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Scott Gragg: Faith, football and the missing ring

Each week, during the football season, Scott Gragg puts his mammoth 6-foot-8-inch, 325-pound frame in harm’s way so others can look good. As a tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, it’s Gragg’s job to protect quarterback Jeff Garcia from pursuing defenders and block for 49er running backs. It’s a tough and dirty and often thankless job, but Gragg sees it as a way to share his faith.

“God wants the glory in how I play,” says Gragg, 30. “That doesn’t happen by being passive. Keeping my emotions in check while playing as aggressively as I can within the rules is as much a testimony as anything I do.”

Last year, Gragg started in all of the 49ers’ 16 games and is credited for helping the offense rank second in NFL rushing with 2,244 yards. Gragg also extended his consecutive-games-started streak to 96 during the 2001 season and was named second team All-Pro by Football Digest. All the accolades, says Gragg, only serve to tell others about Christ’s message of love and hope.

“The platform I now have to share Christ is great,” he says. “But I can’t help but think how much greater it would be with a Super Bowl ring.”

Spoken like a true competitor.

Even without the ring, Gragg uses his status as an NFL player to tell others about his faith. He has been given the opportunity, he says, to tell inner-city kids and civic leaders about Jesus because of football. But using football to open conversations about God has not always been a pattern for Gragg.

It wasn’t until midway through his college career at the University of Montana that his life’s calling was clarified after a Christian friend asked him a question: “He asked me why and for whom I was playing football,” says Gragg. “I began to realize that if God wanted me to play professional football I would use the experience to share Christ.”

Immediately, Gragg says, he played even better than before because he had a sense of God’s will for his life. During his senior season, he made 82 knockdown blocks with an 89 percent consistency rating. He attracted the attention of the New York Giants, who selected him in the second round of the NFL’s 1995 draft.

Gragg played five seasons in New York before signing with San Francisco in 2000. Though playing in the NFL is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Gragg, he keeps it all in perspective.

“Football is third place in my life,” he says. “By putting God first, family second and football third, I believe that makes me a better player because I have the right values and perspective.”

— John Cockroft

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