Derek Carr, the NFL quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, has always been vocal about his faith in Jesus Christ, both on and off the football field, but in a recent interview with Mercury News, he admitted that at one point, he almost left football to become a pastor.
It was the first week of training camp in 2014, Carr recalled when he began to feel like there might be a different calling on his life, and it wasn’t the calling to play football he had had since he was a child.
“In my heart, I’d never had this feeling where I was so overcome with my thoughts that I was like, ‘I can’t do anything right now,’” Carr said. “The thought was, ‘You need to stop playing football and preach.’ I’m thinking, ‘I’ve dreamed of being an NFL quarterback my whole life, so chill out.’”
The rookie quarterback could not shake the feeling and eventually went to talk to the head coach, Dennis Allen, about possibly leaving.
“He didn’t take it too great, obviously,” Carr recalled. “He didn’t even know what to say to me.”
While Carr’s parents headed to Napa to pick him up, the Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie tried to sway Carr’s decision.
McKenzie, also a Christian, reminded Carr that playing football would provide him with a large platform to preach, and share his story from.
“Oley told me, ‘Go spend time with your family. No matter what you decide, I love you, man. I’m here for you — love that guy,’” Carr said, talking about offensive coordinator Greg Olson. “Reggie McKenzie was the same way.”
After going to God in prayer, Carr eventually realized that he could use his NFL platform to share the gospel of Jesus.
“It wasn’t my time yet. It was cool to know I believed in something so much,” Carr said about not walking away from his NFL career.
Not only was he able to follow his dream as an NFL quarterback, but Carr also preaches in the San Fransico Bay Area from time-to-time.
In July, he preached a message titled “Holy Fire” at Brave Church just outside of Oakland, where he still plays. Carr’s head coach, Jon Gruden was amongst those in attendance for the sermon.
“Derek is what he says he is — No. 1, he’s a man of faith; No. 2, he’s a family man, and third is football,” Coach Gruden said to Mercury News. “And he’s put forth as much effort as any man could possibly put forth in those three areas.”
Carr’s teammates also respect his faith and the journey that has brought him where he is today.
“He’s a nice model to have around you, a family man, does everything the right way,” Jalen Richard, NFL running back and Carr’s teammate said. “When you’ve got a guy like that, who has so much faith, no matter what’s going on, that picks up your faith and makes you start to search for faith in yourself.”
“He wants us to go hurt somebody — but not really hurt ’em. But it’s a battle,” Richard said. “It’s a battle when you’re fighting for Christ. You do battles every day. The devil is continuously throwing his little darts at you and you’ve got to put on that armor of Christ. He’s talked about that before, putting on the full armor of Christ. He’s still a battler.”
Years after he almost abandoned his career in the NFL, Carr realizes that God gave him the talent to play, and a platform to preach from.
“I believe God has given me talents and abilities to be my very best and work harder than anybody else,” Carr said. “I feel like I’m doing it for a higher purpose than just money, a higher purpose than fame.”
“There’s a quote, and it’s not scripture, it’s from Steve Prefontaine, the runner, who said, ‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.’ I’ve taken that to heart. I believe to give anything less than my best is to sacrifice the gift that God has given me.”