|What made you decide to become a punter?|
I actually went to college to play quarterback and receiver. I played a bunch of positions and won the starting punting job at Notre Dame by default. It was a way to get on the field as a freshman. I ended up starting at punter every game, being one of the top guys at my position, and was drafted by the Colts in '99.
What's it like playing for a head coach as bold about his faith as Tony Dungy?
It's a privilege. We had a pretty strong, growing Christian contingency on our team before he took over, but we felt called to go to another level in the community and in the organization—one that was going to require leadership that was above us as players. When Coach Dungy was named our head coach, we knew he was God's answer to that. He has changed the culture here. He removed a lot of hindrances and obstacles to the gospel being preached and shared among our team. And he leads that by example. He makes it so it's not a taboo subject among the guys, which is special and different from most of the NFL.
Your new worship band, Connersvine, just released its first CD. Talk about your partnership with Chris Wilson.
We both play guitar and sing. Chris sings the majority of the lead vocals. I sing a lot of the harmonies. We both write everything right down the middle. One of my favorite songs on the album, "Hero," we wrote for my 2-year-old son, Josiah. It's about being heroes to our children—the kind of role models that let our kids look back and say, "My mom and dad taught me how to follow Christ." I hid the song from my wife until it was on the album. It was kind of a late Mother's Day gift that she had asked me for.
You used to lead youth Bible studies. Do you still connect with teens?
Sure, sometimes through Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Just recently I spoke to a local soccer team. I think God has given me a gift to relate to young people, share with them honestly and help them walk through struggles.
Describe those struggles. What are you seeing and hearing?
What I see most is a longing to know who they are, and they'll only know that when they know Christ. You can talk about the symptoms, from drug use to sexual immorality, but the root of the problem is teens not knowing their identity.
Do you find that athletes struggle with that?
Seventy-eight percent of men who play football are divorced, bankrupt or have committed suicide within two years of retirement. That's a statistic a lot of people wouldn't want you to know. The league is trying to train us out of that sort of behavior, but the root of that problem is that people have no purpose. They've been taught their whole lives to give everything they have to obtain football success, but their ultimate purpose in life is far beyond football. You get out and you still have half of your life to go. Everybody's shocked to hear that I sing. How can there not be more football players who sing, or have gifts in business or ministry or whatever? Last I checked, football isn't a spiritual gift. When football is over for me, I'll throw all of my effort into music. I want to see people ministered to. I want people to hear songs that lead them into worship and change their lives.
If you could offer teens one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell them to relentlessly follow Christ and not buy into the institutions of this world that are only created to make people hungry. Buy into God and His kingdom, because the institutions of this world are a black hole with nothing at the bottom.
Youth ministry can feel a lot like playing special teams in football, can't it? We may influence field position, but most of the time we sit on the sidelines as the offense (peers, culture) and the defense (parents) put points on the board grinding it out in the trenches.
It's really good to hear you say that, because I feel like a lot of parents view youth ministry as what's going to save their children. But that's the wrong perspective. It's their job to rear their children the right way. My mom was so supportive and made sacrifices to be a servant to her kids. My dad was a great athlete. The way I punt today is how he taught me to punt when I was 8 years old. But the more important thing was that he gave me time and taught me how to work hard and be a man. I can't imagine a better childhood and a better environment for development than what I had.
Published November 2007
In 2009, Hunter Smith was signed by the Washington Redskins. Bob still roots for him, despite being a die-hard Giants fan.