggestions and comments, you can contact me through www.KimAnthony.net. I’d love to hear from you!
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