By Del Duduit
A lot can change over a year.
I met Anthony Munoz at the first pre-season game for the 2017 Cincinnati Bengals last year upstairs in the media center.
I had just finished a late-afternoon dinner before the Bengals played host to Tampa Bay on a Friday night in the Queen City. The meals the Bengals prepare for the media are top-notch, and I checked the board to find my seat assignment in the press box when I unexpectedly bumped into the NFL Hall of Famer as he walked through the double doors.
This doesn’t happen every day, so I seized a couple of seconds and asked him if he had a moment to chat with me. “I sure do,” he said with a great big smile. He was on his way to prepare to call the game on television.
He asked me if I knew Christ after I introduced myself. “Of course,” I said. “That’s what I’d like to chat about.”
I expected him to tell me the ordinary clichés most athletes talk about. But this was not the case. He had a message to share.
He began to talk about when he lived in Southern California.
While in high school, the 11-time All-Pro offensive lineman appeared on every collegiate scout’s radar. Anthony loved baseball but committed to play on the gridiron for USC. He fulfilled his dream to play on the diamond and pitched for the national championship team in 1978 when he was a Trojan.
But this tower of a man, who was popular and talented, was clueless when it came to what Jesus Christ could offer him.
The big rough and tough football player realized I was nothing without Him.
“I was never presented the gospel until I went to college,” he told me. I was in disbelief. He didn’t live under a bridge or in isolation. He was in SoCal. There are a lot of people there!
The 1991 NFL Man of the Year first heard about Jesus during a conversation with a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member at USC.
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“There was no relationship, period,” Anthony said. “It was non-existent. I never knew I could have one.”
The man regarded as the best offensive lineman to ever play in the NFL was soon bombarded with the good news of Christ by other teammates and family.
During his sophomore year in 1978, he married Dee Dee. A few months later in October 1978, they prayed together and accepted God into their lives.
“The Lord saw fit to put me around people of faith until I gave in and surrendered,” he said with a big smile. “The big rough and tough football player realized I was nothing without Him.”
Anthony’s mission became clear to him. From that point forward, he made it a priority to share the saving grace of God to everyone he met.
When our conversation ended, I carried away a tremendous challenge as I made my way back to my station. Anthony had inspired me to be more active in the way I witness for God.
A few minutes later, I found myself in a dialogue with John, a fellow sportswriter who I did not know at the time. The discussion started with the usual forecast for the season, but it escalated into a conversation about the Lord.
I did not want to surrender an opportunity, so I filtered in my relationship with Christ as we talked. Turned out, he is a Christian too. We are good friends today because I took Anthony’s approach and shared my testimony.
I appreciate my friendship with John, and I enjoy our conversations in the media box.
And I’m thankful to Anthony for inspiring me, but it still blows me away that he was not even exposed to the Gospel until he was 18 years old.
Did someone let him down all those years? Would you have been bold enough to witness to him? I don’t ever want to be held accountable for not sharing the good news.
I determined in my heart to make sure people know where I stand after I talk to them in some way or another.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
When I ran into Anthony this past week in Cincinnati– one year later — I refreshed his memory about our conversation and thanked him again. He hasn’t’ changed much. He was the same friendly man I met a few months ago. We chatted, fist-pumped and went on our way. His charge to me has stayed strong over the past year, and I told him that.
Don’t take it for granted that a person has heard the gospel. Tell them! Who knows? You might be the reason the next NFL Hall of Famer accepts Christ.
And I have a good friend today because Anthony inspired me to be bolder.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.
His first book — BUCKEYE BELIEVER – 40 Days of Devotions for The Ohio State Faithful –can be purchased on Amazon here.