Following three years of limited playing time with the New Orleans Saints and a championship season in the NFL Europe League, Danny Wuerffel is learning anew how to trust God's sovereign will after signing with the Green Bay Packers as a third-string quarterback.
The 1996 winner of college football's most prestigious award, the Heisman Trophy, Wuerffel was unsure during the 2000 season whether it would be his last. Another 10 years of pro ball is also possible, says the 26-year-old, known for his leadership skills, intelligence, and competitive spirit.
"If football, or your job, were the biggest thing in your life, the way your job goes can be catastrophic," Wuerffel says. "But ultimately if you're standing on the rock of faith in God, and if that's where you draw your significance of who you are as a person, then it doesn't seem quite as catastrophic whether things good or bad happen."
This broader spiritual perspective has helped him see God's purposes for the three years in New Orleans that fell short of his career expectations. There Wuerffel learned much from mentors; there he met and married his wife, Jessica; and there he became involved with an inner-city ministry that has become his passion.
"I really don't even see it as disappointment—I was really blessed to be in New Orleans," Wuerffel says. "Obviously we didn't do well, and I didn't play much, but there are so many other things that were so neat about New Orleans that, rather than look at parts of my career that haven't gone well, I'm just very thankful."
Mo Leverett, founder and president of an urban outreach in New Orleans called Desire Street Ministries, presented Wuerffel with an "incredible challenge" to his faith and worldview. "And I wouldn't trade that for anything," Wuerffel says.
Wuerffel led Bible studies, supervised a recreation program, and helped raise funds for the inner-city ministry, which has sent more than 100 youths to college through its tutoring program; it has also led hundreds more into relationship with Christ, he says.
Leverett, a seminary graduate from Georgia, went to the worst urban neighborhood he could find in New Orleans and, as a high school football coach, began leading youth Bible studies, Wuerffel says.
"Now he's married and has four small children, and they're a white family living in the neighborhood," he says. "What they're doing is such an example of what Christ did for us—he entered into our arena, our mess, and he worked from the inside out."
The Wuerffels will return to Desire Street Ministries in the off-season, and it could figure prominently in their long-term plans. "It's great just to see the challenges that the kids are facing, yet the strength that they draw on to get through it," Wuerffel says.
The urban ministry is expanding, and Wuerffel is keen to grow with it. He would like to enroll in seminary—possibly Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida—to become more grounded, he says.
"I don't feel any kind of calling to be a pastor at a local church, but I definitely feel called to pastoral duties in relationships," he says. "Right now one of my greatest interests is to study, to learn about Augustine and Luther and Calvin, to read C. S. Lewis, to study theology."
Wuerffel says his dilemma is not what to do with this future, but what not to do.
"I wish I had three or four lives to try a couple of different things, but I've only got one, so I've got to make it count," he says. "I'm not really sure of where the Packers plan to go. But I know my part is to do my best each day and trust that what's going to happen is going to happen. I've got a lot of ideas and plans and hopes and dreams for later. If later is tomorrow, that will be fine."
Be sure to read Christianity Today's related story about the Ravens' Trent Dilfer.
Foxsports.com offers a complete stats page on Wuerffel.
Learn more about Desire Street Ministries.
Previous Christianity Today stories about the NFL include:
God on the Gridiron | Should there be a wall of separation between the church and football? (Dec. 11, 1999)
Who Is on the Lord's Team? | (Oct. 4, 1999)
Champions for Christ Pulled into NFL Convert Controversy | (Oct. 5, 1998)
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