For 23 years Kenny Johnson has impacted the lives of thousands of young men and their families through the platform God has given him as chaplain of the Indianapolis Colts.
As a Christian, former football player, husband, and father, he is well qualified and passionate about preparing NFL players and coaches for more than success on the field. The focus of his calling is preparing men to be strong followers of Christ, husbands, fathers, and difference makers in their communities. Johnson discusses the huge changes to the 2012 Colts, life without the great Peyton Manning, and the focus of his ministry to the next generation of leaders.
Q: As chaplain of the Colts over the last 23 years, you have witnessed the glory years of Colts football. What’s it like without Peyton Manning?
As chaplain for the Indianapolis Colts, Kenny Johnson is working with the “Building Champions on and off the field” theme this year. He leads Bible studies and prayer with players.
A: I just can’t process it. Seeing him in another uniform, I mean really. I hope he does well until he plays us (Colts) obviously. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be successful because he’s a winner. He’s going to find a way, but I just pray that he stays healthy. These guys have a gladiator mentality. I just hope he doesn’t take it too far. … You can’t help but care coming from a chaplain’s perspective. … You want to see guys be successful. Of course I want to see him play as long as he can play and be successful. I just really hope the best for him even though [I] can’t fathom him being in another uniform.
Q: Peyton was beloved on the field, but how much is he missed by the city for all he has done off of the field over the years?
A: He has been unbelievable. Like the hospital that he built for children in Indianapolis, the countless numbers of things he did for the city that you did not hear about, and what he gave back. … In New Orleans when the hurricane hit, he took truckloads and truckloads of food in, and clothing and assistance but no one ever knew about it. He’s just really a class guy with a tremendous amount of integrity. I have so much respect for him. He’s just a real studious guy, always attended and was involved in the chapel services.
[He’s] one of the most professional people I’ve ever been around. … He is a great guy, but as you know it’s the NFL, which stands for “Not For Long.”
Kenny Johnson has some experience with the fast-paced NFL.
Q: What is the emphasis for your players in the Colts chapel program this year?
A: Coach Chuck Pagano sets the chapel schedule for the team. Our theme this year is “Building Champions on and off the field.” I am excited as we have 50 new players this year and a whole new coaching staff. I do miss some of the old relationships with previous players. Change is tough, but change can also be exciting. I am excited about the newness of it and the new passion with a new coach and players.
Q: Your ministry mission is all about helping this next generation of young people. What are your thoughts on the importance of walking the walk and talking the talk?
A: We go into the school with our “Power to Win Tour.” We just believe that when children and people begin to believe that they have real value … they love themselves and then they love their neighbor as themselves and they stop destroying each other…. They won’t belittle and bash each other and sell poison to each other. … The young men won’t hurt young women, and the young women will not look for love in the wrong places. … Our children are our future. Our children are our present. … What we instill in them to choose today will determine their tomorrow. We have to help these young people choose right today. We have to tell them that [they are] valuable.
People say, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” but I believe words are significant, and they [can] hurt you. I grew up with a mother who was a prostitute, and before she got better she would tell us we were not worth anything and that hurts. It was coaches, teachers, youth pastors … that helped us, that encouraged us. … They said we have purpose and told us we had identity.
That we could set goals so we could be successful, that we can fulfill our dreams and inspired us that we could choose better.
Q: What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give parents today?
A: Get involved, and continue to be involved. Keep youngsters as busy as you can and get them involved in extracurricular activities, sports and other things. … Get them out of the house and away from TV. … Kids have all [of] this technology and all these modern comforts, but I hear them talk about being bored. … Don’t just put them in front of the computer and the television where they can be educated falsely by the world. As parents we have to educate them [about our] values.
Q: What are some of the other ministry opportunities you are involved in throughout the year?
A: One of the campaigns we are involved with is to get kids to give back to [The Wounded Warrior Project]. These guys have laid down so much. … We try to go in [and] encourage them. We help by kids writing letters and delivering support packets. “Emerging Eagles” is the name of our non-profit. … We empower ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
You can find out about this and many other outreach ministries at kenjohnson.org or on Facebook at Chaplain Ken Johnson.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III is president of Sold Out Ministries. He hosts Sold Out Sports, which is heard Saturday at 8 p.m. EST on American Family Radio. He is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Contact him at (910) 431-6483 or email [email protected]. His website is soldouttv.com.)