Former Michigan State University linebacker Chris Norman has responded to the Lord’s leading to pursue seminary instead of the National Football League (NFL). The college graduate hopes to earn a Masters in Divinity degree at Moody Theological Seminary this fall.
Chris Norman was an All-American football player out of high school. He had grown to love the sport that he excelled in, and some said that he was the third-best linebacker in the nation. Norman went on to play for Michigan State, and had a promising future with hopes to play in the NFL.
Norman sustained major injuries during the 2011 Capital One Bowl game in Florida against the University of Alabama. “My whole world was changed. Everything was different,” says the athlete. It was difficult for Norman to watch his teammates play without him while he recovered on the sideline. It was then that he realized that football was not the only thing in life worth living for and accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a Christian conference.
While Norman had gone to church growing up, he had thought that Christ was “a distant possibility instead of an imminent truth.” Norman saw something different about the young adults attending the conference, however - “They made it evident that they absolutely loved Jesus Christ,” he said - “I could see that they enjoyed Him, and I didn’t know that Jesus could be enjoyed.”
Norman put his trust in Jesus Christ as his Savior. “Christ got a hold of my life, captivated my heart, and He changed me from the inside out,” he says. After healing from his injuries, Norman returned to playing football with a “newfound Love.” He began to wrestle with the decision to play in the NFL after his senior year was over.
On the bus to his last senior college football game, Norman read John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life.” It was then that he learned that “every waking moment should be lived to the glory of God, and therein lays the ultimate delight.” Norman began to feel called to do something more with his life than play professional football.
Several NFL teams were interested in the soon-to-be college graduate, including the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. About a week after his last game, however, Norman decided to go to seminary instead.
His decision created quite the commotion, with loved ones telling him that he was making a mistake. Some encouraged him to instead use football as a platform to share Christ, while others told him that going into the NFL would help him provide for his family. Norman did not give into the pressure, however - he felt strongly that ministry was what the Lord wanted him to do. “It was tough, because I cared about these people and valued their opinions,” he says, “but the one thing that I have to do is follow Christ, because at the end of the day, that’s the thing that I care about the most.”
Norman is glad that he made the decision to go to seminary - “It’s my pleasure to live for His glory … out of a heart that is overflowing with joy and love and thankfulness from the work that He did,” he said. To his joy, a local church offered him a job and also committed to paying for his seminary education.
Norman hopes to preach the Good News in Detroit upon graduation from seminary. “Jesus says something that I think is really powerful … ‘If anyone saves his life, he’ll lose it. But if anyone loses his life for My sake, he will find it,’” said the athlete, quoting Matthew 10:39 - “To chase His glory means that you will have not wasted your life.”