The Christian Broadcasting Network

Browse Videos

Share Email

NFL Running Back Chooses Pulpit Over Playbook

Napoleon Kaufman is a former Oakland Raiders running back who surprisingly retired in the prime of his successful, NFL career at the age of 27. He says his choice to leave was an act of obedience to God. Read Transcript

Jesus said, if you're going to follow Him,

you've got to deny yourself, take up your cross.

You're not truly going to live until you die.


one might expect to hear from a pulpit

or shared from personal pastoral conviction.

Too many people are trying to walk with God,

but they're in a wrestling match with Him

because they haven't died to self yet.

Generally in people, the last thing to go

is their will, where they surrender it.

INTERVIEWER (VOICEOVER): Pastor Napoleon Kaufman

learned to surrender his will at the peak of an NFL career

while playing for the Oakland Raiders.

What was your football ambition at one time?

NAPOLEON KAUFMAN: I really, really loved football.

And I think my biggest thing was I wanted to play in the NFL.

I've always been a Raider fan my whole life.

And so I had a chance to play for the team

that I always wanted to play for.

I wanted to win the Super Bowl, play

in the league 10 to 12 years.

I had a lot of fun living my dream.

INTERVIEWER (VOICEOVER): The former All-American and first

round draft pick played six seasons with the Raiders,

half as their primary running back.

His career yards per carry average

still ranks among the league's Top 10.

Despite statistical success, it didn't satisfy Napoleon's soul.

NAPOLEON KAUFMAN: I started realizing

that there's more to life than just football.

And once I had kind of reached that pinnacle, it was like,

man, something's missing.

Something in me is not right.

And I started realizing that, man, something

needs to change in me.

That's the reason why I'm not happy.


got him to think about his faith.

Napoleon committed to actively follow

scripture in transforming his life,

evident by a growing compassion for others.

You no longer wanted to just play for them,

you wanted to help them.

I can remember vividly coming out for a football game,

and they would announce us from the Black Hole.

And looking up in the stands, my heart just

started sinking for the people.

And I literally started to tear up right before the game.

It was a moment in my career where I say something

really shifted in my heart.

INTERVIEWER (VOICEOVER): Napoleon caught the league

by surprise, retiring in the prime of his career

at 27, leaving the Raiders just two years before their 2003

Super Bowl appearance.

I'm watching ESPN, and my name comes across the bottom

of the ticker tape.

Napoleon Kaufman retires after six seasons.

And when I looked at that, I said, here I am, Lord, use me.


Napoleon now serves as senior pastor of the Well Christian

Community Church in Livermore, California.

You didn't become a pastor because you retired.

You retired to become a pastor.

NAPOLEON KAUFMAN: When God started

dealing with me about retiring for ministry,

I tell people all the time, for me,

it was not a matter of reason.

It was a matter of obedience.

I knew this is what God had called me to do,

and my life was His.


is diverse and far-reaching.

In addition to pastoring, Napoleon

is the Raider's chaplain.

He's also head coach of Bishop O'Dowd High School football,

recent California state champs.

The simplicity of just doing what God says,

I think I get that from playing football for 20 years

and your coach says, run through the A-Gap,

and you've got to run through the A-Gap.

So my relationship with God has been run through that hole,

go there.

Well, oftentimes, God tells you to go,

and the picture's not always clear.

But you do know that this is what God is asking you to do.

INTERVIEWER (VOICEOVER): His run has transformed the halfback

into a carrier who shares a message of freedom, strength,

and power.

Continue to be glorified, in and through us.

In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

When we look at grace, people just

see it as His unmerited favor and benefit.

But that's just one side of the coin.

God wants His grace to be an empowering influence

in our lives, that I can do all things through Christ

that strengthens me.

If it's an addiction, bondage, pride, or whatever it is,

Jesus gives you the power to overcome.

And that's what grace does.

It doesn't excuse me, it empowers me.

INTERVIEWER (VOICEOVER): The guy they call "Nip" empathizes

with emptiness and pain.

I want to feel the way God feels about something.

Whether here at our local church or if I'm out in the community,

you're dealing with people that are

going through tough situations.

The thing I love is the gospel of Jesus Christ

has the power to come in and heal anyone's hurts.


has exchanged football's yards per carry

for a life of surrendered availability.

God has a proven track record in my life.

It's just to be obedient to God.

Be where He wants you to be.

And if you do what He says to do,

all things are going to work together for your good.


Related Podcasts | Do You Know Jesus? | Privacy Notice | Prayer Requests | Support CBN | Contact Us | Feedback
© 2012 Christian Broadcasting Network