Have you ever had a dream, where you can taste its presence, only to watch it be enjoyed by someone else? If it happened twice, would you still trust God and his purpose for your life? Pittsburgh Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda knows what it feels like to be on the outside looking in. Sepulveda will have to watch the Super Bowl again from a distance, after he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament against the Baltimore Ravens in December. He missed his first chance to play in the big game during the 2008-2009 season after sustaining the same injury in training camp. But the All-American and Ray Guy Award winner (only punter to win it twice) at Baylor University is learning to trust God in his circumstances, and even support NFL journeyman Jeremy Kapinos, who will take his place in Super Bowl XLV Sunday.
If you’ve ever felt forsaken and your dreams seem dormant, Sepulveda too has felt the sting of disappointment. Now he’s taking authority over ghosts of self-pity and acknowledging that he’s more than a Pittsburgh Steeler, he’s a child of the living God.
What are you doing mentally and spiritually to remain optimistic despite missing your second chance to play in the Super Bowl?
I confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, so it's all a matter of perspective. God can and will use every circumstance I find myself in as an opportunity to grow in a deeper relationship with Him. So my aim is to glorify God with the way I handle this situation. It is by no means a denial of the pain and frustration that comes with missing the Super Bowl. Instead, I combat the urges to feel sorry for myself with truth... the truth that God has been so good to me.
What has God taught you through his word about the circumstances of your injury, especially in December when the doctors told you that your season was over?
God CAN use this as an opportunity to remind me that I am NOT a Pittsburgh Steeler, but rather a child of God. I say 'can' because it depends on the attitude that I take toward my circumstances! I can feel sorry for myself and buy into the lie that I am unlucky... or I can recognize the truth in Romans 8:28 and run to it, seeking to grow in my relationship with Christ. By the grace of God I choose the latter.
Can you share what practical ways God is teaching you how to deal with your reoccurring ACL injury?
It's all about TRUST. My faith in God is not dependent on my circumstances... I will praise God and believe in His goodness when I am 'on top' and when I am going through a tough time. Some of the practical ways of going about that on a daily basis all revolve around Spiritual Disciplines: reading my Bible, praying, fellowship with other believers, fasting, etc. All means by which I can grow in deep relationship with Christ and be reminded of His goodness often.
Although you will be on the sidelines, what will be your role during the game?
Not much... I will take in the game... enjoy the best seat in the house... support the guys in any way I can on the sideline... and maybe even catch some of the halftime show.
What ways are you dealing with watching another punter take you role?
Jeremy has done a great job and is a very capable NFL athlete. I am looking forward to competing with him and anyone else when that time comes.
When in your life was there that fork in the road moment for you, where you had to make a choice in trusting God or giving up?
I was raised in a Christian home by parents who modeled the love of Jesus Christ for my brothers and I from day one. That being the case I have always known and been convicted of that reality... that my best life is lived by yielding to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The fork in the road moment for me came in high school. I knew that I was going to Heaven because God had convicted me of my unjustified position in this world and I responded by accepting the grace of Jesus Christ into my life. I was secure in that fact. So my question was, 'Why should I obey Him if I know that I am going to Heaven either way?' I didn't have a good answer then... I do now.
Is there a scripture that has personally anchored you since joining the Pittsburgh in 2007?
Scripture, period, has anchored me. Memorizing scripture is a discipline that has certainly proven to be an awesome way that God has taken ground in my life. Isaiah 53:4-6, Isaiah's picture of the cross years before it was to take place, is a particularly impactful passage.
What has been like playing for the Rooney family?
The Rooney's are a class act. I am honored to be a part of the Steelers’ franchise and the longer I have been around the more I realize how blessed I am to have been drafted here.
What players (family) have offered their support to you since joining the league, and are encouraging you to trust in God’s plans for your life?
Several teammates have a very real relationship with Jesus Christ. Seeing that on a daily basis has been very encouraging. Are there any teammates that you have grown close to and share your faith with? Absolutely... Antwaan Randel El, Tyler Grisham and Tuff Harris among others.
How did you become a Christian?
At my bedside with my parents at age 5...After recognizing reality, that I needed a Savior, I accepted the grace of Jesus Christ into my life.
What are some of the toughest challenges of being a following Christ and playing in the NFL?
Following Christ is hard no matter where God has you. Denying my flesh and trying to yield to the Spirit moment by moment is a lifelong task. One of the challenges that comes with being an NFL player is working beside others who don't know Jesus Christ and therefore don't live for Him. Being subject to that environment can be daunting and spiritually draining. But again, that is not unique to the NFL.
What was the biggest lesson that you have learned since turning pro?
With these injuries, God is showing me what it means to trust Him, and to identify with Him regardless of circumstance.
Are there any ministries or charities close to your heart?
Any ministry that distributes the Bible and performs Kingdom work is one that I am drawn to supporting.