Prince Amukamara among 2011 draft’s royalty

By April 18, 2011 Sports In Focus

USA Today reported last week that “Prince Amukamara may not be the king of the 2011 NFL draft’s cornerback class, but he’ll earn a king’s ransom as a potential top-10 pick. And he’d be happy to share the wealth with Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who convinced him to switch from running back to defensive back.”

“Definitely I think I owe him half of whatever I get,” laughs Amukamara. He could be forever grateful to Pelini despite his initial reluctance to switch to defense. After all, as a senior for Apollo High School in Glendale, Ariz., he rushed for 2,106 yards and 24 touchdowns.

But instead of a back, Pelini saw a Blackshirt.

“As soon as I got there, I thought I would play running back,” says Amukamara, who was mostly a special teamer for the Cornhuskers as a freshman in 2007, the year before Pelini took over in Lincoln. “When coach Pelini got there, he was open to me playing offense but said, ‘I can see you being a great defensive back and playing for a long time (in the pros).’ ” His foresight was 20-20. Amukamara mastered his new craft quickly enough that he was named the Big 12’s defensive player of the year as a senior in 2010. He’s also now steeped in the philosophy of the Blackshirts, the alias for Nebraska’s defense.

It’s not always easy for an athlete to defer to his coach’s judgment. Whether it’s about playing time or switching positions, most often their self-interests lead to a negative attitude that will impact their team. Thankfully, for Prince he listened to the wise counsel offered by his coach and he will no doubt benefit financially from it this weekend. However, even if there was no payoff this weekend in the NFL Draft, honoring his coach’s decision was the right move for Prince.

His answer didn’t surprise me. The last three years, I have interviewed him for the Nebraska FCA and each time he has been very humble when answering questions or meeting with me after the games. Prior to last season, I asked him how he would keep his focus on his senior season with so much attention on him being one of the top cornerbacks in college football. He said, “Our coaches often remind us that we haven’t done anything yet. Our team chaplain reminded us recently that there was a lot of attention on John the Baptist but he kept his focus on Christ and said, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30. Rather than being focused on himself, he demonstrated humility. As a team, we have talked about the value of humility. Proud people want recognition, the humble want all the glory and honor and recognition to go to the Lord.”

Prince has it exactly right. Humility destroys self-absorbtion, self-preoccupation, self-sufficiency, and self-reliance.

The Apostle Paul expressed this when he said:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Humility and the Gospel: If we really honor God in sports, then a humble heart is key. A humble heart produces a humble life, which honors God and not ourselves. The good news is that God helps us in this process as we grow in Christ-like humility. The tough part is that it’s in direct opposition to our nature, so it must be a daily battle. The more humble we become, the less we should think we are humble. The more we chase humility the more we will feel it moving farther away from us.

Prince Amukamara on the Gospel: When I recognize that I have been forgiven for my sin against God because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, it reminds me that my purpose is to glorify Him through sports.  As someone that has repented of my sin and placed my faith in Christ, I have confidence that the Lord is in control of my past, present and future.  Therefore, I don’t need to worry about my stats or recognition that I might receive from playing football. The Lord will take care of the results, I just need to stay focused on being humble and playing for Him.

Family Facts about Prince Amukamara: his parents are Nigerian, and he has five sisters (Princess, Precious, Promise, Peace and Passionate). All of the children with the exception of Princess were born in America. They come from strong athletic lines with meaningful names. His father, Romanus, was a talented soccer player in Nigeria. He married Christy Nwachukwu , after she competed in the sprints for the Nigerian track team at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Their grandfather was the king of the Awo-Omamma in Imo State of Nigeria. Romanus took the title of “chief.” Their first-born son naturally was Prince. Princess was the first daughter, so that is how her name came. Precious and Promise were named after two of Christy’s relay members on the Nigerian national track team. Peace came during a turbulent time about who would have the title of “king” after Romanus’ father passed.

Links to Prince Aumukamara’s FCA player card and video interviews:

Huskers For Christ – Prince Amukamara

Prince Amukamara on the Principle of Isolation

Prince Amukamara on Leadership

Prince Amukamara on Consistency

Prince Amukamara on Cross Training

1. How do you think most players would have responded to a shift from running back to defensive back? Why?

2. How easily does pride become a problem on your team?

3. Here is a remix of a quote from the great preacher Charles Spurgeon. Discuss as it relates to your team.

“…There are some weeds that will grow anywhere; and one of them is Pride. Pride will grow on a rock as well as in a garden. Pride will grow in the heart of a bench-warmer as well as in the heart of a superstar. Pride will grow in the heart of a player and equally as well in the heart of his or her coach. And pride will grow in the FCA. It is a weed that is dreadfully rampant. It needs cutting down every week, or else we should stand up to our knees in it.”

C.H. Spurgeon from “Preach the Gospel” (FCA Remix)

4. Discuss Spurgeon’s definition of humility. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

“The best definition of humility I ever heard was this … to think rightly of our ourselves … When you are half an inch above the ground, you are that half-inch too high. Your place is to be nothing.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gordon Thiessen has served on staff with the Nebraska FCA since 1986 He has also founded Cross Training Publishing (www.crosstrainingpublishing.com). He has written Team Studies on Character and edited The Athletes Topical Bible. He is married to Terri and has four grown children.

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