by Greg Singleton

Whew! That was close! Just about the time we thought there might not be an NFL season this year, the owners and players’ association got down to business and came to a working agreement. There will be pro football in 2011.

Most of us fans were relieved, but we were also a bit disgusted by the whole fiasco. Billionaire owners quibbling with millionaire players about money matters seemed so greedy and selfish, especially in these financially difficult days. The scene left a bitter taste in some mouths. Perhaps you’re wondering if there are any decent people associated with the entire league.

While my wife, Martha, and I were writing our newest book, we found at least one (and there are certainly more). Samkon Gado is a powerful running back and 5-year veteran of NFL battles. We tell his story in Let It Shine!: Partnering with God to Raise World Changers, just released by New Hope Publishers.

Samkon was born in Nigeria. His parents, Jeremiah and Grace Gado, were second-generation evangelists and missionaries to Nigeria and surrounding African nations. Jeremiah made a visionary decision to move his family to the United States where he could further his education and share his heart for the people of Africa with missions-minded churches and organizations. So the family left their beloved homeland for South Carolina.

Nine-year-old Samkon adjusted quickly to his new home. He was an excellent student and his outgoing personality won him many friends. And then there was football. The only thing Samkon had known about the popular American sport was that “the ball was shaped funny.” But he soon discovered that he loved the game, and he was very good at it.

After an outstanding career in high school, Samkon played college football at Liberty University. Then, the door opened for him to play professional football. It wasn’t Samkon’s plan. He knew that, several years before, God had called him to become a medical missionary back in Nigeria.

“I’ve learned,” he said, “that God places these desires in my heart—for football, for medicine, for missions—and it’s for His purposes, not mine. I understand that wanting these things is not selfish as long as they’re in their rightful place.”

Green Bay (2005–6). . . Houston (2006–7). . . Miami (2007). . . St. Louis (2008–9). Whenever a team’s running back corps has been depleted by injuries or incompetence, they’ve looked to the durable Gado to provide depth. He’s played in 41 NFL games and amassed 972 yards in his career. Most recently, in 2010, he was signed by the Tennessee Titans but was released before the regular season began. For most athletes, this NFL rollercoaster ride would be frustrating, but Samkon understands his role.

“I’ve known for many years that God wanted me to be a missionary,” Samkon said. “I remember praying that He would send me somewhere that was very difficult, where the people I was around really needed to hear the gospel. I had no idea that God would answer my prayer by sending me to the National Football League.”

As this 2011 season begins, Samkon is back in South Carolina, waiting. He’s waiting to discover God’s next mission. It may come in another phone call from a team desperate for a running back, or the doors may open for him to enroll in medical school (as he’s already passed the MCAT). Either way, he’ll be salt and light in a dark world.

“I’ll just wait and let God unfold it for me one piece at a time,” Samkon has told us. His desire continues to be to minister as a doctor to the people of Africa.

Samkon Gado is changing his world. From the locker rooms of the NFL to makeshift hospitals in remote Nigerian villages (where he recently visited), he selflessly reaches out to others. His heart is broken for those who need Jesus.

For more on Samkon Gado and other stories about world changers, read Let It Shine! by Greg and Martha Singleton. They have, for more than 30 years, met the challenges of balancing successful professional careers in journalism and marketing while raising a faith-filled family (a son, Matt, and a daughter, Annie). Together, they creatively share their experiences and insights on family life at conferences, seminars, workshops, churches of various denominations, schools, and businesses. They live in San Antonio, Texas.