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NFL Linebacker Has a Message of Hope For You

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Steven Johnson shares memories of his uphill battle to make it to the NFL and the critical roll faith played in the journey. Read Transcript

REPORTER: Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, Steven Johnson,

knows firsthand how difficult it can be to make it to the NFL.

He says he's blessed just for the opportunity

to play at this level.

STEVEN JOHNSON: For me personally football's

kind of been like my sanctuary when it comes

to making how I praise God.

REPORTER: He entered the league as an undrafted free agent

with the Denver Broncos in 2012.

But as a rising freshman in high school,

it was a dream he was told would never happen.

People use to tease me because I was slow.

You're not a man, and people were like, oh, you

can't beat anybody.

You're never going to be this, you're never going to be that.

But I was like, man, I'm going to the NFL one day.

And they would, ha ha, laugh at me like, are you serious,

you can't even get on varsity.

You know, stuff like that.

REPORTER: Stephen grew up in a Christian home

in Media, Pennsylvania, where his father

pushed him to be the best he could be in football.

But when his parents divorced when he was 12,

it shook up his world and his faith.

When my parents split up that was a big thing that

happened in my life, which really pulled me away

from Christ a little bit.

Because I didn't understand what was going on

in my immediate household.

REPORTER: Stephen moved in with his mother.

Without his father around to push him, he lost focus.

So he wasn't quite ready when he tried out for his high school

football team and didn't make the varsity squad, as expected.

STEVEN JOHNSON: So my freshman year in high school all

my friends, most of my closest friends,

were all on varsity because we were all good in football.

But I was the one who ended up being on the freshman team.

My sophomore year I played JV, all my friends

were still on varsity.

My junior year I played JV, all my friends

were still on varsity.

How'd that make you feel?

I mean it kind of, it hurts.

As a teenager that stuff might bother you.

REPORTER: Steven says the defining moment in his journey

was when a girl he knew embarrassed him

in front of his friends.

We were all sitting around the table with all my friends

and she was like, man, I kind of want

a guy like that or like that, and then she saw me

and she totally just skipped over me and was just

uh, like that or like that.

And for me that was just like the, [SNAPS] it was the switch.

REPORTER: Steven was upset and wanted to make a change,

but didn't know how.

The next day one of his friends invited him to a Bible study.

I was like, all right, I'll come.

And because of that girl, then I was like, look,

I don't want to be ugly.

You know what I mean?

I think I'm a pretty good looking dude,

you know what I mean.

I want what God has for me athletically, spiritually.

Seeing how I look, how I appear to other people I was like,

I want to change.

So that's when I was like, I'm going

to make this decision to chase after Him,

and see what happens.

REPORTER: Stephen continued going to Bible study,

and as he strengthened his relationship with God,

it began to fuel his faith and desire to excel in football.

And soon his hard work paid off.

So things just totally turned over, just totally flipped,

my weight went up, I got taller, I got faster.

Everything just started to work in my favor because of that one


I decided to go to church on that one Wednesday night.

REPORTER: By his senior year, Stephen

not only made the varsity squad but he

became a starter, a captain, and lead the state in tackles.

However, it wasn't quite enough to grab the attention

of college scouts.

So he went to Wyoming Seminary, a prep school whose program

would keep him on their radar.

He had such a great season with the Blue Knights

that bigger schools began to take notice,

until he got injured.

The fifth game, fifth play blew my knee out.

REPORTER: Stephen had surgery and began

rehabilitating his knee.

He became discouraged about his future in football,

so he started praying for direction.

Then he decided to reach out to schools

that had shown interest before his injury, and one of them

took notice.

I wrote this long letter to the University of Kansas,

to an on-campus recruiting coordinator and I was like

look, I want to play big time.

I know I can do it.

I'll do everything I can in my power

to get back, just give me the opportunity to walk on

and do something.

REPORTER: Soon after he was offered a walk-on spot

with the University of Kansas.

Though he sat out the 2008 season,

he hit the field with a vengeance in 2009,

and was later offered a scholarship.

By his senior season he led the Big 12 conference in tackles.

Then in 2012, he signed with the Denver Broncos

where he spent three seasons and helped the team make it

to Super Bowl 48.

After a short stint in Tennessee,

he signed with the Steelers.

As he continues to follow his dream,

he says his number one goal is to share God's message of hope.

You know my foundation is called the Faith Motivated

Foundation because your faith motivates you and takes

you farther than anything can.

He is a personal God.

Just as much as he loves me, he loves you.

I mean he loves everybody in this world.

He wants everybody to succeed.

If there was no Jesus, if there was no God.

It just-- it really wouldn't be no me.

I don't know where I'd be.



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