Gridiron Faith of Redskins' London Fletcher
By Shawn Brown
The 700 Club
700 Club Sports Producer, Shawn Brown recently sat down for a talk with London Fletcher of the Washington Redskins.
Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher has established himself as one of the toughest players in the game. In his 15 year career, the 3 time Pro Bowler is ranked 2nd in most consecutive starts. His mental and physical toughness is something he developed as a kid growing up on the mean streets of Cleveland. “We grew up in a neighborhood, where there was a lot of crime, a lot of drugs, you know, a lot of distractions that you had to overcome if you wanted to make it.”
Life was never easy for London, but one major tragedy he and his family had to overcome the murder of his 19 year old sister. He was just 11 years old when she died. “She was murdered, raped, beaten, stabbed to death. (Then she was) left dead by some railroad tracks. My mother took that death very hard, you know, it actually turned—led into a whirlwind for her and her own drug addiction.”
Because of what was happening in his family, London says his heart was filled with anger. He tried to channel his feelings playing football. “I started to excel at football. I was making too many fouls in basketball. The fact that I was already aggressive had this anger inside of me. And the fact that I can go out, play a game of football and not get in trouble, take out some aggression, some of the anger that I had.”
As London got bigger and stronger, his skills on the football field became more obvious along with his aggressive style of play. “I think I was born with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. You know, I did let my temper get the best of me at times, which wasn’t good.”
One time in particular, was when he ended up staring down the barrel of a gun after he had an argument with a neighbor. “I didn’t really care whether he pulled the trigger or not. I wasn’t going to run. I didn’t really care what my fate was at that moment, you know. Thank God he didn’t pull the trigger; he drove off.”
After that, London knew he had to find a way out of his neighborhood. He believed football provided that avenue. He received a scholarship to play at John Carroll University. Then in 1998, he signed his first NFL contract as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams. During the 1999 season, he led the Rams in tackles and helped them win Super Bowl XXXIV and helped them make another Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XXXVI. But with all his success, he says he was still harboring anger in his heart.
Shawn Brown: Why did you feel you had to play angry?”
London: “I was just considered small for my position. Undersized, undrafted, (I was) feeling like people were trying to test me, things like that. So I played with a with a chip on my shoulder, angry at all times. And I felt like I needed to, to be successful.”
Shawn: “And because of the success you were having, you just continued to play angry because you were being successful.”
London: “Yeah, it was working for me. You know, I didn’t back down from anybody, you know. So, was having success, I kept doing it.”
In 2002, as an unrestricted free agent, London signed with the Buffalo Bills. As a Super Bowl champion, it would seem that life couldn’t get any better for him. At least on the outside. But on the inside, he felt a bit different.
“You know, after being in the NFL, now what 5, 6 years. It was in ’04 where I was really feeling a sense of emptiness in my life. Even though I won a super bowl, was playing in the NFL, was making money, had success. (I) didn’t really feel fulfilled inside. I knew there was something missing in my life and I felt really a tug from Christ like, ‘Hey, come to me. Come to me.”
London met with the team chaplain and decided to give his life to the Lord. “Since then, you know, I have felt that fulfillment, you know, that sense of whole or whatever I was missing, has definitely been filled in my life.”
London had found peace. Not just in life, but on the gridiron as well. He spent 5 seasons with the Bills and set a franchise record 209 tackles. He says that’s when his mentality on the field had changed. “I’m going to play hard. I’m going to play physical, but, you know, the mindset is definitely changed, as far as not wanting to really inflict injury on somebody. I’m playing ten times better with Christ because I don’t have that clutter in my life. I don’t have those distractions. I’m playing totally free now. I’m playing for Him, and I give Him the glory. There’s not a selfish—there’s not a sense of selfishness when I go out and perform.”
In 2007, London was picked up by the Washington Redskins. This season, he’s leaving it all on the field and he says when he’s out there making tackles, hits, and interceptions, his #1 goal is to glorify the name of the Lord. “I try to play for Him. And, let my performance be pleasing to Him. He, Christ was passionate about things, so I can be passionate about the job that God has allowed me to have. He’s been everything to me. You know, really, even before I had my mind on Him, focus on Him as far as worshiping, walking in His righteousness, He was protecting me, because He knew that I would be at this point that I am today and surrendered my life to Him.”
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