‘God will humble the proud’
Jordan Evans has a lot of question marks after his name these days.
On April 29, the 6-foot-2-inch, 22-year-old linebacker for the University of Oklahoma went to the Cincinnati Bengals in the sixth round of the National Football League draft.
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) April 29, 2017
But making the draft doesn’t mean making the team, and as his first season in the NFL begins, Evans is the subject of chatter among the Cincinnati faithful, who like his speed and agility but question whether or not he can make the big tackles required to compete at the national level.
Jordan Evans’ father, Scott, was a three-time all-Big Eight defensive tackle for the Sooners from 1988-90. The family worships with the Westside Church of Christ in Norman, Okla. (PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN)
For Evans, just like all Christians who play pro sports, there’s also the faith question. Will he honor the commitment he made at age 14 when he was baptized? Will he stand firm in his beliefs and stay humble when his image is beamed into millions of living rooms — where many Americans spend their Sundays worshiping at the altar of the NFL?
His family has a strong foundation of faith, say members of the Westside Church of Christ in Norman, Okla. His father, Scott, also played football for the Sooners. Neither he nor his wife, Tenika, grew up in the church. Both were baptized later in life.
They have raised three athletically gifted children — Jordan and sisters Jessika and Jacie — but they make sure that sports don’t take precedence over church.
The family is active in Leadership Training for Christ and conducts one-on-one Bible studies with neighbors. The girls participate in youth events including the Equipping Women for Exceptional Service camp.
Just after the NFL draft, Evans spoke with The Christian Chronicle about faith, football and the days ahead.
WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS ON THE DAY YOU WERE DRAFTED BY THE CINCINNATI BENGALS?
I was just with sitting with my dad at the house when it happened. To hear analysts talking about me on national television during the draft was just crazy! But I was relieved when my name was called because of the uncertainty of the draft. I know that I still have a lot of work ahead of me, and I still have to go out and make the team, but I’m thankful to have been blessed with this opportunity in the first place.
WHAT DOES FOOTBALL MEAN TO YOU?
Football truly has become a lifestyle for me, especially now that I’ve been drafted. The sport has been my ticket to an education, connections to my closest friends, and an opportunity for a career while at the same time pursuing my dream.
Football has also taught me to be an example for people around me. The sport has truly placed me in the spotlight, whether I wanted that or not, for others around me to see my actions, especially the youth in my hometown community and at Westside Church of Christ.
HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN CHRISTIAN VALUES IN VIEW OF THE PRESSURE YOU FACE ON THE NATIONAL STAGE?
God will humble the proud. That’s happened to me before, and I’m so thankful that he did.
I’m reminded of just what happens to the proud when I read biblical stories about people thinking they’re above God and choosing to act in a way that doesn’t honor their lifetime commitment they’ve made to him. In the end, they get leveled.
I believe it’s all about not forgetting where you come from. I’ve had a foundation laid for me, both by my parents and by growing in my own faith, and that’s helped to keep me solid when stuff gets crazy.
Before football, or any title I might have in life, I’m a Christian. And, as a Christian man, it’s my duty to further the Kingdom in any environment. There are no excuses.
WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU OVERCOME?
The No. 1 obstacle that I — and, I believe, everyone — have to overcome is oneself. Everyone experiences his or her own struggles and temptations. The only person that can be ultimately responsible for those consequences is you.
I know my decisions have held me back before. I’ve been tempted by Satan, but it was my choice to indulge myself in those activities when things went wrong. I know that it’s a daily battle to be the best Christian man I can be, but I believe that when I surround myself with the right people and live a life for him, the path in my life ends up being a lot more straight.
Jordan Evans, in his senior season as an Oklahoma Sooner, celebrates after returning an interception for a touchdown in OU’s 56-28 win against West Virginia. It was his second pick-six of the season, making him the first Sooner linebacker to do so in 25 years. (PHOTO FROM BRYAN TERRY, THE OKLAHOMAN)
WHO ARE THE MAIN SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES IN YOUR LIFE?
In the beginning and throughout my early childhood, it was my mom, but it’s transitioned to dad since I’ve become more of a man. My dad would always incorporate biblical stories in order to explain how to handle girls, money, fame or anything else.
CAN YOU SHARE ANY IMPORTANT CHURCH-RELATED EXPERIENCES FROM YOUR LIFE?
Being baptized on July 18, 2009, was the most important experience for me. I had been having conversations about baptism with my parents, but I was stubborn and prideful, believing that I wasn’t a sinner. I believed I wasn’t really doing anything wrong.
But one night I was watching “Saving Private Ryan” — the scene with the American soldier dying and calling for his mom.
I thought about how I wasn’t perfect, how I knew the message and needed to be obedient because who knows when my last day will come? This realization came late at night, but when I told my dad, he got up and drove me straight to the church to be baptized at 11:45 at night.
Another important date came when I baptized my sister, Jacie. I was reminded of the importance of the decision and my impact on my family spiritually.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE ATHLETES?
“First, Matthew 6:33. (“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”) If you seek him first in all things, then I believe he will truly take care of you.
I also live by the motto: “Leave no doubt.” I try to apply this in the classroom, on the field, as a friend and in whatever I’m doing. This motto will help you to make sure people know that you’re a Christian by your actions, and you can have peace knowing that God will see that and reward you for that courage.
ANY OTHER FAVORITE SCRIPTURES?
I also look to Luke 7 and try to remember that God will take care of even the least in the Kingdom.