rebelling against low expectations

Drafted: Why Chris Norman Said No to the NFL


(Desiring God) — I invite you to watch this moving 11-minute story of Michigan State linebacker Chris Norman.

Desiring God commissioned the video because God is at the center of the story, and because at one key point, God used Don’t Waste Your Life as part of his surprising plan for Chris’s life. Special thanks to hip-hop artists Flame and Shai Linne for their contributions to the soundtrack, and to Michigan State University and ESPN for the game footage.

Why would a promising All-American turn from options in the NFL toward theological education and the pastoral ministry? The decisive reason came in 2011 at a Christian camp for athletes. He saw something different: People enjoying Jesus.

I didn’t know that Jesus could be enjoyed. So once I figured that out — it was the night of May 24, 2011 — Christ got a hold of my life, captivated my heart, and changed me from the inside out.

As it has happened for many of us, this love for Christ became, in Chris’s life, a specific call to ministry. About a week after his final game he decided to go to seminary. It is a remarkable story brimming with lessons for life. Lessons like . . .

  • First loves in life, no matter how good, and how intense, may not prove to be last loves.
  • Joy in Jesus is captivating.
  • At key points in our lives direction from God will be followed by opposition and obstacles.
  • Surprising, unexpected help comes along the path of obedience.
  • Drop your pebbles of Christ-exalting truth in every pond you can. You have no idea where the ripples might go. This surely has been the story of my life. Share the gospel. Preach a sermon. Give a devotional. Write a book. For example, Don’t Waste Your Life. And seven years later it falls into the hands of a Michigan State linebacker.
  • Now Chris has dropped his pebble into this video. Where will the ripples go? When you watch, you will become part of that story. And it will become part of yours.

Would you help us share Chris’s story with more and more athletes and sports fans? It will begin with your friends, family, classmates, and co-workers. You can send them to

Check out Chris Norman’s article, Why I Said No to the NFL, where he explains his decision and answers questions raised by the video.

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About the author

John Piper

wrote this article for and is not affiliated with John is the founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.


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    • This is terrible! This football player had goals and dreams and God shot them down. I can’t help thinking about how much happier this man would have been if he just followed his true passion. Do what you want to do in life, not what someone (or some god) wants you to do.

      • I strongly disagree, Guest. As a football player myself, I know how exciting football is. It is my passion. But, there are two things that are more important then football to me: God, and people. And pursuing full time ministry is an honor, and in my opinion, just as much (if not more) of an honor then the NFL. And as much as I LOVE football, if I felt God was calling me into full time ministry, I would do it, even if I was faced with the same decision that Chris Norman faced. I hope this helps you understand were Chris was probably coming from.
        God bless, Guest,
        – Trent.

      • I strongly disagree Guest. We are here in this world to please God and spread his word through this world. We should not get attached to our worldly desires and do what we want to do.

  • Wow. As a Christian football player, myself, I can really relate to this. I sometimes think “Does God want me to pursue football for the rest of my life or do something different?” I have looked up to the NFL athlete, Tim Tebow, with how he is using his career in the NFL as a way of sharing his faith. And I now am encouraged by Chris Norman on how he was able to turn down a football career for what he knew God wanted him to do. Thank you so much for this post!

  • This video was so convicting. Makes me wonder, am I truly willing to live for Christ? To do whatever He asks me, even if I face opposition? To do everything for His glory? I pray we all learn from Mr. Norman and his experience.

By John Piper
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →