Reggie Kelly: Taking God Off of the Backburner
By Will Dawson
The 700 Club
He’s a 10-year NFL veteran. In fact, no other player on the Cincinnati Bengals roster has played more games than tight end, Reggie Kelly. After three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Reggie signed with the Bengals in 2002. While Reggie is a natural football player, he says he’s a country boy at heart.
Recently, The 700 Club’s Will Dawson interviewed Reggie Kelly:
Reggie Kelly: I’m from a small country town, Aberdeen, Mississippi, population 6,000. So everybody knows each other. So I really couldn’t get in any trouble growing up, because if I did, people would automatically tell my parents. My parents gave people in my neighborhood permission to spank me or whip me if they caught me doing wrong, and then they would call my parents and I would get another spanking when I got home.
Will Dawson: You were raised in a Christian home then?
Reggie: Raised in a Christian home by my parents. It was more of a dictatorship. It was more of a - you had to go, no if, ands or buts about it. There was a point in my life where I rebelled, obviously. I wanted to be cool. I felt like there was no way I could be cool and fit in with my peers and still sell out for Christ. So, I decided to put Christ on the backburner, so to speak.
In high school, Reggie focused all his attention on gaining popularity even if it meant compromising his Christian values.
Reggie: Anything you name in high school, I was all-everything and I became the coolest kid in town. Now, I didn’t realize at the time I was just going down the path of destruction all for the sake of popularity.
Reggie earned a scholarship to play football at Mississippi State University.
Reggie: I was the new kid on the block, I guess you could say. So, I had to be on that popularity chase again. I wanted to be the man. So, I took the necessary tactics to do that; to be the man.
Will: And what was that?
Reggie: I mean, you name it - from the little stuff I did in high school, it was magnified in college - the drinking, the partying and so forth. I did it. I didn’t care how bad or how much I had to do in order to fit in. Again, it worked like a charm. My teammates loved me. All the students on the yard - they knew me as a big dog and coaches raved about me as well.
By his sophomore season, Reggie established himself as one of the Bulldogs’ best receivers. He had success. He had popularity. But something was missing.
Reggie: I felt like I was on top of the world. Everybody loved me on the yard. My schoolwork was going good. I always did great in school. I was all-sec academic. I mean you couldn’t ask for a better script. But, yet and still, man I felt so empty inside and I couldn’t put my hand on it. I would try different things to get me emotional highs and I felt like I was on a rollercoaster. One minute I’d be up and the next minute I’d be right back down in the tankers.
Reggie: Then finally, I can remember I was in my room one day, and I was like, “Man, I’ve tried all this stuff. Why not give Jesus a try?” When I decided to open up my heart to the Lord, man, he spoke to me in a such way that still sends chills down my spine. He said, “Reggie, you can be the smartest kid in the country. You can be the most coolest kid in the world. You can have all the fortune, all the fame, all the popularity, but if you don’t have me in your life there’s forever going to be an emptiness in your heart.”
Reggie realized his search for acceptance and popularity was a mistake. And he put his trust in Jesus.
Reggie: I finally figured out, man, all these years I had been searching for someone to make me feel cool. All this time I had been searching for something to fulfill me and make me feel whole. And the one person that could do it was the one person year’s ago I had decided to push in the backburner. So, from that point on, in my second year in college, I rededicated my life to the Lord and I’ve been on fire ever since.
Reggie no longer worries about being popular. Instead, he’s earned the respect and friendship of his teammates through his life as a Christian.
Reggie: I don’t mind being transparent with them and letting them know I got issues. I got struggles. You may think I don’t struggle with it. You may think I’m a goodie two-shoes or holier than thou, but I’m not. I think a lot of times people feel like if they make a mistake, then there’s no way they can be called believer; there’s no way they can live for the Lord and feel like they’re not deserving of it. But, truth be told, none of us are.
Will: Knowing that none of us are worthy of that, to be called followers of His. What does your relationship with Christ mean to you?
Reggie: It’s everything man, everything. I often think over my life. I sit down and say, “How did I go all those years trying to do things on my own?” I don’t know how I got by. I don’t know how I stayed sane. I enjoy myself - being a man of God. I have fun with my wife. I have fun with my kids, my teammates. And I believe that’s how God wants us to be. I believe He wants us to enjoy each other, have fun, live this life, but learn the lessons that He wants us to learn and glorify Him in the process.
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