One of the most crucial things for a successful entry to the NFL is the ability to adjust not only to the increased pace and speed of the game (and many other on-field factors), but also to the chaotic lifestyle that becomes available.
Luckily for many young quarterbacks around the league, there are guys like Matt Hasselbeck that are willing and able to provide the guidance they may not even know they need. Hasselbeck didn’t get to this point overnight, though, and he definitely had some help along the way.
As the son of a former NFL tight end, Hasselbeck got an early introduction to the life of a professional football player. Despite some of the obvious downsides, there was always a sense that it was where he would go.
“When people asked what I wanted to do when I grow up, I’d say, ‘I don’t know. I’ll just play in the NFL, I guess, like my dad,’” Hasselbeck recalls.
It’s an unrealistic dream for most, but Hasselbeck made it happen. He worked his way up to being the starting quarterback of his high school team and eventually was named an honorable mention All-American during his senior year. He drew enough attention during that season to warrant a scholarship offer from the prestigious Boston College, which he accepted.
After his four years there, he was unsure of his next ste. He wasn’t confident that he would be drafted, but things ended up falling in his favor.
“I was drafted in the 6th round, pick 187, and I can remember when I got the call from the Green Bay Packers. Andy Reid, the quarterbacks coach, said, ‘Hey, tell me what you think about this next pick.’ I watched the ticker. It started flashing, then it showed my name. I threw the phone up and we celebrated. I picked the phone back up and said, ‘Hey, coach, you know no one was probably going to draft me. You didn’t need to draft me,’ but I was fired up.”
The excitement eventually turned into the confidence essential for any young athlete, quarterbacks especially. “I got there and I saw that they had a ton of quarterbacks, but my coach came in and he kind of instilled some confidence in me that I didn’t have in myself. One of the first things he said to me was, ‘Listen, you need to believe that you can be the backup quarterback on this team.’”
After spending some successful years in Green Bay learning behind one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time in Brett Favre, Hasselbeck signed with the Seattle Seahawks and began the next chapter of his career, as well as a major point of his life.
It was there that he met Trent Dilfer. “He was a little churchy for me,” Hasselbeck says with a wry smile. “Come to find out, after years of being with him and seeing him go through things in his life, the dude is legit. He was a great teammate.”
Following a chapel service one day, Hasselbeck was disappointed. In the privacy of the elevator, he shared his thoughts with Dilfer.
“I was critical of what the chaplain had talked about. I was like, ‘Man, I’m so glad this guy I had invited to chapel said no, because the chaplain is never going to reach that guy with that kind of a message!’ Trent looked at me and said, ‘It’s not the chaplain’s job to reach that guy, it’s the chaplain’s job to teach you so that you can reach that guy.’ And I was like, ‘Woah, really?’
Hasselbeck had spent plenty of time mentoring players on the field, but he hadn’t really thought about mentoring them in their faith.
“I’m good at teaching a young quarterback the playbook: ‘Hey, what do you do here Fox-2XY?’ ‘Aw, dude, play action is the whole deal and I’m going to tell you, 9 out of 10 times you’re going to be throwing to the tight end unless certain corners cover, you’re going to be throwing the post. Otherwise, you’re going to go to the tight end right to the X and I guarantee that the X is going to be open every single time. Unless they’re playing 2-man on the outside or they’re playing bump’n’run, then you’re going to have your fullback and it’ll be an easy gain, it’ll be second and four.’ I know that; I can give that away, I can share it. Not only can I run the play, I can teach you the play.”
“But I wasn’t at a point in my faith where I could share it like I knew it, the way I could with my playbook. I wasn’t like a starter, I was like a rookie. Even though I had had the playbook for years, I didn’t really know it. I wasn’t making disciples; I was introducing people to the chaplain and feeling good about myself.”
Hasselbeck took the opportunity to grow, and continued to influence other players the rest of his time in Seattle. When he moved on, it meant he was able to impact lives in even more cities.
“There was a moment for me where I really felt something powerful that I can’t even really explain. Last year, we were at a conference-type thing. I had invited our two young quarterbacks and I was like, ‘Man, I hope it’s okay for them, I hope they like it. I mean, I like it, I hope they like it!’ They were teaching on baptism and I was a little nervous about how my guys would receive it. I was about to say, ‘Hey, I don’t know how you feel about this,’ and tell them my baptism story, but before I could say anything, both of them and their wives said, ‘Would you be willing to baptize us?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Yes!’”
Hasselbeck’s mentorship has clearly resonated far beyond any help he gave anyone with the football playbook. His relationship with God is one that he cherishes and one that he hopes to share with even more people.
“God is present in all things, big or small, all the time. He can do anything He wants to do, with anyone He wants to do, through anyone He wants to do it with.” —Brian Rzeppa