Selfless in Seattle

14 Fall Selfless in Seattle.jpg
Clint (middle) with friends from Young Life.
Clint Gresham has a different vantage point on life. 

As the long snapper for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, his position is vital to the success of every field goal, extra point and punt. Pretty significant when you consider he’s accomplishing all this by looking upside down on every play. 

Some might suggest his view of life is upside down, too. It would be easy for this professional athlete who spends a lot of time working on his craft to fiercely guard his time and privacy. For this Seahawk, however, that’s not even a consideration. 

Gresham, you see, volunteers with Young Life and has a heart for kids of all ages. When Clint Gresham is not on the gridiron, you’ll most likely find him hanging with high school, middle school or even elementary school kids from Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle. If he’s not at their school or spending time with kids over frozen yogurt, he might be hanging back at the house he shares with four other Young Life leaders. 

Why is a man who has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy spending so much time volunteering with Young Life? The answer has a lot to do with Gresham’s own journey. 

“SO MESSED UP” 

The 27-year-old remembers well his own struggles as a kid in Texas. “I didn’t get a full understanding of who Jesus was until college,” Gresham said. "My parents divorced when I was eight and I struggled with crazy insecurity and fear. I was pretty messed up with drugs, alcohol and girls, but in all that, I knew I really wanted to love God. I just didn’t know what that looked like.” 

Amid the temptations, Gresham sensed that God loved him too. “God was pursuing me even when I wanted nothing to do with Him. I get choked up thinking about it because I was so messed up. It was a slow process of God revealing Himself to me.” 

“I remember what it was like trying to navigate those years,” he explained, “and feeling like my life was never going to amount to anything. I had some older people speak into my life when I was in high school, every now and then they’d check in on me, and it rocked my world. I want to get calls 10 years from now and hear people say, ‘Clint, I was going through a difficult time and you helped me.’ I just want to be able to help as many of these young people as I can, because I remember feeling isolated and alone and trying to get my value from having friends, being cool or being an athlete and realizing that none of that satisfied me.” 

In his college days at Texas Christian University, Gresham met the One he’d been seeking, and he was a man set ablaze. On campus, he started a Bible study, where many friends began relationships with Christ. These early achievements were preparing him for a larger stage … the NFL. 

FINDING COMMUNITY ON AN ISLAND 

In 2010, after originally being signed by the New Orleans Saints, Gresham was picked up by the Seahawks. Thousands of miles from home and living alone in a studio apartment 30 minutes north of the practice facilities, the rookie was miserable and desperate for community. That summer he met Ben Malcolmson, Head Coach Pete Carroll’s assistant, who had arrived a year prior and could relate well with Gresham’s situation. Both men were originally from Texas and both arrived in town without any friends or connections. The two became fast friends. “You can just tell with certain people that Jesus lives in them,” Malcolmson said. “Clint and I have a friendship and brotherhood that transcends all boundaries and my group of friends became his group of friends.” 

That group of friends consisted of Young Life leaders who lived on Mercer Island. As Gresham built friendships with the others, he became excited about also becoming a leader. In October 2011, he jumped on board. “Once I got involved with Young Life, I was hooked,” he said. “I love the way Young Life does ministry.” 

That fall Gresham purchased a home on Mercer Island, so he and the other male leaders could live under one roof and build the community he had been seeking. “I really had it on my heart that I wanted to buy a home in the community we live in,” Gresham explained. “Because it’s an island, if you don’t live on Mercer Island, you don’t serve on Mercer Island. I also wanted to have affordable housing for our leaders and provide a place where we can do club, Campaigners, etc. It’s incredible to see what God has done with community here.” There is perhaps no one more appreciative of Gresham and his house purchase than Mercer Island Area Director Sydel McKim. “I love how he opens the house up for ministry,” McKim said. “That house is a revolving door, being used to share the Word. At times I’ll stop by when a group of Campaigner guys is leaving. Clint’s high-fiving them, telling them they’re ambassadors for Christ.”

These ambassadors were part of the massive group who attended the Super Bowl celebration the week after the Seahawks’ victory. “All the kids went to the parade,” McKim said. “A lot of the kids Ben and Clint work with went up and congratulated them. There was such pride. You could see how much it meant to Clint and Ben to have our whole community of Young Life kids and leaders behind them.” 

(And the mission means so much to Gresham that he even sported a bright Young Life t-shirt at the victory parade!) 

Just because he’s won a Super Bowl, though, doesn’t mean he’s an automatic “kid magnet.” “I thought I was going to be able to leverage the heck out of this football thing!” laughed Gresham. “It’s been a great way to open the door, but I get kids who never text me back, who stand me up. The fact that I play pro ball wears off pretty quickly, which I appreciate, because I’m a normal guy. But when you hang out with kids and ask them questions, they begin talking about themselves and you see them realize, ‘Man, this guy’s really interested in me.’” 

FLYING BELOW THE RADAR 

Clint Gresham enjoys specializing in two low-profile roles. As the team’s long snapper, an often overlooked position, he is critical to the play. A successful play for Gresham is if you never hear his name mentioned (as on a penalty or botched snap). Off the field, he is a huge practitioner of contact work (going to where kids are and building relationships with them), also an art that often goes unheralded, but essential to kids experiencing the love of Christ. Gresham is just as happy to go unrecognized in this endeavor, too.

“Clint would not put himself above any other leader doing these same things,” McKim said. “He likes to fly below the radar. He wants to be a light for Christ, but not in the spotlight, because that’s for Jesus.” 

That doesn’t mean he can’t have fun, however. Malcolmson laughed, “Clint is what we like to call a ‘ham’! He can ham it up with the best of them. That just tears down walls and people gravitate toward someone with a personality like that. Jesus is real to Clint and he desires for others to come to a realization of that in their lives too." 

For now, Gresham is content to simply preach the Good News through his life, whether at the high school or in the locker room. “I’m thankful God grabbed a hold of my heart before I got into the NFL. It really changed my perspective on my purpose. If you’re standing on the fence in your Christianity, you will get chewed up in the NFL. There’s no doubt about it — it’s going to make you decide who you’re going to serve. I’m a missionary and God has given me this level of influence with kids and people in this city. All I want to do is be faithful with what He’s given me. He didn’t give it to me so I could make a decent salary. He gave it to me for a purpose and that’s to reach young people.” ​​​​
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