As the parent of a diabetic teenager, I was eager to read First and Goal, a devotional book for teens and young adults by professional football player Jake Byrne. That's because the author is diabetic too; like my son, he was diagnosed as an adolescent. Subtitled "What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up," this book celebrates dedication, perseverance and faith.
Here's more about the book:
Jake Byrne dreamed of playing professional football. He had the size, the talent, the drive...but at age 14, he found out he also had type 1 diabetes. Still, Jake was determined to reach his goal. And God was determined to guide and empower him all along the way.
In this book, Jake takes you to the weight room, practice field, and even across the goal line. You'll feel as if you're lined up next to him, facing a very large defender you're about to take down. He also includes Scripture and then ties up each story in a way that feels real and encouraging.
After I read First and Goal, Jake graciously answered a few questions about himself and his book:
- How did you develop such confidence to be able to witness in this powerful way?
I was baptized as a baby, had first communion in the second grade. I took Catechism classes up until my confirmation in the eighth grade. Through all my years of religious instruction and church attendance, God has always been real to me. I know that without Him, I can’t go far. Maybe I’m not always the perfect Christian, but God has always been the perfect God. If I have confidence in what I share about God, it’s because of God, not me. Christian actions speak louder than words and I’ve always tried to be true to who I am and who God is in my life. My faith is about the person I am, not the words I say.
- What has been your biggest challenge as a diabetic?
Competing in the National Football League—managing it and competing on that high of a level every day.
- When did your faith become an important part of your life?
It always has been an important part of my life, but as I've gotten older and through tougher life challenges, I have leaned more on my faith. My faith in God gives me strength. God is the shoulder I lean on and the rock that keeps me grounded.
Jake Byrne grew up in Rogers, Arkansas. A type 1 diabetic since the age of fourteen, he has since been proactive combating the disease and mentoring diabetic youth. He played football for the University of Wisconsin as a tight end, and went on to compete in the NFL. Originally an undrafted free agent who signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2012, he has also been a Houston Texan, Kansas City Chief, and San Diego Charger. Currently, Jake and his wife Emma life in Dallas and have two dogs –Yeti the Great Dane and Duke the Dogo Argentino. Jake blogs at www.typewon.net and is on Twitter @sugarfreejb82 and Instagram at Jakebyrne81. He also has a Facebook page.
I'll be giving this devotional to my son, because Jake is honest throughout the book about what it takes to manage diabetes. He presents all of that as a natural part of his life--what he needs to do in order to stay healthy. He shows that it is possible to perform in a physically-demanding sport despite a challenging medical condition. He admits to frustration but he also is reconciled to what he needs to do, and he is not afraid to step out in witness to the faith that is a vital part of his life.
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Copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
All images courtesy of Holly Michael and Jake Byrne. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom of 3 young adults, and a Secular Franciscan. She is editor at CatholicMom.com. Barb enjoys writing, cooking, and reading, and is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.