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Carolina Panther finds identity outside spotlight

SAN FRANCISCO (BP) — It’s safe to say Carolina Panther J.J. Jansen won’t make headlines if his team wins the Super Bowl this weekend.

He’s in the starting lineup and he will touch the football every time he’s on the field. But when the game is over and the confetti settles on the field for the Panthers or Broncos, the only way most people who watch the game will know who Jansen is will be if he makes a mistake. So goes the life of a long snapper in the National Football League.

But for the 2013 Pro Bowler, none of that seems to matter. His identity, he acknowledges, isn’t found on the football field.

“I think [my faith] shapes my game in the sense that it just shapes everything I do — keeping the proper perspective, keeping the proper identity,” Jansen said. “One of the interesting things is this has really been a year where God has been teaching me a lot about my identity as a son of God and a child of God. And all of a sudden you’re thrust into this moment where everyone wants to put you on a pedestal. So it’s really cool that in a year where I felt like God was really taking me through what identity means that suddenly you’re now in a moment where you can easily lose a sense of where you are. This has been a cool year to be on that ride.”

Jansen grew up in the Phoenix area playing baseball until the day he decided he wanted to be a part of a winning football team.

“We had an undefeated freshmen team so I wanted to play,” he said. “More importantly, I wanted to touch the football. And I couldn’t play quarterback so my dad long snapped so he taught me. I picked it up quite quickly and it was always one of those things where every year I got a little bit better.”

Jansen, now in the NFL, says he doesn’t feel pressure snapping the ball anywhere from seven to 15 yards. But he noted he is driven to help the Panthers place kicker Graham Gano and punter Brad Nortman do their jobs well.

“I just want to perform really well for them,” he said. “Obviously you want to do your job and take care of the team.”

Off the field, Jansen helps with a conference that equips coaches to teach Christ-like character and values through leadership. Another area of ministry for both Jansen and his wife Laura is working with a local Charlotte-based nonprofit ministry that provides furniture and beds for families and children that need them.

“It’s a really important ministry that we get to share our faith with [families] as we’re serving them as they’re transitioning out of homelessness,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to not only meet their needs and meet them where they are but to share our faith if they will allow us.”

For Jansen, the sad part of Super Bowl week is this will likely be the last time he and the entire team will be together for a game. In the offseason, some of the players and coaches will go on to other teams, retire or be released.

“This is a great group of guys,” he said. “And so it’s really fun to be able to experience this environment with [them], because you just never get to be together again. It’s been a fun eight months doing this.”

Kickoff for the Super Bowl, Sunday, Feb. 7, is slated for 6:30 p.m. Eastern from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The game will be telecast on CBS.