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Former NFL Player Vernon Fox Shares His Journey of Football and Faith

Faith, football, and BBQ drew a crowd of more than 500 men to the Victorville campus site of High Desert Church (HDC).

Special guest speaker for the event, Vernon Fox played in the NFL for eight seasons with formidable teams, including the San Diego Chargers, multiple Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos, the Detroit Lions, and the Washington Redskins.

Fox, now an ordained minister, inspirational speaker and coach for Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, Nevada shared his journey with God on and off the football field.

Born in a Christian home and with the natural ability to play sports afforded Vernon a great start in life. By the time he was a junior in high school, he put all his attention into football which in turn gained him the attention of several recruiting colleges.

“Every college that I sent my highlight recruiting film to offered me a full ride scholarship. It’s a funny story, but I like to tell young people so they will shoot high and believe in themselves,” he said.

Vernon knew right away when he arrived at Fresno State that it was the school he wanted to attend. He excelled on and off the field, recognized as an Academic All-American. It was during college that he discovered what it meant to have a faith in God of his own aside from being raised in a Christian home.

“My goal is to help them understand first and foremost, nothing is impossible with God. But it’s greater than winning on the field, it’s about winning in life. It’s about being men of character, of integrity, accountability, and excellence. I want them to understand they are created for more than football. This is a tool, a gift, but it’s not who you are.”

“Like many young men, I wanted to explore life. It wasn’t long before I realized my purpose was bigger and I was set apart for something different. God did this by exposing me to a unique friendship in my freshman year. This guy was my age and a virgin. He was in a committed relationship but remained pure. The choices he made were ones I thought only adults could do. We made a strong connection and at the age of 18, I recommitted my life to Christ. It was personal. It was my own conscious decision to live for Christ.”

Only a few years down the road, his new-found faith in God would be put to the test when Vernon’s entryway into the NFL was not what he expected. Having been successful all his life, he expected a million-dollar contract. He was projected to be a third of fourth round draft pick in 2002. But he wasn’t picked. As a young man of 23, Vernon felt like a failure.

Vernon Fox during warmups prior to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Invesco Field December 7, 2008

“For the first time, someone was telling me I wasn’t good enough. It was very humbling. I had a lot of pride. My athletic success had tainted me. All that time I was pumping myself up, feeling like my abilities, talents, and skills caused me to achieve success. God showed me that wasn’t why.”

Vernon goes on to tell how his “perceived failure” was used to learn reliance upon God. He felt overlooked, hopeless and that his dreams of the NFL were impossible. It was at this point Vernon said there was a shift in his outlook. He was at a chapel service when the chaplain of the San Diego Charger’s, Shawn Mitchell said, “You have to work like it all depends on you and pray like it all depends on God.”

Vernon says, “That was it for me. All I could do was work hard and have faith. I was on my face before God every single day. I couldn’t depend on anything else. It was a time of stripping where I disassociated myself from everything and everyone and focused on my goal of serving God. I knew if it was going to happen, it would be led by God. I wanted to be everything He wanted me to be and that meant cleaning up some areas of my life.”

It was during this tumultuous time that Vernon met his later-to-be wife, Tai. He had gone home for a bye week. At the close of the weekend, they discovered they were both on the same path—trying to do things in light of God’s word. It was because of her strong faith, Vernon knew Tai was “the one.” They have been married for 12 years and have two children, Daughter Tailynn, 10 and son Treylon, 8.

Vernon Fox with his family

Within a matter of four months in 2002, Vernon went from being the last person signed on the San Diego Chargers, becoming a sixth string strong safety. He went on to make the final 53-man roster, and in only his second game of the NFL, he earned a starting role. This time, Vernon knew it was God’s doing.

After playing football for over 18 years straight, Vernon was in for another shift. Like most professional football players, he began to look toward his second career goals and aspirations. Many NFL players go into broadcasting or coaching; however, this was not what he wanted to do. He admits to falling into a depression for a while.

“It was like part of me or a death in the family. You wake up one day and it’s gone. Even though I knew it was coming—I didn’t.”

He spent a year training and looking for another opportunity to play football, but it didn’t’ happen. This is where Vernon knew God was telling him to move on. Once again, he had to seek God alone.

Vernon poured everything into building a business in inspirational speaking. He was getting involved in Christian football camps and training. When an unexpected coaching opportunity for the largest Lutheran school in the United States, came his way, he didn’t want to take it.

“I was scared to death and frankly, it didn’t fit into my plans of what I had for myself. And once again, I submitted myself to God and His plans. I spoke to my wife and I felt the unction of God to move forward. God was up to something and it was perfect. He was doing something the entire time that I didn’t see. It wasn’t just a coaching position, but it was a Christian school where I could be intentional about ministry and exposing these young men about faith values and not just in a superficial way.”

Faith Lutheran Varsity Football Game Playoffs against Lowry

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your actions to the Lord and your plans will succeed” is not only his life-verse but also what Vernon’s coaching career at Faith Lutheran is built upon. Each day the team opens with a devotion and prayer led by himself or another coach. Once a week one of the players is challenged to share a devotional. The team has fellowship opportunities and Bible studies during the off season. The coaches look at this as not only a coaching opportunity but a chance to exemplify what they are teaching by example.

When Vernon isn’t coaching, he can be found spending time with his family, reading or writing and of course, working out. His Achilles heel is candy. A self-proclaimed sweet head, Vernon enjoys the gummy, chewy and sour candies. However, after hearing about a healthier version of the gummy candy Swedish Fish sold at Trader Joe’s he might give “Scandinavian Swimmers” at try.

Vernon says that his team bought into the vision God gave him—a winning vision of excellence and hard work. The hard work paid off too. Under Coach Fox in 2013, the Faith Lutheran Crusaders won the school’s first state championship in program history.

“My goal is to help them understand first and foremost, nothing is impossible with God. But it’s greater than winning on the field, it’s about winning in life. It’s about being men of character, of integrity, accountability, and excellence. I want them to understand they are created for more than football. This is a tool, a gift, but it’s not who you are.”

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