HOUSTON (BP)–Before the NFL season started in September, Carolina Panthers kicker John Kasay wasn’t even sure he’d have a job this year.
Now he’ll be playing in the biggest game of his life on Sunday.
Kasay was coming off two serious knee surgeries, and he had played only two games in 2002. During the 2003 preseason, he was in a tight battle with Shayne Graham for the Panthers’ kicking job.
Carolina coach John Fox ultimately chose Kasay, based in part on his experience and his perseverance in overcoming a huge physical obstacle. It was obviously the right decision, because Kasay has played a key role in the best season ever for Carolina.
The Panthers finished the regular season with an 11-5 record, then marched past Dallas, St. Louis and Philadelphia en route to the Super Bowl.
Now, the New England Patriots await the surprising Panthers, and Kasay’s pastor, David Chadwick, has a good idea of what Kasay’s frame of mind is heading into the game.
“I would think that John has this game in perspective,” said Chadwick, lead pastor of Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, N.C. “He knows it’s a big game as far as football games go, but in the scheme of life it’s a game.”
Chadwick said he hasn’t talked to Kasay about the game, but he’s sure that Kasay’s praying that God would allow him to do the best he can do.
“His faith is first, then his family, then football,” Chadwick said. “That consistently comes through when John speaks publicly or privately.”
Those priorities are evident to those who know Kasay, and probably even to those who don’t. He’s very outspoken about his faith in God, and he’s devoted to his family. When earlier this season Kasay missed three field goals and an extra point against the Eagles, he was upset about his role in Carolina’s loss. But he was even more concerned with his 8-year-old son Stephen and some teasing the boy had to endure at school.
Kasay said he used the opportunity to give Stephen some advice about life: “There are going to be times in your life where things don’t go the way you want or expect them to go,” Kasay was quoted as saying in The Charlotte Observer. “But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love you or care about you. It’s just the opposite.”
Kasay has rebounded nicely from that game, the low point of his season. Since then, he has made 15 of 17 field goal attempts. The Panthers might just need Kasay to continue his solid performance, as the Patriots are formidable opponents. If the game comes down to a final field goal attempt, Kasay knows he’ll be under a lot of pressure — and he’s confident he’ll be able to handle it.
“God has put me in a position to glorify Him, and some of you guys know some of the injuries that I have had,” Kasay said in an interview on panthers.com. “But I have been very blessed to have been able to come back and play. He prepares me, strengthens me, and gives me the courage to go out and do it.”
Tim Ellsworth writes a weekly column for BPSports, on the Web at [email protected].