NFL fans near and far can agree that the 2017 regular season has taken on a mind of its own. This year’s game has been known for a weekly headcount of knee-takers and fist-raisers, political turmoil and a glimmer of hope in a Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime show.
But no matter how much this NFL season is marred by negativity, it’s become clear that there’s one team we can count on to spread the GOOD.
Earlier in October, the team quietly made headlines after a photo was shared on Twitter showing wide receiver Marcus Johnson being baptized in a hotel pool prior to the team’s face-off against the Carolina Panthers.
Even more discreet than the team baptisms and individual devotionals on the YouVersion app is Eagles MVP candidate-quarterback Carson Wentz, who has been sporting a gray rubber bracelet all season long. The wristband reads “Dutch Destroyer,” a nickname given to 10-year-old Lukas Kusters, who gifted the bracelet to his favorite player earlier this year.
Lukas had stomach cancer, which tragically took his life this past June. But not before meeting his idol and role model, No.11, Carson Wentz.
ESPN premiered a documentary about Lukas on Sunday, which showed the young boy’s Make-A-Wish experience with the Philadelphia Eagles in May. His time included a trip to the Eagles practice facility, meet and greets with the players, and plenty of quality one-on-one time with Wentz.
It would seem that the Eagles had an impact on Lukas during his short life.
But what that incredible 10-year-old never knew was the impact he had on the 24-year-old quarterback.
After beating the Washington Redskins on Monday night, Wentz talked about the Kusters family, who was able to attend the game. He said wearing Lukas’ bracelet on his wrist is a constant reminder that “it’s so much bigger than football.” He said he’s been praying for that family for a long time, and doesn’t take for granted the opportunity to make an impact.
Lukas lost his battle with stomach cancer on June 12, just four days after his 10th birthday, and two weeks after his Make-A-Wish day with Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles. He was buried wearing Wentz’s No.11 jersey.
“When his family told me that at training camp,” a clearly emotional Wentz told ESPN, “I was—just got done with a hot, long, sweaty practice, and I was trying not to tear up hearing that from his family. To think that—that he’s buried wearing my jersey… It’s so much deeper than football is what it comes down to. It’s so much more than just a game. Impactful. Meaningful. Powerful. And just another reminder for me that it is more than a game; that it is an opportunity to do good, whatever that is, whatever that looks like, and to just be authentic and genuine with people.”
It wasn’t until September 10, when the Kusters family turned on the first Philadelphia game of the season, that they realized just the impact their son had on his own idol.
“What we see is Lukas’ bracelet, right on his wrist,” Rebecca Kusters said of seeing Wentz take the field. “It was humbling. And just a proud moment for us—blown away that he continued to hold onto that and carry that with him… It is not just a rubber bracelet. That’s a little boy’s dream, right there.”
Wentz told reporters after the game on Monday that he was able to connect with the family prior to kickoff. He even went out of his way later on to give them the ball from his touchdown pass to Zach Ertz, and gave the youngest son the hat off of his own head.
If Carson Wentz, and the heart behind the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, doesn’t bring you hope in this season riddled with negativity, I don’t know what will. There’s nothing better than seeing professional athletes making Kingdom strides on the football field. With millions of people watching each week, it’s safe to say that Wentz is onto something in his quest to remind others that it’s about a whole lot more than football.
Now that’s a role model we can get behind.