By Grace Thornton
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
It may look to some like Steven Clark may have had to punt on his life plans in the past couple of years.
But Clark said he doesn’t see it that way at all.
The former Auburn University punter says when he reflects on every part of his life — post-college included — he can see God’s hand all over it, working everything out for his good.
“Looking back I can see He’s always had me right where He wanted me,” Clark said.
A major part of that, he said, was moving from Kansas City, Missouri, to Auburn.
Clark started his college football career in 2010 with five games alongside Cam Newton and the rest of Auburn University’s national championship-winning team.
It was a major high, he said. But he also found himself dealing with lows that he hadn’t expected.
“It was the hardest year dealing with stressors of not really having any friend groups or anything and not having time to adjust with football going on,” Clark said. “I’d been a good kid in high school and I’d always had happiness in football and friends. But I didn’t really have a relationship with Christ and I hadn’t realized it. And I was unhappy.”
So he began to go through what he called an “Ecclesiastes chapter” in which he tried finding fulfillment in other things — a strategy that didn’t work, he said. And right in the middle of that, Auburn football chaplain Chette Williams took Clark under his wing and things began to change.
Clark started to see God for the first time.
“I don’t know if I hadn’t gone down that road if I would have known the grace and the love that God offered,” he said. “Chette was able to disciple me and help me learn how to read the Bible. And I got really on fire to know God.”
And because of where he’s been, he says he’s able to relate better now to the guys he helps disciple on the football team — who he has ministered to as Chette’s intern since he graduated.
“God really changed my life and I love being able to share that with the guys,” he said. “I can relate to a lot of situations. I feel like as I develop my relationship with God and understand His calling in my life, I can see that the anxiety and pressures that I went through were preparation to be able to fulfill a role here and be a spiritual influence for the team.”
But for Clark, a member of First Baptist Church, Opelika, serving in that role was never his Plan A.
The NFL was, but he didn’t really land anywhere after he graduated like he’d hoped.
“It’s a very small market (for punters) and as far as my NFL future goes it’s very up in the air,” Clark said.
As he’s waited, he’s been kicking, but he’s also been studying for the MCAT and working full-time with Williams and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
And he doesn’t feel like God made any mistakes with that.
“Being able to pray for some of the guys and doing Bible studies with them — I feel like I’m right where I need to be,” Clark said.
“It’s been really special to have him back and to see the respect that the players have for him,” the chaplain said. “He shares the gospel in his own personality and it’s very unique, and it impacts the players’ lives in a big way. And that’s the biggest blessing — seeing lives transformed.”