At the University of Nebraska, Eric Hagg initially thought he was going there to play football. But what he didn’t realize was how much his life would change away from the game. Through the influence of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and some close teammates, his burgeoning faith in God grew exponentially.
Now in his second season with the Cleveland Browns, Hagg has worked his way into the starting free safety spot and hopes to increase his influence inside the locker room and around the community. In this Inspiring Athletes interview, Hagg talks about his time at Nebraska, his appreciation for FCA and what it means to be a Christian on the football field:
Chad Bonham: Tell me a little bit about your spiritual journey.
Eric Hagg: I went to an FCA camp at Northern Arizona University my junior year of high school. I met Prince Amukamara (now with the New York Giants) there and we became good friends. We went to that camp our senior year too. I always knew a little bit about God and about prayer but I started to learn more about Christ and what He did on the cross for us and what it means to have a relationship with Him at those camps.
Bonham: You got even more involved with FCA at Nebraska. How did that make a difference in your life?
Hagg: FCA teaches you about being a Christian on and off the field. We had a strong FCA Bible group at Nebraska. That helped me to grow spiritually. Coach Ron Brown and our chaplain Matt Penland worked together to help us grow in that relationship. We learned how to do focal points. We learned out to honor God on the field by talking to Him. He’s out there with you just like He’s with you everywhere else off the field.
Bonham: Tell me more about focal points and that idea of living out your faith on the field.
Hagg: I wrote a scripture on my arm or a cross so that once I saw it, it reminded me what I was doing out there, who I was playing for and who my audience was. Every time we stepped off the field, we’d get a quick little prayer in. It wasn’t like we were perfect or doing it all the time, but we were recognizing that God was with us and in us. Otherwise, we would’ve been playing for ourselves. If you’re a person like me, you might over think or hesitate or play lackadaisical or fearful sometimes. On the flipside of that, you can play too confidently, too cocky or play all for yourself. But (the focal points) just keep me humble, reminding me who I’m playing for and where I got my abilities from.
Bonham: Tell me about one of your relationship with former Nebraska teammate Roy Helu Jr. (now playing with the Washington Redskins).
Hagg: Roy is one of my best friends. I would consider him my brother along with Prince. Roy is very talented. He’s very fast, very elusive. He breaks tackles. He can shake people. As hard as he worked on the field, he was also a hard worker off the field. He asked lots of questions. He was always praying. He always wanted to know if he could be praying for other people and helping other people out. Of course, he’s not perfect, but he was a really good person off the field.
Bonham: As a young Christian in the NFL, what is your message to people who look up to you?
Hagg: I’m a follower of Him but I hope people know that people like me are not perfect and there are things on the inside that I struggle with just as much anyone else. We all need everyone to band together in a community and help each other out.
Be looking for more interviews with current NFL athletes this season including Roy Helu Jr., (Washington Redskins), Prince Amukamara (New York Giants), Chris Kelsay (Buffalo Bills), Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Chris Chester (Washington Redskins).