If you're familiar with NFL quarterback Case Keenum, you probably know him from last year's Vikings-Saints playoff game. (Keenum became the Viking starting quarterback after starter Sam Bradford's early season-ending injury, leading the Vikings to a 13-win regular season.)

The Saints took the lead at the 5:28 mark. With 1:28 to go, the Vikings kicked a field goal to go up 23-21. The Saints then kicked a field goal to retake the lead at 24-23.

With 10 seconds left on the clock.

Then this happened.

What you probably don't about Case is that he led his high school football team to a state title... but was still only recruited by one college. At the University of Houston he overcame a season-ending ACL tear to become the NCAA's all-time leader in total passing yards, touchdowns, and completions; he's the only quarterback in FBS history to throw for over 5,000 yards in three different seasons.

He finished seventh in Heisman Trophy balloting after his final season. But no NFL team drafted him. 254 other players were selected. 

Not Case.

So he signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent. After a year the Texans waived him. He was claimed by the Rams and wound up on their practice squad.

Then he went back to the Texans. And then back to the Rams.

And then Keenum signed to a one-year contract with the Vikings. The rest is NFL Hail Mary play history -- and that one-year contract which provided zero career security turned out to be a blessing, allowing Case to explore the free agent market and eventually sign with the Denver Broncos, where he's now the starting quarterback. 

Even in the NFL -- where player fortunes rise and fall to an incredibly extreme degree (just ask David Tyree, whose "helmet catch" in the Super Bowl to keep the game-winning drive alive was also the last pass he caught as a pro football player) -- Keenum's story is incredible.

And it's great. 

Keenum is an NFL quarterback -- meaning he lives the dream of millions of little boys, including me -- but he's also just like you and me. He's had the same insecurities. He's faced the same doubts. He's overcome the same roadblocks. (Shoot, he's arguably overcome more -- or at least bigger -- roadblocks than most.) 

Keenum is proof that incredibly accomplished people don't possess some special "something" the rest of us don't have. They just work harder, and longer, with more intent and purpose and drive and willpower.... in short, while what they do is special, they aren't special.

They're just like us. They've just worked hard to be able to do some things better.

Which is an incredibly incredibly empowering thought -- because it means success (in whatever way you choose to define "success") is also within your reach. Regardless of your education, your experience, your connections, your financial situation... you can achieve more than you think possible if you're willing to work hard -- and are willing to stay the course, in spite of all the roadblocks you will surely encounter.

"My goal is to encourage and challenge people," Case told me. "I want to encourage people who go through some of the same things I have... and offer them tips, advice, and ways to deal with setbacks. And then I want to challenge people to challenge themselves: To do more than they think they're capable of doing, to dream bigger than they currently dream...

"What you do is not who you are. Identity is more than what you do for a living. Identity is who you are inside. That lays the foundation for what you do, and how you live your life."

For Case, that started with realizing he is not a football player who happens to be a Christian. He's a Christian who happens to be a football player. His beliefs make him who he is; football is what he does.

"When you hit a huge roadblock," he says, "keeping things in perspective is a big part of keeping yourself sane. I hold on to the fact that I know God has me exactly where he wants me to be, He has prepared me for this obstacle, and I've done everything I possibly can to be prepared for it, too. That's how I attack every obstacle and every challenge. I know He has made sure I'm ready, which makes me believe I'm ready.

"I wouldn't be who I am if not for some of the really tough times in my life. Those challenges have made me a better husband, a better Christian, and a better player."

I'm not particularly religious, but Case's point still resonates. Perspective is everything when you find ourself on the downside of advantage. Having overcome challenges before gives you the confidence to know that you can, with effort and perseverance, overcome the this challenge. And the next challenge. Each time you do, you gain even greater confidence. 

Until one day you find yourself thinking, "I can do this. I've done it before. It will be hard, but ultimately it's just time and effort. If I just stay the course... I'll get through." 

And there's an added bonus. Having to face a series of obstacles results in a surprising outcome. Authors hope their books will change the lives of the people who read them, even in a small way. (I know I do.)

So I asked Case how writing his book changed him.

"Putting it all on paper, seeing what God has brought me through, seeing His fingerprints all over my life... it's a great reminder that I'm exactly where I need to be, and that He has fulfilled His promises to me. So I need to keep up my end of the bargain.

"Plus, every time I had to write about a setback... I also got to write about how great things turned out. When you look back, there are way more blessings than struggles. Writing the book was a great way for me to remember to count my blessings." 

Take a second every night before you turn out your light and, in that moment, quit worrying about what you don't have. Quit worrying about what others have that you don't. Quit thinking about the challenges you face, or the barriers you have to overcome.

Think about what you do have. You have a lot to be thankful for. Feels pretty good, doesn't it?

Feeling better about yourself is the best way of all to recharge your mental batteries -- and to inspire yourself to face whatever challenges you need to overcome.

Playing For More is written from Case's perspective as a Christian, but you don't have to be religious to enjoy it. Ultimately the book is about finding your purpose, surrounding yourself with like-minded people, finding the motivation to keep going when times get tough... which means it's a book for everyone.

(Plus: Football!)

Can't beat that.

Published on: Sep 4, 2018
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