He was a seventh-round draft pick; few would have predicted that Justin Forsett would ever find himself in the situation he’s in with the Ravens. But his backstory is full of twists and turns that strain belief.
“I grew up Christian, a preacher’s kid, always in church. In a Christian household, I gave my life to Christ at an early age; I’m one of those guys that’s all in. I was one of those kids that went through high school with my Bible—reading it, praying every night as I was doing push-ups and sit-ups trying to get to the NFL. I wasn’t doing any alcohol, drugs, or anything like that. I was a virgin until I got married. I was trying to live the best I could for Christ,” says Forsett.
Though he was living in high integrity with his values and leading a God-honoring life, he seemed to be missing out on the attendant blessings; those around him kept passing him up, both in his social life and with college offers for football. This frustrating experience made him cry for help.
“It seemed like everyone that wasn’t a believer were the guys getting all of the blessings. They were getting the scholarships and getting the girls, and having a fun time. I remember going down to my basement and crying out to God and saying, ‘God, what’s going on? They don’t read Your Word, they’re not doing the right things, but they’re receiving the blessings. God, You’ve got to show me something.’”
God answered. Forsett accepted an offer from the University of California, where he played all four years. His time there was incredibly fulfilling, both on a personal and football level. He left Cal after amassing over 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns on the ground. (He had also met his soon-to-be wife.)
These numbers, produced in a big conference like the PAC-10 (now the PAC-12), had Forsett hoping that he would be picked somewhere in the middle of the following year’s NFL Draft. In fact, he had thought that the third round was where he would come off of the board.
“I had expected to get drafted in the third round. I had some great years at college so I was expecting a big day. My name wasn’t called and my teams just kept falling off of the board and it felt like I just had this whole thing happening to me again: ‘He’s not strong enough, he’s not fast enough,’ and I was asking God why and I was really torn up on the inside trying to figure out what my future was going to look like. Was I going to have an opportunity to play the game?”
Finally, the Seattle Seahawks picked him. In the seventh round. Though he was grateful to have the opportunity to be selected, he knew it would be a long climb to the top of the depth chart, given that three established veterans were already ahead of him.
“I remember in Week 1 we played Buffalo and I was inactive. Tuesday is our off day in the NFL; my phone rang from a Seattle phone number. It was the Seahawks and they said, ‘We’re going to release you.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, what’s going on? You believed in me.’ And again, the future was uncertain.”
Forsett marched on, even with this bad stroke of luck. He didn’t have to wait too long to find a new team, as the Indianapolis Colts signed him a day after his release from the Seahawks. He looked forward to the new opportunity.
“I was there for about four weeks and I got another Tuesday phone call. It was raining outside, I remember, and they said, ‘We’re going to release you. We’ve got some voids we have to fill at another position.’ At that point I was like, ‘Wow, what’s going on here? I’m a rookie and I’ve been cut two times in the space of a month.”
With his career now seemingly adrift, things looked pretty bleak. “A couple of days before that, my dad had told me that my mom, who had been battling cancer for a while, maybe only had a year to live. So I was at a point where I was a rookie, I’d been cut twice, and I was sending money back home whenever I got it to help my mom go through treatment and pay for insurance. So I had the burden to not only find a way to provide for myself, but to provide and take care of my mom. It was heart-crushing.”
Stunningly, the Seahawks signed him again, just one day after his release from Indy. This time, Forsett stuck around for the next four seasons. He credits his faith in giving him the persistence to keep moving forward.
“God always gave me a sense of peace in the middle of the storms that I was in. Every obstacle that looked impossible, He made possible. God is still opening doors for me. When people say I can’t do something and try to put me in a box, God breaks that box. He does above and beyond anything I could think of asking Him for. In my life, I’ve discovered God to be a faithful, loving God, someone who is always in control and someone who I can trust.” —Brian Rzeppa