Matt Overton – the Man who will Buy Your Colts Season Tickets

Matt Overton

Jacksonville Jaguars Long Snapper, Matt Overton.  Photo by Jeffrey Beall

On Saturday, August 24th, the Sports World was in shock.  Andrew Luck, the 29-year old star quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, unexpectedly announced his retirement from the gave that he loves so dearly. 

People reacted in a wide variety of ways. 

Some offered their empathy and respect.  Bears backup quarterback Chase Daniel said that “it takes a strong human being to sand up and do what he believes is right for him.”   Former Tennessee Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said; “I comment him for having the guts to come forward and be truthful.  Personal health is more important than any game or team!” 

Of course, not every response was a supportive one.  Some criticized his timing.  Others doubted his commitment to the game, to his team, and to his fans.  Some, such as OJ Simpson, were most concerned about what that would means for their Fantasy Teams.  OJ tweeted; “Andrew Luck you couldn’t have shared the news before I drafted you an hour ago?”

The response that has garnered the most attention, however, was that of some of the Colt’s fans.  Some booed Luck.  Others demanded refunds on their season ticket. 

Andrew Luck

Former Indianapolis Colt Quarterback, Andrew Luck.  Photo by Erik Drost.

That’s where Jacksonville Jaguars’ long-snapper, Matt Overton comes in.

When Colts fans demanded a refund on their season tickets, Overton had a wonderful response.  He was upset by the negative reaction of fans and said “I thought to myself, how can we turn this into a positive?”  He came up with a brilliant idea.  He went to Twitter with an offer; “To angry Colts season ticket holders who are seeking a refund, I’d be more than happy to buy your season tix off of you & donate them to @Rileychildrens patients and their families.  I’m serious.  All love, Matt.”  Riley Hospital is an Indianapolis Hospital that Overton calls “near and dear to me.”

The name ‘Matt Overton’ isn’t exactly as well known as that of ‘Andrew Luck.’  His story, however, is an intriguing one.  Overton was a talented high school long snapper who also wanted to play linebacker in college.  To find an opportunity to do both, he attended a Division II school, Western Washington.  Western Washington is not exactly a football powerhouse.  The only player ever drafted out of the school was Dave Weedman back in 1960.  During Overton’s time there, however, there was a talented kicker and punter named Michael Koenen.  Koenen was named a Division II All American by several major publications and was named to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Conference team four times as a placekicker and twice as a punter.  He would eventually go on to punt for the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccanneers.  As scouts came to watch Koenen, they noticed Overton as well.

Overton, however, did not find immediate success.  He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of College in 2007 by the Seattle Seahawks, but never made the team.  Receiving no further interest from NFL teams, he went to play indoor football for the Tri-Cities Fever.  In 2009, he moved to the United Football League and played for the Florida Tuskers.  In 2010, he was signed by the Seahawks again, but again failed to make the team.  He went back to the United Football League for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, this time with the Omaha Nighthawks.

It wasn’t until 2012; 5 years after graduating college, that he got his first taste of regular season NFL action. He was signed by the Indianapolis Colts, where he played (with Andrew Luck) from 2012-2016.  In 2016 he was cut by the Colts and went on to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Overton’s career did not go the way that he planned.  He didn’t plan on waiting 5 years after college to make it to the NFL.  He didn’t plan on bouncing around through 2 other football leagues to get there.  He loved playing for the Colts, and didn’t plan on being cut.  He told Bryce Johnson at the Unpackin’ It podcast, that the one team he never wanted to play for was the Jaguars.  At times, he considered giving up.  When he faced challenges, however, Overton turned to God’s Word.  James 1:2 says Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of every kind, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Overton learned through his struggles that, even when God’s plans are different than ours, He is always doing great things in our lives.  Overton encourages us to trust in God especially in those moments.  He says “we like to think that we know best… When God takes you somewhere unexpected, just embrace it.  Allow yourself to have an open heart, an open mind, and be vulnerable to it.  Allow God to guide your steps because he will never fail you.”   He offered also the following words of encouragement on Twitter on August 26; “God loves you.  Right where you are.  No matter how big the mess is.”

 Like the rest of the sports world, Overton was shocked to hear the news of Luck’s retirement.  But he also knows that God is good, and that He will bless him, no matter what the next chapter is.  Overton put it this way; “Just listened to Luck’s retirement.  I am shocked just as you are but I 100% understand, support, & applaud.  We play a kids game for a living & there is a wonderful life to be lived outside of football…  Go get your health and your joy back brother.”

 

Brandin “the Archer” Cooks

Brandin Cooks

Brandin Cooks back in his New Orleans Saints days.   Photo by Keith Allison

The Archer.

It sounds the latest movie the ever-expanding universe of Super Hero movies.

But to football fans, the archer is someone else; Rams Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks.

Cooks was drafted in the 1st Round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.  He played in 10 games his rookie season, starting in 7 of them, racking up 550 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.  He’s been a staple in the league ever since, starring for the Saints, the New England Patriots, and now the Los Angeles Rams.

Cooks is a man of faith, known around the league for his character.  He’s never been in the spotlight for any controversial reasons.

That all changed in 2016.

After scoring touchdowns, Cooks has a go-to celebration.  With his left-arm push straight-forward, He pulls his right arm back, as if shooting a bow from an arrow.

During the 2016 season, Redskins Defensive Back Josh Norman celebrated in a similar fashion.  He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and fined $10,000 for performing what the league deemed to be, a symbol of violence.  The NFL then banned players from ‘shooting a bow from an arrow’ in future celebrations.

The ban wouldn’t stop him.

Cooks explained to NOLA.com; “Well, there are different forms of doing it. You just can’t shoot [the arrow].  I’m still going to pull it out. Whatever happens after that happens. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my team, but I’ll figure something out.”

For Cooks, the bow and arrow symbolism are not a symbol of violence.  If not a symbol of violence, then, what it is a symbol of?

One of Brandin Cooks favorite Bible passages is found in Genesis 15-21.  God had promised Abraham that he and his wife Sarah would have a baby boy – even though they were both quite old at this point.  Beginning to doubt God’s promise, Abraham and Sarah agreed that he should have a child by Sarah’s servant, a woman named Hagar.  After agreeing, Hagar soon gave birth to a son, whom they named Ishmael.  In time, God fulfilled His promise, and Sarah gave birth to a son named Isaac.  As you can imagine, there was great tension between Sarah and Hagar – as well as rivalry between Ishmael and Isaac.  After one specific blowup, Sarah asked Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out of their house and out of the community.  Abraham obliged.  When all hope seemed lost for Hagar and her son, God appeared to her, promising that He would protect and provide for them both.  He also promised that, out of Ishmael, a great nation would arise.  Ishmael cared for his mother and became a great archer in the process.

That story stuck with Cooks.  So did another verse; Psalm 144:6; Send forth lightning and scatter your enemy, and shoot your arrows and rout them.

Cooks recalls. “I just remember it sticking with me for such a long time, I remember thinking, maybe I can do something with this.”  The symbolism matters so much to Cooks that he calls himself “The Archer” and had a gold pendant custom-made in the offseason to wear on a gold chain around his neck.  For Cooks, the bow and arrow is equivalent to pointing to the heavens or dropping to a knee after he crosses the goal line.

“It’s one of those things that keeps me honed in and keeps me humble through the success and the gifts that I’ve been given,” Cooks said. “I think it’s a pretty cool way to give God the glory in a different way, and for other people to see it and buy in.”

The next time you see Cooks score a touchdown or make a great play and you see him draw his arm back as if shooting an arrow, remember God’s promises.  He promises to protect us from our enemies, as he said in Psalm 144 and He promises to watch over us, as He did with Ishmael the archer.