Former Eagle talks about fatherhood

With Father’s Day on the calendar, many dads and sons will reflect on the things that bonded them over the years—perhaps shared hobbies or a love of football. Some memories will be positive and perhaps bittersweet, while others may not have many memories of their dads at all.

Some of the stories contained in the new book by premier sportswriter Joshua Cooley called “The Biggest Win” center on fatherhood. In the book, Cooley tells the faith stories of six members of the Super Bowl-winning 2017 Philadelphia Eagles team—Zach Ertz, Nick Foles, Trey Burton, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos and Carson Wentz, including the father-son relationships of some of the players.

Soon to be released by New Growth Press on July 30, “The Biggest Win” gives athletes and sports fans a unique, insider’s look into the lives and faith of these champion players. Through the ups and downs of the game of football, Cooley shows how these high-profile athletes remain committed to God’s Word, genuine Christian discipleship and sharing their faith.

Burton’s story about fatherhood is especially touching. Today he is a father of three young children with his wife, Yesenia, and in the busyness of an NFL career and as a husband and dad, Burton makes it a point to find time for God as well, often being creative in the process.

“In a quest to find literal quiet times, he has hidden in his bedroom closet ‘just to get away, just to allow the Spirit to speak and reveal himself,’” Cooley writes about Burton in “The Biggest Win.” “But tranquility doesn’t last. Before long, like little heat-seeking missiles in diapers and pull-ups, the kids began scouring the house for Dad. ‘After they take their showers and their baths,’ Burton says, ‘they bang on every door trying to find me.’”

Burton wouldn’t have it any other way, as he had a much different father-son experience growing up.

In “The Biggest Win,” Burton equates waiting for a call during the 2014 NFL Draft to waiting for a call from his absent father long before he became a football pro.

“An idle cell phone on draft weekend was nothing, really—child’s play,” Cooley writes while telling Burton’s story. “That captures it well, for it describes one of those indelible memories of youth when two children experienced an excruciating reminder of adult failure. Burton and his two younger brothers grew up in a single-parent home. Trey’s father left his mother when Trey was two weeks old. Trey has only seen his father three or four times in his entire life. When he was 12 and his brother Clay was 11, their father returned to Florida for several months, so their mother allowed visitations. During one of those scheduled visits, Trey and Clay went to the apartment complex where their dad was staying. But when they knocked on his door, no one answered. They tried again. Nothing.”

The attendant at the front desk of the building told the boys their father had moved out a few days earlier. That week, they thought they saw him again through a window while playing basketball at a fitness center, but the man vanished. Over the years, Burton thinks he has spotted a familiar face in the crowd at his games.

“I’m one-hundred-percent certain that I’ve seen him at my high school football and basketball games,” he told Cooley for the book. “I’m sure he’s been to some of my college games, and probably some of my NFL games, for all I know. Other than that, when I was 12 years old and at the basketball court, I have never seen him again.”

Sports helped anesthetize some of Burton’s pain. At Venice High School in Florida, he helped transform a laughingstock football program into a powerhouse. Urban Meyer, the then-head coach at the University of Florida, recruited him to be a potential heir to Tim Tebow, but ultimately the coaching staff chose another QB as Tebow’s backup. Burton played mostly as a quarterback, running back and receiver. In fact, he broke Tebow’s school record with six touchdowns (five rushing, one passing) and 36 points against Kentucky. But when a new coach took over at Florida, Burton’s role diminished further. He started only four games as a junior and says he “hated football so much that I was literally about to quit.”

It certainly wasn’t the college career he had envisioned. And Burton had much uncertainty in his personal life, too. While in college, then-girlfriend Yesenia became pregnant. They prayed to God for guidance and decided to keep and raise the baby together, despite advice to the contrary from some family members.

Trey Burton would be the dad he didn’t have growing up.

Back to the 2014 Draft, Burton’s phone never rang that day either. But when the Draft ended, ironically, that’s when his cell phone sprang to life. Teams that avoided spending a draft pick on him suddenly showed great interest. Trey and Yesenia retreated to a quiet room to pray and ask that God’s will to be done. Within 10 minutes, Burton told Cooley, “we just felt God was calling us to Philly.”

“The Biggest Win” combines biblical truths with practical direction on issues that every Christian face, including dealing with adversity, competition, change, success, failure and how to thrive by faith in a pressurized world. Encouraging male and female athletes in any sport, “The Biggest Win” guides them in finding their ultimate identity in Christ, not their athletic achievements.

A percentage of the book sales from “The Biggest Win” will go to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the international sports ministry with a vision to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.

Cooley is also the author or co-author of “The One Year Devotions with Jesus: 365 Devotions to Help You Know and Love the Savior,” “Heroes of the Bible Devotional: 90 Devotions to Help You Become a Hero of God!” and “The One Year Sports Devotions for Kids.” He also co-authored Nick Foles’ forthcoming memoir, “Believe It,” which is scheduled for release in late June.

New Growth Press (NGP) publishes gospel-centered, Bible-based materials that provide churches, families, and individuals with resources for personal and spiritual growth and change. The growing Christian publisher produces a wide variety of gospel-centered resources for individuals, families and churches. NGP also publishes books, mini books, small group and Gospel Story for Kids resources that provide churches, families and individuals with gospel-driven publications for all ages.

“The Biggest Win” is available now for preorder at Amazon.com or ChristianBook.com. View the media page for “The Biggest Win” here, or visit joshuacooleyauthor.com/the-biggest-win or the New Growth Press page at newgrowthpress.com/the-biggest-win.

 

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