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Soccer Star Juggles Faith and Fame

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Walker Zimmerman is a fixture for the Nashville Soccer Club! Twice awarded Major League Soccer Defender of the Year and a recent U.S Men’s World Cup participant. The global player and captain remains grassroots grounded, knowing the same feet carrying his career also foot him a focused purpose – both on the field and beyond! 

Question: “You’re not long off that World Cup experience. The attention of that tournament, does it spoil you?”

Walker Zimmerman: “Ah, I mean a little bit! You know I had heard prior to going to this World Cup about a World Cup slump and how you get back and it's just another a game and the World Cup is the pinnacle of our sport, you’re representing your country on the biggest stage. The temptation of it is real to relax a little bit. Take you foot off the gas. You know, I’m trying my best to stay focused and making sure each game is of utmost importance.”

Question: “Why do you think this sport provokes global passion?”

Walker Zimmerman: “The commonality that every single person is capable of playing this sport brings people together - here in our cities, in inner cities, it can be in villages across the world. You just got to get something that resembles a ball, something that resembles a goal, put people out in the field and them run around and let ‘em compete. The accessibility increases its popularity.”

Question: “The margin of difference between hand-eye and foot-eye coordination?”

Walker Zimmerman: “I think it's huge. Having debates all the time with friends growing up who didn't play soccer but I played on the other sports teams with them, football team and I can fit in, you come out on a soccer field - you're going to be sticking out. It's not easy.”

Question: “The diversity, internationality, just take the roster of the guys you’re working with this season. What do you learn from them?”

Walker Zimmerman: “They bring so much joy into the locker room with their different cultures, different backgrounds, often times different languages. You can almost tell what their nationality is based on how they play, because its so ingrained in them from an early age. You see that within players’ personalities and it’s a really cool thing to put it all into one team.”

Question: “Isaiah 52:7 on your Twitter? How beautiful on the mountains are the feet on Him who brings good news, who proclaims salvation. Walker, how do your feet bring that to your profession?”

Walker Zimmerman: “Yeah! I think that verse in particular always stuck out to me when I was really young, and I highlighted it. It was the connection between soccer and the gospel. To use the platform that God's given me with professional soccer to glorify His name. I get to play on a beautiful field using my feet to speak about Him and honor Him.”  

Question: “As two-time MLS Defender of the Year, what is your primary responsibility?”

Walker Zimmerman: “How can we get a shutout every single game? How can we let it in the least goals against us? The nature of our club, our identity, we take a lot of pride in our defense. You got to see things before they happen. That's how you're going to get the advantage over the attacking players. So anticipation is a huge part of being a defender and so yeah, priority number one – defend!”

Question: “And Walker, then as a defender, you've got the franchise's first goal. What prompts your offense?”

Walker Zimmerman: “The belief that any time I'm up on a set piece, I'm up in the run of play, that if the ball comes to me, I'm going to put it in the back of the net. And I think having that mentality you're attacking it faster, you're committed to the movement that you're going to make, the jump that you're going to make. And I think it starts with desire.”

Question: “Six-Three height! That helps!”

Walker Zimmerman: “That helps!”

Question: “God’s natural gift for the headers?

Walker: “Yeah, yeah, the height definitely helps as a center back, as an attacking set-piece threat. And certainly, the timing of jumping and trying to reach the ball at its highest point and getting that power on it.”

Question: “Height and hair, you’re referred to as ‘Thor'. So how much power, how much finesse to your game?”

Walker Zimmerman: “You have to have both. You can't just run out there and be super physical and not have the touch. It's definitely a combination of the two. Something that you have to consistently work on - the power, technique and finesse and become a more well rounded player, having that desire to win no matter what the game is! The core of who I am, its being competitive.” 

Question: “Walker, do you think you’re born with that or do you think you pick things up over time that drive you?”

Walker Zimmerman: “I think its both! I think about the word destiny, and how I think God created me to be and it's honoring Him with the gifts that He's given me – that competitiveness and that desire. And sure, it's definitely been cultivated over time. But I'd like to think that that was part of my personality that He saw before I was formed in the womb.”

Question: “How was Jesus Christ a competitor?”

Walker Zimmerman: “He knew His mission on earth and whatever we do, we’re doing it for the glory of God. And I think no one embodied that better than Jesus. And all the way from the time He was born to the cross, we see that from Him. So definitely, an ultimate competitor!”

Question: “You’ve been the captain on multiple teams. Walker, what do you find to be the most undervalued quality to remarkable leadership?”

Walker Zimmerman: “It’s probably servanthood for me, or listening. Sometimes you can lead by just letting people be the full version of themselves, like come alongside of them rather than always have to be leading. But it's having the balance of – ‘trust me, follow me’ – and then ‘you’re right, let’s do it your way.’ That takes a lot of humility and I’m still learning and wanting to keep implementing into my captaincy.”

Question: “So your dad, a pastor, your mom – now an author!”

Walker Zimmerman: “Yeah! You know my mom has been probably the biggest influence on my faith. She went on this whole soccer journey with me! It’s called, ‘Play On.’ Fictionalized story about my soccer and faith journey, taking you behind the scenes of my soccer story growing up and probe and ask the questions from a kids perspective about who is God and what does this mean? Allowing the kid to learn more who Jesus is.”

Question: “What have you found as most inspiring and maybe even surprising about God in your journey?”

Walker Zimmerman: “His love for me in constant. It’s always there. And my identity is in Christ. It’s not on whether I had a good game or bad games, ‘cuz you’re always fighting for your spot. He loves me for me and not based on my performance is a free thought to have as a pro athlete.”

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About The Author

Tom Buehring

Tom currently travels as a National Sports Correspondent for The 700 Club and CBN News. He engages household sports names to consider the faith they’ve discovered within their own unique journey. He has over 30 years of experience as a TV sports anchor, show host, reporter and producer, working commercially at stations in Seattle, Tampa, Nashville and Fayetteville where he developed, launched and hosted numerous nightly and weekly shows and prime-time specials. Prior to his TV market hopping, Tom proposed and built an academic/intern television broadcast program at the University of North