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Raylee Johnson: Ready for the field of life

By Isaac Olivarez

Defensive ends aren't partial. They use precision timing and footwork, synchronized with an outburst of energy, to create the cleanest path to a quarterback. If all goes well, the fury and momentum of a muscle-bound freight train is unleashed in a style fit for the next big poster, forcing a loss of yardage or even possession of the coveted pigskin.

Raylee Johnson has made his living this way for the past 11 years as a member of the San Diego Chargers. As the Chargers’ longest tenured player, Johnson ranks fourth on the team’s all-time list with 46 career sacks, and is one of only three players remaining from the 1994 squad that reached Super Bowl XXIX. But 1994 has more significance than a Super Bowl season for Johnson. It is the year he accepted Christ as Savior.

“My wife [Diann] was a big part of that,” Johnson says. “Seeing what Christ had done in her life made me want to seek Jesus even more and be serious about it.” Johnson says his newfound faith in God translated into a more disciplined and focused work ethic on the field. “I’m working as unto the Lord,” Johnson says. “I put every effort into it.” That doesn’t bode well for quarterbacks across the line of scrimmage from the 6-foot-3-inch, 275-pound defensive end. But for Johnson, balancing his faith and preying on quarterbacks is not a difficult task.

“I don’t hit them to hurt them,” Johnson says. “It’s not my job to try to hurt people. I’m going to try to tackle [the quarterback] and do the same thing the next play.” Johnson’s example is one that his younger teammates are eager to learn from. As the team’s veteran, Johnson realizes his actions on and off the field represent more than the values of the organization that drafted him in 1993.

“The person you are when no one is looking is the real you,” Johnson says, noting the importance of actions rather than words in a profession surrounded by TV cameras and media hype. “If you mess up just one time in this life, it could be blown up in such a way that the world won’t accept you anymore. But the good thing about Jesus is He will always accept you and forgive you of your sins.”

It’s Johnson’s hope in Christ that has helped him through the ups and downs of an 11-year NFL career.

“Just knowing God is always there gives me strength when I’m weak,” Johnson says. “I want to be rapture ready.”

Isaac Olivarez is staff writer for Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.

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