Old school football fans know the name “Wisniewski.”
Steve Wisniewski was an 8-time Pro Bowler, playing all 13 of his seasons with the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders. Steve’s older brother, Leo Wisniewski, was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1982 and remained with them through their first season in Indianapolis in 1984.
Leo is a devout Christian and he brought his son, Stefen, to church every week. He wanted his son to learn God’s Word and to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Like many young people, however, Stefen didn’t realize how much he needed God in his life. He explained in an interview with Beyond the Ultimate; “I grew up going to church every week, but for a long time that was all that being a Christian was for me – going to church for one hour a week… At the time, I felt like my life was perfect: I was at the top of my class academically, I had a very successful football season, and lots of colleges were offering me full scholarships. I felt like I was invincible.”
But Leo didn’t give up. He kept bringing his son to church, listening to Christian radio with him, and sharing the Gospel with him. The hope was that something would stick.
Stefen says; God planted a verse [from the Bible] in my mind when I was listening to a Christian radio station in the car with my father. A pastor was preaching on Galatians 6:7 which says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” I remember hearing it and thinking that it made sense that our actions had consequences and that we would get what we deserved, but I never thought about what the verse meant in regards to my life.”
One summer night, that would all change. Stefen was in a car with some friends. He was driving too fast around a sharp turn. He hit a guardrail, lost control, and ended up going down a hill and into someone’s back yard before finally coming to a stop about fifty yards in front of a lake. The car was totaled, but, thankfully, no one was hurt.
Stefan recalls; “as I stood around waiting for the tow truck and police to arrive, I had a lot of time to think about what happened. The verse from Galatians immediately came to mind. I thought I could mock God by doing what I wanted, but on that night I finally reaped what I sowed. In reality I received not justice from God, but mercy, as He protected all of us in the car from injury.”
Stefen learned something beautiful on that challenging day. “That’s one of the great things about God that I learned from the experience: God either treats us exactly how we deserve, which is called justice, or He treats us better than we deserve, which is called mercy, or He treats us so much better than we deserve that it almost defies logic, which is called grace. And grace is what God offers us for eternity because due to our sins we deserve death for eternity. But if we believe that Jesus died for our sins and receive the forgiveness that comes only from Him, we can have eternal life in heaven with Him.
Stefen survived the accident, went on to follow in his father’s footsteps, playing football at Leo’s alma mater, Penn State. He also followed in his uncle Steve’s footsteps, being drafted to play offensive live for the Oakland Raiders. Stefan is now trying to do something no one in his family has done; win a Super Bowl.
But, most importantly, Stefen has followed the example his father set for him in becoming a man of God. He says that Christ is now a part of my life every day, and my relationship with Him has given me a purpose, it has given me strength, and it has given me peace.