By Chris Stigall

“I have the utmost confidence in His plan. His plan is perfect. He knows what he’s doing.”

These are some quotes from a two-minute video recording of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz posted on social media and viewed nearly three million times since the evening of December 11th. Just one day after crestfallen fans learned he’d sustained a season-ending injury.

If you didn’t know anything about Wentz other than the media coverage of his amazing season and the unfortunate injury that took him out before making a seemingly inevitable trip to the Super Bowl – you might read those quotes and think he was talking about his coach. Maybe you’d think he was talking about his back up quarterback Nick Foles. Maybe it was happy talk to convince his team and fans that all would be well and the Eagles would be just fine without him.

It was none of those things. Instead, at what must be the lowest point in his young professional football career, Carson Wentz was still reminding everyone just who’s in control of his life.
“I know Jesus has a plan through it. I know he’s trying to grow me in something. Teach me something. Use me somehow, someway. This will just be a great testimony as I go forward… He knows what he’s doing.”

Wentz went on to talk about the special season he and his team have had thusfar and that he’s confident the team’s “next man up” mentality will extend on to his backup Foles. He assured fans he’d be right there on the sidelines with them to support and help on that road to victory. He pledged to work hard in recovery and come back stronger and better. Everything you’d want to hear your star quarterback say.

But that’s not where he started his message to fans. That’s how he concluded. Carson Wentz is a Christian first. He’s a Christian who just happens to play professional football.

When we first met Wentz as a rookie last season, you might have noticed “AO1” tattooed on his wrist. During the annual NFL campaign “My Cause My Cleats,” “AO1” was on his gameday footwear, too.
I had no idea what it meant. I had to “Google” it.

It stands for “Audience of One,” by the way. Others in sports media noticed and started asking, too. Wentz told ESPN, “It was kind of a motto I picked up early in my career, and I finally put it on my body just to live the Lord as my audience – whether it was playing football, going to school or whatever I’m doing in my life.”

Wentz’ bold declaration of faith was something I deeply admired and respected right away. I also understood that a man who had that much riding on his professional future, should he stumble, would meet the wrath of the secular world. During a Septemeber 2016 broadcast, I sarcastically offered a warning to the rookie.

“Carson Wentz is the guy that everyone is talking about, player of the week and all of this. He shoots guns. He hunts animals. He prays to God. Capital G-O-D. He invokes Jesus Christ on his Twitter account. He listens to praise music to get jacked up before games…I just hope he keeps winning because if he doesn’t, look out… They’ll tolerate him as long as he keeps winning, but, I mean, if he fumbles, if he fails, if he wobbles, if he gets a little wobbly out there for a game or two, look out. You’ll meet the Tim Tebow fate, Carson.”

“Based on what I’m observing from Carson Wentz, gun owner, hunter, obviously a devout Christian. Oh, oh, oh, and he has a committed, long-term girlfriend with whom he does not live. He doesn’t shack up! They’re not having sex! Folks, this guy, I hate to say it, I hate to do this to Carson Wentz…I hope they don’t get into his voter registration information.”

Sure enough, some secular snark would come his way. Philadelphia Daily News sports writer Jeff Gammage authored a story headlined “The Gospel According to Carson Wentz.” NBC Sports Philadelphia began the season with the headline “Carson Wentz walks fine line between loving Jesus and not being preachy.” After the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Wentz tweeted “The world needs Jesus in a bad way.” Philadelphia Magazine chastised him for his tone deafness and not speaking out more forcefully for gun control.

Just this week, an editorial at Philly.com suggested any positive coverage of Wentz’ faith was an unfortunate display of “valuing one religion over other religions in our vast and diverse culture.”

And, of course, some of the ugliest attacks on Wentz came after his recent season-ending injury. “Where’s your God now,” asked some loathsome little trolls on social media.

Nevertheless, Wentz isn’t fazed. He’s launched his own “AO1” charity this year. When advised professional athletes don’t usually launch their own charities until they’ve established themselves after four or five years, Wentz responded to the Philadelphia Daily News as any eager Christian would.

“I took their advice, thought about it, but I’m, like, I have no idea in four or five years where I’m going to be. God willing, I’m still playing this game, hopefully still here and everything. But you just never know, you’re not promised tomorrow. So I just said, ‘Why wait? Why wait to make a difference and help out?”

Carson Wentz knows who he is and whose he is. He knows his time in the spotlight is a gift. He knows football is temporary. When he says, “He has a plan,” Wentz believes it.

And maybe, through the conclusion of this incredible Eagles season, His plan is to use football’s most talked about rising star as a reminder to millions of the reason for the Christmas season, too.

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