Champion of Faith

Danny Kanell, former NFL QB, joined me on the “Good Sports Magazine Show” premiere in April at the Reach FM studios in Ft. Lauderdale. I had a chance to talk to the local former Westminster grad, drafted as the 130th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft to the New York Giants out of Florida State.

He played for the Giants, Falcons, and Broncos, where he passed 31 career TD’s and over 5,000 yards.

Danny and I talked about his spiritual and sports journeys and his choice to play NFL football rather than Major League Baseball; he was drafted by the New York Yankees out of high school.

His story about God’s glory in his life finds him as the Chairman of the Board of the new “RocketTown,” working on several radio stations as an NFL analyst for the NFL Draft. His latest passion is blogging online with AllProParenting.com.

CF–Recording artist, Matthew West, sings it best when he says, “What’s your Story about His Glory?” I’d like to begin by asking you about your walk with the Lord.

DK–First of all, it’s a pleasure to be talking about my faith and sports, as I just started getting into broadcasting on secular stations, and a lot of what they focus on is not always so positive. My story is similar to many others out there. I was raised in a Christian home with two parents who instilled their moral values in me and, to this day, I use those same values with my two little girls.

When I was nine years old, I went to a summer family camp. I remember not being too thrilled about going as I wanted to play sports or be with my friends at the beach. It was a life-changing experience for me, as that’s where I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. The parents stayed in nice hotel rooms while the kids stayed in teepees. I tell people that’s when I felt God was giving me a taste of what it would be like to be a Seminole at FSU one day.

My walk has been up and down and, like most, not always perfect. But God was always faithful with me and willing to take me back with open arms. I took my hard knocks and, along with all the setbacks, came life lessons. God never wavered with his faithfulness throughout my life.

CF–Talk about the challenges as a Christian professional athlete in the locker rooms, when temptations are everywhere.

DK–Absolutely. It’s very difficult to stay grounded and face reality. I’ve spoken about this on secular stations because, as a professional athlete, you are treated differently. It is a dream world.

You really are treated like an idol; you get into restaurants without waiting; everyone’s smiling and wants your autograph. A lot of stress comes with the fame and, as in any profession, there are players that may turn to alcohol and drugs and fall to the temptations of money and women throwing themselves at them. I find that the men who rely on their faith during these times have the most longevity in the game.

CF–We know that Bobby Bowden is a strong Man of God. Tell us how the good ol’ coach got you to go to FSU, where you had a great career.

DK–He is an amazing recruiter with a personality that never wavers. You cannot play for Coach Bowden without hearing the gospel every day. He will go down in history as one of the greatest college football coaches ever but, even more so, for how many young men’s lives he’s saved as he speaks all over the country. The QB coach was Mark Richt, who is also a strong Christian, and he would use “The Daily Bread” devotionals before the start of every practice. I knew I was going to the right school.

CF–Since you retired a few years ago at a young age, what are some of the exciting areas you’re now focusing on in your life as a father of two young girls?

DK–I talked about the dream world of a professional athlete, but then retirement set in. It’s been a tough transition for me. I was trying to plan for when my career on the field would end but when it actually happened, it was a rude awakening to reality. Now I’m the old guy and can’t play anymore. I had an investment business that failed. That was a struggle and a real test of my faith. It’s caused me to get closer to God. I’ve had a chance to do some color commentary and broadcasting and really like the idea of expanding that career opportunity.

I’ve also started a new blog at: www.allproparenting.com where parents can ask me questions about raising kids to be successful athletes. I want to share my advice to not always expect to have the next Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, or Tiger Woods. It’s more important to raise healthy, confident young people and NOT to make winning the ONLY thing out there. It is important for them to be well-rounded and able to handle the challenges on and off the competitive playing fields.

I’m not an expert, but I want to share the biblical principles instilled in me by my own parents and how they raised a successful professional athlete grounded with God.

CF–Finally, Danny, you not only excelled in football in high school at Westminster and then at FSU, but you played high level baseball and were drafted by Milwaukee and then the New York Yankees. You still chose the NFL. Why?

DK–I’d say that football chose me. I was blessed with a great NFL career but my passion and love growing up was always baseball. I always had a bat and glove in my hands and tagged along with my Dad, who was the doctor for the New York Yankees, when they had spring training in Ft. Lauderdale.

I always felt I was a better baseball player than a football player. I passed up an offer by the Milwaukee Brewers right out of high school as I wanted to get my college education at FSU. I was able to play both sports my first two years at FSU. The next thing I knew, God blessed me by allowing me to be drafted by the New York Giants in the NFL and the rest, as they say, is history.

Carl Foster is the host/producer of the weekly “Good Sports Magazine Show” heard live Sunday evenings at 7pm ET on over 45 FM stations in Florida and worldwide at www.reachfm.org. You can also hear “The Good Sports Minute” each weekday morning (Mon.-Fri) at 7:30am on Reach FM during The Morning Show with Bob and Anitra.
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