Two days to Super Bowl XLI and Jeff Hartings, the Steelers (clearly the greatest football team ever) all-pro center is retiring… to start a church. A year ago he was getting ready for the big game. This year, he is getting ready to do something infinitely more important.
It is hard to capture just how good and selfless a player Hartings was – as a center he had to have the physical dexterity to snap a football to the quarterback and attack (or ward off depending on the play) a defensive lineman almost simultaneously. For someone like me who finds trying to teach my toddler to bounce a ball because of the required coordination, that is impossible to imagine.
Hartings was also one of those rare players who took a pay cut to stay with a team. Last year he agreed to a 50% pay decrease to stay with the team. Yeah, he still made $2.2 million – a silly bunch of money. It was still a big pay cut – I have a hard time imagining agreeing to something like that.
And now he is off to start a church somewhere outside of Salt Lake City. Awesome.
Here is a snippet of an interview from late last year about his faith and how it impacts both his life and football:
Q: How has your Christian faith helped you as a professional football player?
A: The beauty of being a believer in Jesus Christ and truly understanding what that means is that at times I let the game get too big in my life and worry about the wins and losses too much. But I’m able to be reeled back when I go back to contemplating in prayer and realize there is a bigger perspective.
I think that’s what allows me to go back to work on a Wednesday after losing three games in a row and having the same attitude. You can go back to work on Wednesday and you can still treat your teammates the same and you can still have the same attitude and same effort and concentration on the football field. And I do think that would be more difficult to do if I wasn’t a Christian.
Q: What is your reaction to people who believe that religion and sports don’t mix?
A: It’s a very unfair, pointless discussion to say a Christian can’t play with the same passion a non-Christian plays with. Because football is not about playing with anger. Emotion is not something that only a non-Christian can have. There’s different ways of playing and displaying emotion. Anger is not a good emotion at any time. I don’t think you have to play angry. You can play with passion. And passion and anger are not the same thing. You play with a desire to win, you play with a desire to be the best teammate you can be and, for me, that’s a lot easier to fulfill under any circumstance as a Christian than when I was a non-Christian.
I wanna be like Jeff.