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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Leonard Weaver's Unlikely Journey

By Gail Wood
Jan. 30, 2011


At 6 foot, he wasn’t supposed to be big enough to play in the NFL.

But Leonard Weaver, the likeable, friendly son of a pastor who is quick with a smile and a handshake, has never been preoccupied with what he can’t do. 

“I’ve always just tried to do what I’ve been asked to do,” Weaver says.

Weaver’s unlikely journey from an undrafted free agent rookie who played tight end at a small college to an All-Pro fullback with the Philadelphia Eagles is about overcoming, not being overcome.

During high school in Satellite Beach, Fla., he played quarterback, leading his team to the playoffs. In college at Carson-Newman, Weaver played linebacker as a freshman, making nine tackles in his first two starts. The next year, he switched to tight end, catching six touchdowns to help his team reach the NCAA Division II playoffs.

In 2005, Coach Mike Holmgren played a hunch and made the rookie Weaver a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks. Undrafted, playing a new position and undersized, Weaver wasn’t expected to make the roster.

“I never really thought about the odds,” Weaver says.

Instead, Weaver focused on what he could do — and that was to go hard every practice, every sprint, every drill. Surprisingly, the undersized fullback with the moves of a tailback survived the cut.

“I’ve always been the player who is willing to accept the challenge,” Weaver says. “Whether it’s been changing positions or just doing things for the team, I think that willing spirit I’ve had has allowed some great things to happen to me. It’s been an amazing story. God has truly opened up doors.”

Weaver says those blessings haven’t just been on the football field.

“I can look over my life where I can see where I should be dead — where I shouldn’t have come out of it alive,” Weaver says.

While he was in high school, gangs shot at him, barely missing. During college in 2003, Weaver was rear-ended by a car driving 70 mph, shoving him into his steering wheel and pinning him under the dash.

“Doctors told me I shouldn’t be alive,” he says. “They said my neck should have been broken, and my legs should have been broken as well. I’ve had situations where there’s no other reason and there’s no other explanation that I’m alive except God.”

So Weaver is used to being a long shot, whether on the football field or in life. He believes that tests in life build character. In college, Weaver was nicknamed “The Bishop” because of his ministry as a singer and as a preacher.

Weaver’s college coach, Ken Sparks, says that Weaver’s Christian faith gave him a perspective a lot of people don’t have. If Weaver had something bad happen in his life, he could handle it because he had built a strong foundation.

“He’s always worked to overcome his problems,” Sparks said.

Sparks influenced Weaver’s spiritual life. Once the coach invited him to watch the movie The Passion of the Christ, the brutal depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“That day I accepted Christ in my life for me,” Weaver says. “I said I was going to serve Him and do what He asked me to do. At that point, God really started to bless me on the campus at college. Ministry opportunities opened up. I started a band. I was able to sing in churches.”

Up until watching that movie, Weaver says his faith was his parents’. Then his perspective changed. It became his faith, his relationship.

“I’d tell people I was a Christian,” Weaver says. “I always had the values and morals. I knew the format, but that day I was changed.”

Even now in the NFL where he’s achieved wealth and fame, Weaver has remained Christ-centered, holding Bible studies with his teammates at his house.

“There are a lot of players out there who are better than Leonard Weaver,” Weaver says. “But they didn’t get that opportunity. I think God has seen that my spirit is willing to do whatever He’s called me to do. He’s allowed me to achieve more than the guys who had the talent. He said, I’m going to put you in this position solely for the purpose of My kingdom.”

Weaver’s testimony doesn’t come from scoring touchdowns or from leveling linebackers to open holes. It’s from his life — the joy and peace that come from God. But Weaver’s success as a football player has given him that opportunity to share God’s faithfulness. Like his parents, Weaver is now also an ordained minister. He says when his football days are over, he plans to go into full-time ministry.

“I understand that the reason I am where I am is not because of Leonard Weaver, but it’s because God is trying to build a platform for His gospel,” Weaver says. “I think because I understand that God has opened doors like His Word says He will, and that He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, He’s opened up doors that no man, no GM [general manager], no NFL rep, no person can shut except Him.”

However, Weaver now faces a threat to his NFL career. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee early in the 2010 season and is taking the long road back. While doctors aren’t guaranteeing he’ll be able to play football again, Weaver is optimistic, leaning on his faith in prayer.

“The God I believe in and trust in would not allow something like this to happen without His glory being able to be shown to those watching,” Weaver says. “God allows certain things to happen.”

As Weaver goes through daily rehab to strengthen his knee, he’s also careful to be faithful in his Bible study and prayer. He realizes he can’t just be a Sunday-morning Christian, being fed spiritually only once a week.

“I think your prayer life and your Bible study are the essence of what a man and woman of God are all about,” says Weaver, who reads the Bible throughout the week and prays every day. “Without prayer and without the Word you can’t sustain yourself. If you’re depending on yourself, then that means you don’t have faith.”

Weaver says his relationship with God is based on faith.

“If you don’t have faith, then there’s no way you can learn about the God who died for us,” he says. “You’ll never come into the true understanding of what His love and desire for us is about. It’s important that throughout the week we do have prayer time, that we do have the Bible study, that we do have the Wednesday night service.”

Unlike the young man who showed up at the Seahawks practice five years ago, Weaver is now wealthy and famous after signing in 2009 a three-year, $11 million contract to become the highest-paid fullback in the league. Yet he’s maintained a reliance on God, understanding that he still needs forgiveness.

“If your knowledge of God is growing, that means your relationship with God is growing,” he says. “That’s what Christianity is about. It’s about relationships.”

GAIL WOOD attends Calvary Chapel in Lacey, Wash., and is author of Saved Twice.

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