NFL running back Matt Forte refuses to see himself merely as a number on a jersey. For him, there’s no end goal in choosing to lead a life following the word of Christ.
“No matter how strong the ties are between the player and team, you’re always just a jersey number,” Forte said. “That’s why football is not the end goal for me. It’s about Christ. When people see me, I don’t want them to see Matt the football player.”
Forte made appearances at Christ Community Church in St. Charles on Saturday and Sunday. The former Chicago Bear participated in an interview with executive pastor Eric Rojas, where he talked about his relationship with teammates, growing up in different churches and the business of football.
“We have been trying to connect with Matt for a couple of years but our schedules didn't connect until this weekend,” Rojas said. “We had a very good turn out at all of our campuses—especially in the summer months. We were up about 25 percent in attendance for the weekend.”
Forte intends to play for the New York Jets in the coming year, after spending his first eight seasons with the Chicago Bears.
Forte said he will look back on his time spent in Chicago proudly knowing he put his all on the football field.
“Obviously, I wanted to stay here but the Bears had other decisions and other options to take,” he said. “God is still good through all of this… The Jets are great. It’s a great organization. I’ve been there for a full offseason so far. I’ve been able to get used to the facilities and the surroundings around it.”
Forte said he will look at his new job in New York as an opportunity, and not look back with bitterness.
“Once you’ve been in the NFL going on nine years, you understand the business of it,” he said. “From the outside looking in, nobody understands it.”
Forte said if there’s one takeaway from his experience playing in Chicago, it’s the many memories made over the last eight seasons.
“Most of them aren’t even on the field,” he said. “Guys in the locker room and making friends that way, it’s a unique thing. You got guys in the NFL locker room that come from all walks of life… It’s interesting being in the locker room—the games, the stories, and things that you have, and make lifelong friends from there as well.”
Forte noted how his faith has propelled him to keep moving forward when he learned of his new job being in New York. It’s important to keep a “community of Christ followers around yourself” and create your own environment, he added.
Forte grew up practicing his faith through Methodist and Catholic churches. He said splitting his time between the two factions was key to his development.
“I would get a lot of knowledge just by seeing both sides and how different it was,” he said.
He said having both ideologies introduced to him would become important to him in his spiritual journey.
“It wasn’t until my senior year I realized that it doesn’t work like that,” he said. “As I got older, I was able to listen more in church and it wasn’t going over my head and the information was sticking to me. Once the Holy Spirit comes into your life, it never leaves.”
Forte said devoting his life Christ while playing in the NFL has been a process but the spiritual journey remains the same for him, as it does for others.
“It’s crazy how I look back on my life and that even growing up in the church, like I was saying, how it’s always a process of continuing to get better and better, and more in your Christian faith and in your relationship with God, getting deeper with Him,” he said.
Rojas said having Forte speak to the congregation made sense on a number of levels.
“We hoped to be able to give the community an opportunity to say thank you to Matt for his on and off the field excellence with the Bears and that was achieved,” he said. “We hoped also to inspire encourage people in their faith and that was done as well as Matt's story and his life is all about pointing people to God.”