FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Significance After the NFL

with Jeff Kemp | February 1, 2013
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Jeff Kemp was a successful NFL quarterback with a great marriage, wonderful kids, significant ministry and a great heritage of spiritual vitality. So why, after eleven years as a quarterback in the NFL, was he standing on the porch of his home lamenting his troubles? More importantly, how could he find his way out of a deep pit of despair? Jeff Kemp reflects on moving from success to significance.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Jeff Kemp was a successful NFL quarterback with a great marriage, wonderful kids, significant ministry and a great heritage of spiritual vitality. So why, after eleven years as a quarterback in the NFL, was he standing on the porch of his home lamenting his troubles? More importantly, how could he find his way out of a deep pit of despair? Jeff Kemp reflects on moving from success to significance.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Jeff Kemp was a successful NFL quarterback with a great family and great ministry.

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Significance After the NFL

With Jeff Kemp
February 01, 2013
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Bob:  The book of James says we are to count it joy when we encounter various trials.  Former NFL quarterback, Jeff Kemp, says, “Quarterbacks can often learn more from facing a blitz than they can from throwing a touchdown pass.” 

Jeff:  Think about your life and the times when you learn great lessons.  It wasn’t when you had a Super Bowl ring put on your finger, or someone gave you a great trophy, or you got a financial windfall, or they wrote you up in the newspaper—and you said, “Oh, my, this makes me humble.  I’d like to surrender more to Jesus for this.” 

No, those things are not as constructive because we are too fallen.  It’s the toughest blitzes in life—the biggest trials, the weaknesses of our temptation that each of us our vulnerable to—that says:  “God, I can’t make it on my own.  Change me.  Help me.”  The blitzes are really the sweet opportunities for God to do great work in our lives. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 1st.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  We’ll hear today from a former NFL quarterback, who, on more than one occasion, has faced blitzing linebackers—who’s been knocked down, and who’s gotten back up again.  Stay with us. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. 

Dennis:  Do you have your wings for the game day on Saturday?  [Laughter]  Notice I said Saturday. 

Bob:  Yes, because before we ever get to the Super Bowl on Sunday, we’ve got something bigger happening—

Dennis:  A game—

Bob:  —and yes, I do have my wing order ready to go.  Thank you very much. 

Dennis:  So, what kind are you going to get?  Are you going to get spicy wings or—

Bob:  I always go half and half.  I go with the—

Dennis:  Some frou-frou wings—what are you going to do?  [Laughter] 

Bob:  Go with the garlic parmesan, which are pretty good wings.  Yes, they are.  And now, I—


Dennis:  You don’t dare kiss Mary Ann after the garlic parmesan? 

Bob:  You know what?  It’s worse if you try to kiss her after the mango habanero because that just burns her lips right up.  [Laughter]  I’m telling you—but you mix the two together you’ve got a pretty good meal right there! 

Dennis:  What we’re talking about here is not food.  We’re talking about—

Bob:  Yes, we’re talking about food! 

Dennis:  —Super Saturday. 

Bob:  We’re talking about food in the middle of Super Saturday because tomorrow is the day when, all around the country, in hundreds of locations, guys are going to be huddling up for training camp with—not the Super Bowl training camp, but the Super Saturday training camp—where guys are getting together to really understand the game plan for manhood—to understand God’s design for masculinity—how you live that out, how you work together with other guys and build into each other’s lives in the midst of this.  This is going to be a great day—tens of thousands of guys, rallying tomorrow for the Stepping Up® Super Saturday. 

Dennis:  Every guy who attends is going to get a workbook that he’s going to leave the event with.  It’s going to have some of the adjustments he’s going to make in his own game plan for his life. 

Frankly, Bob, it’s going to be a life-changing weekend—very practical, anchored in the Scriptures—but also very entertaining, and also an opportunity to connect with other guys.  We’re hoping that out of Super Saturday, that throughout the spring, there are going to be, literally, hundreds, if not thousands, of men’s groups who are meeting together over a ten-week period to go deeper in a video series we’ve created called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood.  This is a ten-part video series that is designed for small groups of guys—five/six guys or as many as 500 to 1,000—meeting together, who then break down into a smaller group to discuss what they’ve heard. 

Bob:  There’s information about the event tomorrow, about Super Saturday, on our website at  You can click on the link that says, “STEPPING UP”.  It will take you right to the area of the web where you can get the information about churches that are hosting this event.  And you can still go.  I mean, just find a location and show up tomorrow morning.  Say, “I’m here, and wanted to join in.”  I’m sure they’ll welcome you in.  Then, the ten-part series—there’s information about that, as well.  All of this designed, again, to get you ready to face life as a man—to face the kind of blitzes that we experience, as men, in life. 

In fact, that’s the message that we’re hearing this week as Jeff Kemp, former NFL quarterback, talks about some of the off-field blitzes he faced as an NFL player, and in his life after the NFL, and how he learned a little bit about how to manage life by learning how to manage the rushing linebackers during his time as an NFL quarterback.  Here’s Jeff Kemp with Part Two of his message on facing the blitz.

[Recorded message]

Jeff:  The biggest blitz that I faced—and this is prior to my dad getting cancer and dying.  That was a pretty tough blitz.  Prior to that, it was 1991.  I was a Christian athlete that gave testimony all over the country.  We had prayer groups.  I told people that I was more into my relationship with God for my security than I was the NFL and the coaches; but when it came time to leave the league, I found out I was a lot less of a mature Christian than I realized. 

I got cut in 1992 after I’d had a really good season with the Eagles.  I came home to Seattle.  For four weeks, no team would pick me up.  In the fourth week of the season, the Seahawks had a quarterback get hurt.  We thought, “This is great.”  I called the coach of the Seahawks, Tom Flores.  I said, “Coach, I’m in town.  I’m in shape.  I’m ready.  Please sign me.”  It was a voicemail, and I hung up.  Then, he called me back on my voicemail machine and said: “Hey, I heard you got cut.  Sorry about that, but we’re not going to sign you.  We’re going to sign someone else,” that I’d never heard of—another blow to my ego, but this is God working. 

When I got that call and heard that message, I just didn’t have any of my great Christian maturity or faith left.  The bottom dropped out.  I went out to the front porch of my house.  I was so broken, and so mad, and so frustrated that I wasn’t going to get to play football that season; and my career was ending.  “I can’t believe it’s this bad!”  I was feeling yucky and rotten.  I was mad at God.  I wasn’t going to pray, and I told Him.   [Laughter] 

But I’m married.  So, I’m not just myself.  I’m a team.  This is a good message to us—that fits in line about the larger purpose of marriage—where we shape one another to be more like Jesus Christ.  I’m sitting there, in my pity party.  Stacy comes out.  She is compassionate toward me.  She goes, “Oh, Jeff, I can’t imagine how much this hurts; but I’ve just got to remind you.  We’ve been through some tough things, and God has always had a good purpose.  He’s always opening another door.  He’s always taught us something and had something good ahead of us.” 

I looked at her, and I said: “I know that!  I just can’t believe that it’s finishing like this.  I just want to finish football with some dignity!”  Well, there are two sides to love, and Stacy’s good at both sides.  She started kicking in the tougher side of love, and she did it so delicately that it impacted me like a sledge hammer.  She said, “You know, as I recall, Jesus led a perfect life.  Then, when He left this world, He didn’t receive any dignity.  Maybe you need to let go of that desire.”  Here’s what happened in that moment.  My very worst moment of my life—granted, no one had died of cancer, I hadn’t lost my wife, or a child, or something more precious to me—but losing my career hurt.  I had the worst moment of my life converted to the greatest moment of my life in a matter of seconds. 

Here’s what happened.  I started thinking about Jesus and the life He lived—sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane—“I really don’t want to do this, Father, to be separated from You, to take upon the sin of the world, to be completely in anguish of bearing the world’s rebellion against You, to die the most brutal death possible; and yet, if this is the only way, I will do this because I love You, I’m obedient to You, and We are one.   Not my will but Thy will be done.”  That’s what Jesus says. 

Then, soon, He’s beaten—can’t recognize His face.  His back is ripped off through the scourging.  He’s dragging a cross up the hill, and He can’t even make it all the way because He’s so worn down and beaten already.  Then, He is crucified, and He did that for me.  I have eternal life, and I have all my sins forgiven, and this is the meaning of my life—this is my treasure—and I want more pro football?  What an ungrateful idiot I am!  How short-sighted of me.  What a lack of vision!  “God, I’m sorry!” 

You know, sometimes—I had grown up in a Christian family.  For an emotional guy— I think there was enough competition- and performance-orientation and insecurity that “I’ve got to be better” and kind of please God so I can get a benefit from Him—kind of a conditional theology that I had in my life.  There was enough of that mixed in me that I kind of viewed God as a formula thing—“I please Him, He helps me.  We work together,” etc., etc.  I didn’t have a passionate love affair with Jesus.  All of a sudden, I started to cry.  I felt a love with Jesus—a love from Jesus, a love for Him.  That was because I was in such a blitz—losing my security of my career—that which I had been treasuring.  All of a sudden, it put my true treasure on Jesus.  It was a blitz that opened my eyes to that. 

Think about your life and the times when you learned great lessons.  It wasn’t when you had a Super Bowl ring put on your finger, or someone gave you a great trophy, or you got a financial windfall, or they wrote you up in the newspaper—and you said, “Oh, my, this makes me humble.  I’d like to surrender more to Jesus through this.”  No, those things are not as constructive because we are too fallen.  It’s the toughest blitzes in life—the biggest trials, the weaknesses of our temptations that each of us is vulnerable to—that says: “God, I can’t make it on my own.  Change me.  Help me.”  The blitzes are really the sweet opportunities for God to do the great work in our lives. 

I speak about that story because of the analogy to our spiritual lives; and secondly, because it is such a great picture of marriage.  If I was Jeff by myself—or Stacy didn’t have the courage, and our marriage was too asymptotic—two people going on parallel paths, rather than connected—I don’t think she would have been in tune with my spirit enough or had the courage to come out and both—“A”, encourage me; and, “B”, challenge me, as she did. 

God used her in me because we’re one, and it helped change my life.  Then, it made me a better person.  I was ready to accept—in fact, that was fascinating.  Right after I started kind of praying to God—after saying, “No,” and enjoying Him, and loving Him, and appreciating Him, finally—these words came into my head—and Paul had written them—he said, “Forgetting what lies behind, I press on to what lies ahead.”  I needed that freedom.  All of a sudden, football was gone.  I was ready to retire, and that was really sweet the way God did that through a blitz. 

Marriage blitzes us because we’re designed to be different, and those differences will come at us, frequently.  First of all, from our person standpoint, Stacy and I got a high degree of difference, given to us by God.  We—our styles are so different.  Our kids can hear it in the house every day.  We have a great marriage; but we’re learning more, and more, and more.  You know what?  These great strengths make for a fabulous team in crisis—like that year we went through in ’91—awesome team because of those differences. 

Anyway, Keegan—one day, our five-year-old—is walking through the hallway.  He sees Mommy and Daddy having a conversation.  We’re disagreeing because we see things differently.  He says, “Daddy, you guys are too different to be married,” [Laughter] —pretty insightful five-year-old.  I think, “Oh, my gosh!  This is a teachable moment.  I better say something good!” 

 I get down on my knee, while I’m thinking.  “Okay.  No, Keegan.  Keegan, the reason Mommy and Daddy are married is because we’re different.  You know, how on a football team there are big linemen, and little quarterbacks, and there are fast receivers?  Well, that’s because their differences make them a better team.  In marriage, God made men and women very different so they can become a really good team to be a good mommy and daddy.  The good thing for you is we have God to glue us together.”  Then, I sat there a minute and thought, “That was a really good talk.”  [Laughter]  “Well, done, Jeff!”  But Keegan trumped me because his little five-year-old brain went to work quickly.  He said, “You know what, though, Dad?  I think with you guys it’s going to take Crazy Glue!” [Laughter] —from a five-year-old! 

Here’s what I want to touch on.  There is a huge, and disguised, and unnoticed blitz that is impacting marriage, and family, and relationships in America—and around the world.  I’m going to give you kind of a really simple paradigm, through which to see this blitz—that will help us overcome it.  This paradigm is, I think, something crucial to pass onto the next generation because this generation, that is being raised right now, is being raised in the most consumeristic, individualistic, selfish culture in the history of mankind.  This consumer culture is the blitz that we’re facing. 

Twenty to thirty minutes of talk, from a dad, in a week, is what a child gets.  They get forty hours of media, including the TV, and the web, and everything else.  They see 500 advertisements a day—150,000 in a year.  Close to 3 million advertisements by the time they are 20 or 25 years old.  I mean, we are just inundated with messages that say: “You’re the consumer.  Go for the gusto.  Make it work for you.  Trade it in.  Get a new one.  Be happy.  It’s about you.” 

Let me read a letter that a 29-year-old guy, named Jeremy, wrote me when I said, “Hey, give me some insight into what Gen-Y thinks about marriage and relationships.”  He said:

In my experience, the fear of divorce is very real in Gen-Y.  Many of us saw our parents, friends’ parents, or close family members go through divorce.  The inevitable question is, “If they can’t do it, what makes me think I can?”

I think a major challenge for my generation is consumerism.  We’ve grown up in a country that’s known incredible prosperity and freedom.  We have been inundated with advertisements since we were born.  We’ve been taught, by society, not to be satisfied with what we have.  We need to update and upgrade constantly, or we become outdated and irrelevant. 

Most of us have never had to learn how to be content.  Remember in Philippians how Paul talked about the secret of contentment—completely the opposite of consumption, ownership, and stuff—totally based in a relationship with Christ.  “I can handle all things through Him who gives me strength.”  We never had to learn how to be content. 

You move into—excuse me—our society changes so fast we don’t have to worry about being content.  In fact, if you get content with what you have and you get too comfortable, you risk missing the next big thing and marginalizing yourself from your peers. 

This is what 22-year-olds are thinking about—the pressure to keep up and stay relevant is overwhelming.  But then, you move into marriage—a world where there are no easy upgrades, no quick fixes.  If you’ve never learned how to be content—how to stay committed to something, despite how it feels—it’ll be that much harder to succeed in marriage.  Unless we make a blatant effort to view our spouse differently than we’ve been taught to view everything else in society, we’re going to slip into the consumeristic, hypnotic trance without even knowing it.  That’s the blitz I’m talking about—a consumeristic trance that we’ve almost been hypnotized into—that we end up putting into our relationships. 

The mindset of marriage is at odds with the mindset of consumerism.  It’s not about getting and taking.  It’s about giving and exchanging.  It’s not anchored in what you feel.  It’s anchored in what you believe and what you are committed to.  It’s not self-focused; it’s self-sacrificing.  Most of us would never like to admit that we think like consumers, but it remains at the core of our culture and the foundation of society.  It’s almost impossible not to be affected by it and let it spill over into our marriages. 

In Philippians, Chapter 2, it tells us that with anything in life we should have the same attitude as Jesus Christ—just before that, it explained His attitude, in a coaching point—on how we should behave in relationships and, particularly in the most important relationship, marriage—the one in which kids are stuck viewing through a consumeristic lens.  Thus, its advertising isn’t so good—with a 50 percent divorce rate, and a bunch of old couples who seem like they never talk at the dinner table and restaurants, and supposedly don’t have any sex.  People have sex, and fun, and romance everywhere else.  So, what kind of advertisement are we doing for God’s institution? 

So, they’re cohabiting instead and hooking up.  Meanwhile, the results of that are totally destroying their self-esteem and their confidence in who God made them.  They are stuck, floating on a sea of sin, and separation from God, and insecurity that makes relationships even less stable.  But God says in verse 3 of Chapter 2: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit; but with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.  Don’t merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others.”  What blueprints for marriage—this is the most self-effacing—other-serving relationship on earth. 

Yet, we have let consumerism slip into the Christian mentality of marriage.  If Christians find themselves, four years into marriage, saying, “But I’m not happy,” that’s because they made the center of their marriage their happiness—which turned them into a consumer—which meant they took more out of it than they were putting into it.  The contrast of the world’s consumer-approach to relationship to God’s approach of being a sacrificial investor is the way that can get us out of this blitz.  We could, then, show the world that marriage is beautiful.  It’s an awesome advertisement for the Gospel.  It’s a picture of covenant love. 

Here’s the simple paradigm I’m going to leave us with.  Today, am I an investor or a consumer?  The paradigm for us—to crush in our life—is the consumer paradigm.  One of the great things we can give to the next generation is the question,  “Hey, have you ever thought about how much consumerism shapes relationships; and how we tend to go into it with a selfish formula of, ‘How much can I get from that person?’”  That’s the complete opposite of what God intended for marriage.  It’s meant to be the place of selflessness and investment in another.  Paradoxically, by laying down your life and giving yourself to someone else—not waiting for a return or doing a transaction—you get a bond that is so strong that God’s love comes in and gives you both a greater return in the long-term. 

There was a young husband who came into his home and found his wife in bed—in an affair.  Shock on all parties’ sake; but he did something that was an investor mentality rather than a consumer mentality.  He went away from that moment.  He asked himself the question, “How could I have ever let my wife get to the point where she would fall in love and get into a sexual affair with another person?”  He came to the conclusion that even though he was a leader of a church, and he was coaching little league, and he was a good dad, and a busy guy doing good things—not messing around with pornography or other stuff—he’d stopped paying attention to his wife.  He’d stop choosing her and investing in her.  He’d stopped making her his priority.  Basically, he had allowed her to fall out of love with him.  He came to her, and he apologized.  By his apology, she melted more than she ever would have before.  She found the grace of God.  She confessed her sin.  They are now together, and their kids and their grandkids will have a legacy. 

Because he took the blitz, and he looked inside, and he didn’t act like a consumer who’d been ripped off by his wife’s affair—he acted like an investor who said: “Maybe I’ve done some things to cause this problem.  I should look at myself.  Change myself.  Turn to God and invest in her by apologizing myself.”  Look what it did—an amazing rebirth of life for that marriage.  That’s the investor mentality versus the consumer mentality.  We need to bring it to our lives. 


Bob:  Well, again, today, we’ve been listening to a message from Jeff Kemp, former NFL quarterback, talking about how you face the blitzes that life throws at you—and how you stand firm, and stay in the pocket, and get the job done; right? 

Dennis:  And I’m thinking of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 16, verses 13-14.  It says, “Be watchful.  Stand firm in the faith.”  It goes on to talk about acting like men, being strong, and doing everything we do in love.  It begins, though, with being watchful.  I think that’s really what Jeff is challenging guys to do here—is be watchful about what’s coming at you—know when to get out of the pocket, and when to flee the danger, and also, know how to go on the offense. 

What we’re challenging men to do, as a practical application of this message, is get involved in Super Saturday tomorrow in a church, near you, in your community. 

Bob:  There are going to be tens of thousands of guys who are going to be involved in a Super Saturday event tomorrow in hundreds of locations, all around the country.  If you want to find out where one of these events is happening, near where you live, go to and click on the men’s “STEPPING UP” link you find there.  It’ll take you right to the site where you can get information about location for events.  You can find out more about the resources that are available—the follow-up study to the Super Saturday event.  There is a ten-week follow-up for guys to do. 

If you can’t be a part of a Super Saturday event tomorrow, you can host a one-day rally for guys—a Stepping Up one-day event—in your community anytime that works for you.  You can do it a month from now, or two months from now, or the beginning of the summer, or next fall—whatever works for you; but we’re hoping that this will be the year of biblical manhood—that guys will step up and embrace God’s design for them, as men.  That’s what these resources have been designed to help facilitate. 

So, again, go to  Click on the link for men’s “STEPPING UP”.  I hope you’ll be able to join us for the Stepping Up Super Saturday event tomorrow in one of the hundreds of locations, all around the country.  Dennis Rainey’s going to be a part of tomorrow’s event.  James MacDonald will be speaking—Crawford Loritts, Voddie Baucham, Matt Chandler, Tony Dungy, Bill Bennett, Stu Weber, Robert Lewis, Mark Driscoll. 

In fact, Mark Driscoll came here, to Little Rock, to shoot the video for the Stepping Up Super Saturday event.  He and his wife Grace sat down with us.  We had an extended conversation about their marriage—about some of the challenges they have faced, as a couple, and about what God has taught them through their years of being married together.  We are making available the CD audio of that conversation with Mark and Grace Driscoll, this week, for those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We’re listener-supported, and we depend on your financial support to continue doing what we do. 

In fact, your donations help cover the costs of producing and syndicating this daily program.  So, we appreciate those of you who get in touch with us and help support FamilyLife Today.  If you want to make an online donation this week, go to and click the button that says, “I CARE”.  When you make an online donation, we’ll send you the Mark and Grace Driscoll CD to you.  Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Make a donation over the phone, and be sure to ask for the CD we’ve talked about, here on FamilyLife Today.  We’re happy to get it out to you, and we appreciate your support of the ministry.  It’s always great to hear from you, and we’re glad to have you as partners. 

We hope you have a great weekend.  Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to hear from Dennis and Barbara Rainey about love and passion in marriage.  We’re going to talk about how we rekindle the romance in our marriage.  That comes up Monday.  I hope you can tune in for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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