The Atlanta Falcons squared off against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 30 in what proved to be a preview of this year's NFC championship game. Atlanta tight end Jacob Tamme caught a 13-yard pass on the first drive of the game.
"When I got tackled, a second guy hit me right as I went to the ground," Tamme said. "Twice in my career I've known that something bad had happened. The first time was [when] I broke my femur in high school. The second time was that one."
Tamme left the game with a shoulder injury. He didn't return for the rest of the season. When his Falcons teammates face the New England Patriots on Feb. 5 in the Super Bowl, Tamme will be cheering them from the sidelines.
Not the most ideal place for a competitive guy like Tamme who has played in two Super Bowls previously, with Indianapolis in 2010 and with Denver in 2014. See related story. Still, Tamme's faith in God has allowed him to approach his season-ending injury with perspective and grace.
"I believe that there's a foolproof plan that (God) has for my life and that this is a part of it," Tamme told Baptist Press and other reporters during Super Bowl Opening Night events Jan. 31 at Minute Maid Park in Houston. "That makes it a little easier when you trust in that. He's been so faithful to me and guided me this far, and I know that ultimately He's in control."
Growing up in Danville, Ky., Tamme was raised in a Christian home going to church regularly. He says early in his career as an Indianapolis Colt, several men had a big impact on him—especially Eric Simpson, the Colts' chaplain —and helped him to mature as a believer.
He gradually learned, for one thing, that God is intimately involved in every facet of life, including football. As a youngster, Tamme said it was easy to believe that God didn't care about football and had more important things to do.
"Sometimes we have that mindset, and it's kind of prevalent, still," Tamme said. "God's bigger than we think He is. God can handle everything that He needs to handle, and I believe that God has a hand in everything we do, both on and off the field.
"God doesn't just shut off when we go on the field. It's something that I do for Him."
Tamme and his wife Allison attend Calvary Baptist Church in Danville. Brent Rowe, the church's pastor, said they are faithful attenders when they are not traveling. Allison has been a member of the church since she was a girl.
"He is a very strong man of faith," Rowe said of Tamme. "He takes his relationship with the Lord very seriously, as well as his leadership of his family in terms of their faith.
"His faith is something that is very important to him and something that he is unashamed of and is glad to talk about and proclaim."
'Sweet to be here'
Despite his positive outlook, Tamme's injury in October wasn't one he could shake off. He had reconstructive surgery on his shoulder shortly after getting hurt. And while he still has a ways to go, he said his rehab is going well.
He acknowledges he hates not being able to play in the Super Bowl, but he takes seriously his role of encouraging and supporting his teammates.
"It's really awesome to get to be a part of a group like this that can lug you on their back all the way here," he said. "I'm hoping they take me across the finish line on Sunday.
"Obviously it stinks not to be able to be out there. A lot of people ask me if it's bittersweet. I tell them, 'No, it's mostly sweet.' The competitor in you always wants to be there, but it's not bittersweet. It's sweet to be here and be a part of this."
The nine-year NFL veteran noted he's thankful for ways God has blessed him and allowed him to play football at the highest level.
"I do my part to do everything I can with the opportunities I'm given, and this year I got hurt midway through and had to miss the rest," Tamme said. "I know there's a purpose for that, so I'm trying to live out whatever that purpose is."
For Tamme, his Twitter bio sums up what he's all about: "Christian, husband, dad, football player. Imperfect at each. Trusting in a perfect God."
Tim Ellsworth writes for Baptist Press and is an associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.