For decades now, football has been America’s favorite sport. The NFL generates nearly 20 billion dollars a year and showcases some of the world’s most recognizable players. Everyone knows their team’s quarterback and receivers. But what about the long snapper?
Will Dawson: "Morgan, for those who don’t know, what does a long snapper do?"
Morgan Cox: "On fourth down I will take the ball and snap it back to the punter. And once he punts it, I got to run down the field and try and tackle the most athletic guys on their team usually. And then on a field goal, I'll snap the ball back to the holder and hopefully the laces hit him just in such a way that he can just set the ball down and the ball takes off towards the uprights and goes through the yellow things."
Dawson: "It sounds like an important position."
Cox: "You know, I'm a little biased. I think it's pretty important."
Morgan Cox is one of the most decorated long snappers in NFL history. He’s a Super Bowl champion, a 5-time Pro-Bowler and the first at his position selected as All-Pro.
Dawson: "Patrick Mahomes, O.J. Simpson, J.J. Watt and Morgan Cox, what do all those players have in common?"
Cox: "Well, we all have been in the NFL?"
Dawson: "Five Pro Bowls."
Cox: "Oh, okay."
Dawson: "You guys are all on the same playing field."
Cox: "Okay, I don't know about that. The saying goes is, you know, you're doing your job well if nobody knows your name as a long snapper. And so I love it that way. I get to share the victories that my teammates have, you know, over the years, making kicks, making important kicks at the end of games. I know I played a part in it."
Morgan played college football at Tennessee, however, as vital as his role was, he wasn’t on scholarship. In 2010 he went undrafted in the NFL, though he signed with the Baltimore Ravens, where he would spend eleven seasons. In 2021, he signed with the Tennessee Titans.
“I never wanted to be more than what I was,” said Morgan. “I mean, I knew the gifts that I'd been given. Of course, I would love to be more athletic, would love to be faster, would love to be stronger and all that stuff. When I look back on my journey, there's no real explanation for this path I've been on. I got to be on this ride because I feel God's hand.”
When he was eight-years-old, Morgan gave his life to God.
“I felt the Holy Spirit moving in my life into my heart and I wanted to accept God's gift of Jesus Christ in my heart. And I sat down one day as an eight-year-old and accepted him.
Morgan recalled, "Of course, it's a big moment right there and one that I pray for my kids as well. And so, I think it's really helped me and shaped my life the way it is and my career, how it is and how I approach things.”
Morgan approaches his playing career much like his life as a Christian.
“That's how I look at the long snapper position as a way of playing a part, even as a small part, is an important part in the body of Christ. And we all play a part in the body of Christ whether no matter what your role is. A servant leader, you know, is something that Jesus talks about, washing the feet of those others. I think my position is a humble position. Like I said before, I try and stayin the background.”
And in spite of his success, Morgan is grateful for the chance to play with some of the biggest names in sports and sees his career as an opportunity to share God’s love.
“As long as God calls me to it, that is, I still feel a calling to the ministry inside the locker room. I still feel that I have a purpose and I'm playing well on the field, that I want to continue playing. But I don't worry about what tomorrow is because all I have to do is look back at how I've gotten to this point."
"Things that happened had to fall exactly into place for me to be here. And so, I truly feel a calling in the locker room to be a presence, a spiritual presence. And so, when hard times come through the season, if I'm battling an injury, battling aches or just mentally struggling or had successes, you know, I give it to God and know that God has me here for a reason," Morgan stated.
Morgan concluded, "It’s just put me in such an amazing position to be where I am around guys that may or may not have heard about the gift of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and about God.”
“I didn’t want to accept it, like no I can’t—I can’t go see him, this can’t be happening. I’m—I can’t be a single mom, I can’t—I can’t plan his funeral, we haven’t even talked about that,” says Faith Russell as she recounts her husband’s near-death battle with COVID-19.
Charlie and Faith Russell were preparing for the birth of their first child when Charlie became very sick. Doctors soon gave them the diagnosis they feared. “It’s like, what am I going to do, I’m pregnant, we’re about to have our baby, he’s got COVID,” described Faith. “And the doctor told me that we needed to quarantine from each other. I had to protect myself and protect our baby.”
Charlie’s health rapidly spiraled down, sending him to the emergency room multiple times. A few days before Faith was due to deliver their baby, he was admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU).
Faith says, “My husband is really sick, and when you’ve got a family member in the ICU, it’s not just a regular floor, it’s like—they’re really sick if they’re in the ICU, and I knew that as a nurse. [I was] just praying and hoping he wouldn’t have to go on the ventilator.”
Four days after Charlie was admitted to the ICU, Faith gave birth to their daughter Charity. Charlie was able to watch through an iPad. Though the moment was joyful, Faith had to face the reality that she was losing Charlie. Two weeks later, with oxygen levels dangerously low, Charlie was put on a ventilator. “A lot of times when they’re put on a ventilator, you don’t know if they’re going to come off it,” says Faith. “And I was just so worried and concerned, and so when I hung up that call, my first response was of course to just start pleading to God, but also to get other people to pray too. I realized, I can’t do this alone and that verse where it [says] two or more are gathered in My name, there I am among you, and I needed people to come alongside me.”
Rusty Russell, Charlie’s dad, remembers getting the news and describes how things unfolded, “They were talking about how we might lose him, using all this kind of language, it was very sobering—and then the medical staff told us that one person could come in and see Charlie. Well, we knew that meant, things were pretty dire, he may not make it, and that’s why they’re letting somebody in. And so, I flew up the next day to Nashville from Florida, and when I had to put my phone in airplane mode, I remember praying, ‘Lord, I pray that he would make it till I get there.’ I was concerned that I would turn my phone back on when we landed and find out that he hadn’t made it, it was just that dire."
Faith Russell says, “I’m 25 years old with a 2-week-old, and it was—it was hard, but the only thing I knew to do was just to pray and to give it to God, and my prayers weren’t pretty. They were literally just, ‘God, please don’t take my husband. I’m calling on the name that changes everything, God turn it around,' and I was just praying those words, ‘God, turn it around. God, turn it around.’”
“Many medical professionals told us, this is now in God’s hands,” says Rusty. “This is way beyond what medicine can solve and I said, ‘Lord, this is in Your hands. There is nothing we can do, we have done everything possible, we pray for him, we pray that he heals, but it is in Your hands. We trust in You.’”
Charlie had low oxygen levels, Pneumonia, he battled through Sepsis, temporary paralysis, and was in a medically-induced coma, but when his dad entered the room, so did signs of hope. “You know, Charlie was paralyzed and unconscious, but maybe his spirit knew like that his dad was there and you know he was like, I can fight a little longer,” describes Faith. “I think in that moment, that was one of the first times I felt like I could almost breathe. Like, ok, he might actually survive, he might actually live. Just praying and believing that this was the next step that he needed to heal and to come home to us.”
Little by little his oxygen levels rose until Charlie could breathe on his own. After 3 months in the hospital and against all odds he was released to go home.
“My joy is deeper now. Every time I pick up Charity, and I’m able to hug her, or I’m able to give Faith a kiss,” says Charlie Russell. “I thank God for giving me that moment. Every one of those moments is such a blessing for me.”
Faith says, “Just watching him [and] how he recovered, he went from having to re-learn how to walk, to today, he carries our daughter on his shoulders around our house. I’m just overcome with just gratitude, that God has done that in his life, that I still have my husband, and that Charity has her dad. Seeing Charity and Charlie’s bond, our daughter’s bond with him, just melts my heart, and I am so just grateful that God chose to spare his life so that he could be our daughter’s dad.”
Through this experience Charlie developed a renewed vision of what is truly important in his life.
Charlie describes what he’s learned, “This experience has taught me two things: First, it’s taught me that miracles are real. They happen in your real life. They can happen to you. God cares about your life, and your story. Secondly, it’s taught me about what really matters in life. Trying to chase after money, cars, things, physical things in this world—those things don’t matter as much as your family, the people you love, ministry, the things God has called you to do. Those things are what really matter in life, and being on your deathbed sort of helps you realize that.”
Every day, Dular walks four miles to get drinking water for her family.
Dular explained, “The water from the stream is dirty, so I dig a little hole and wait for it to fill with water, then I strain it through some cloth into my water pot. It takes about one and half hours to fill the pot. Then I must walk all the way back home with it."
Dular’s family is poor, part of one of the lowest castes in their society. Discrimination against them permeates every aspect of their lives, even having access to water.
Dular said, “I used to go to an open well to fetch water, but people there dumped out my water vessel, and told me never to come back. That’s when I started going to the river. At the time, I was pregnant. Later, I had to carry my baby with one hand and use my other hand to balance the water pot on my head. It was very difficult.”
The desperate family dug their own open pit well. Dular said, “The water was very bad for us, and would get frogs and insects in it. It made our children very sick.”
Dular’s family are faithful Christians, so they turned to prayer. “In the midst of our crisis, we begged God for clean drinking water,” said Dular.
Their prayers were answered through the local church and Operation Blessing’s Clean Water program. When a pastor told us about the family’s dire need for water, we dug a well near their home, and brought hope to Dular’s family and their village.
“We were all filled with joy, especially the children. What a wonderful gift from God,” exclaimed Dular. “The whole village celebrated, and this well became a symbol of unity among us. No one is discriminated against here. All have access to this well.”
The Operation Blessing team also taught people about sanitation and prevention of waterborne diseases.
Dular said, “We work together to keep our homes and the area around the well clean and safe. Now my children and our animals drink pristine water, untouched by illness. And the water is so close to my home I have plenty of time to work around the house. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all who made this gift possible. May God bless you abundantly.”
Joshua Mason’s life was a waking nightmare by the age of five. Abused daily at the hands of his stepfather, he lived in constant fear. Then something changed it all – the birth of his half-brother, Lucas.
“There was joy in the home, and it was such an exciting time, and no one was getting physically abused,” Joshua said. “That was the moment that I actually saw what a family could be. Then, about two months into after she had the baby, all of a sudden I heard her scream, ‘My baby is dead, my baby is dead.’”
Lucas had succumbed to Sudden infant death syndrome. Broken hearted, Joshua’s mother sank into alcoholism while his stepfather became ever more violent towards him. Fearing for his life, his mother gave him a choice.
'"If you say yes, you can never come back,’” Joshua recalled his mother saying. “She pulled an airplane ticket out of her purse and she said, ‘This is a flight to your real father's house.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ I knew I had to get out of there. I was so sad that I was going to leave my mother behind, but I had to go.”
At 12-years-old, he was taken to the airport and put on a flight to his biological father, who gave him a stable home for the next several years. After college, at twenty-three, Joshua started dating a woman and she became pregnant. He was overjoyed to finally have the happy family he’d longed for, but the death of his half-brother haunted him.
“When she had my daughter, Lauren, it was such a beautiful moment,” Joshua said. “In my mind I had to make it three months, which to me, the research I had done said that Sudden infant death syndrome is the most common, or you have to worry about it in that first ninety days. Once you pass that point, then you’re okay. I was very particular about every little thing that could cause Lauren harm. I did have that level of fear because I went through that traumatic experience.”
Then one morning, just a few days to the 3-month mark, Joshua awoke to the voice of his partner’s older daughter.
“'Mommy, mommy, you're lying on the baby.’ I ran over there to her and I snatched my daughter out from between her and the recliner,” Joshua said. “As soon as I held her and I looked down, I knew that she was dead. I felt so much anger to the woman. I blamed God. ‘Why did you take her from me?’”
Joshua separated from his partner and spent the next several months struggling with severe depression. Eventually he got a new job and began dating another woman, trying to start his life over. But this time he was determined to not have children. Then one day, to his surprise, his girlfriend told him she was pregnant.
“I was terrified,” Joshua said. “I talked to her about how important it is for me to make it to that three-month mark, because Lucas didn't make it to that three-month mark. Lauren didn't make it to that three-month mark, very close. Just a gripping fear."
Two months and twenty-seven days after his daughter, Arianna, was born, Joshua came home one evening – to an empty house and a note.
“That note reads, ‘I'm sorry. It's too overwhelming for me. My mother and grandma came to get a U-Haul and take me back to South Carolina.’ Only three days to go at that point,” Joshua said. “Everything's gone. I've lost my family for the second time. That's when I decided, well, I'm just going to self-destruct.”
He began drinking heavily and taking prescription pills to numb his pain, but it wasn’t enough. A friend from work was shooting meth, so Joshua gave it a try.
“I became instantly addicted,” Joshua said. “I just don't care anymore about anything. That was an eight-year battle.”
Lost in his addiction and hurts, Joshua did his best to shut out the world. But then he met a Christian woman named Isela and the two became close. She would often pray for him and encourage him to come to church. Joshua hated God, but after experiencing an overdose that nearly killed him, he wanted to change.
“She would always tell me from the beginning, ‘You need God.’ So, I started going to church,” Joshua said. “At one service, the pastor said something that really, really stuck out to me. He said, ‘The devil comes to kill steal and destroy.’ I had essentially blamed God for killing my daughter, stealing my family and destroying my life. But I never knew that there was an enemy or the Devil on the opposite end, and that that was who the blame needed to be on and should have been on. One night I came home from a service and I went into the bathroom like I normally do, and I got the little baggie of methamphetamines out. I got the needle on the counter and I'm looking at it and I just thought, ‘I have to stop. God if you'll...if you'll have me, I want to give my life over to you.’ And I took that bag and I flushed it down the toilet. I surrendered that night to Jesus. I felt joy again.”
Following that night, through prayer and reading the Bible, Joshua found the strength in God to overcome his addiction. He also came to terms with his past, forgiving his abusive stepfather and those he’d blamed for destroying his families. He is now married to Isela and serves in ministry, helping to meet people’s physical needs while pointing them to Jesus. Joshua says that God has blessed him with the family he’d always hoped for.
“My family is my wife. It's the ministry that I'm in now, which God led me to,” Joshua said. “I have my family now and I feel complete. No matter how dark times get, there is a way that you can overcome whatever you're going through and that you can do that through God and by surrendering to Jesus. I went from the bottom and now I'm at the top and I did that through God.”
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