Weaver attributes faith in Christ as the key factor in his development, as a person, a husband and father and as a professional football player.
Former Carson-Newman College tight end Leonard Weaver headed for Green Bay last weekend hoping to help his Seattle Seahawks move one step closer to the NFC Championship game and then on to the Super Bowl.
Though his team lost to Green Bay on Saturday, Weaver had some significant milestones during the past NFL season.
Three seasons after Seattle signed him as an undrafted free agent, the Melbourne, Fla., product accounted for his first regular season touchdown and added to it with a 17-yard scoring dash in the club’s wildcard victory over the Washington Redskins.
Having been converted to a fullback behind Mack Strong, Weaver moved to the first spot in the depth chart when Strong retired following a vertebrae injury earlier this season.
“I have the utmost confidence in Leonard Weaver (taking over at fullback),” Strong, a 15-year veteran wrote on his Seahawks blog after his retirement. “I think he’s going to make people forget about Mack Strong around here. He’s going to have that type of impact. He has that type of ability and that type of talent.”
Seattle’s most effective (per-carry) runner this year, “Weav,” as he is called by former and current teammates, lined up as the sole back in a four-receiver formation. While Washington and commentators thought that meant pass, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck gave the handoff to Weaver on a draw. He went over the right tackle and scampered 17 yards toward his first playoff score. The result was an early 7-0 Seattle lead.
While Washington gave Seahawks’ fans a scare by taking a 14-13 lead early in the last quarter, Seattle’s defense turned the tide in their favor. The final 35-14 score sent Weaver and teammates to Lambeau Field and a chance for the conference title game Jan. 12.
While he is beginning to make an impact on the field, teammates say he has already had a significant impact on their lives.
“He’s just a great guy to be around,” noted Strong on the blog (The Strong Report.) “… There are similarities — being undrafted, in our faith, us spending a lot of time just studying the Bible together and talking about spiritual things. Those have all been things that have helped us become closer as friends. He sings a lot better than me. My wife can vouch for that.”
C-N teammates attest that while he has a new role in the NFL, Weaver’s lived-out faith has been consistent.
“My favorite memory of Leonard is his spirit,” affirmed Chase Fleming, who, as part of a group of Eagle alumni, attended the Seahawks’ last regular season game in Atlanta. “Leonard lives and displays on a daily basis what Carson-Newman is all about. Whether it is giving his time for others, singing at a church or helping friends to improve their walk with Christ, Leonard does all of these things. He truly lives his life full speed.”
Another former Eagle in attendance for the Dec. 30 Falcons game, Dusty Phillips, remembered a night in Newport when Weaver met his mechanical match.
“Leonard and I had been asked to speak at a FCA rally at Cocke County High School,” noted Phillips, who lives in the Tri-Cities area. “We arrived, listened to the band, and just generally took in the scenery for a few minutes before it was our time to speak. I went first, naturally, because I am good for about 15 minutes, tops.
“As Weaver spoke, I listened and began to realize some of the things he had been through to be where he is,” continued the high school teacher and coach. “I had never heard his testimony so it gave me a new appreciation for the man Leonard had fought to become.”
After the rally, the pair stayed for an FCA-sponsored fair.
“That will forever be the night that I remember introducing Leonard Weaver to the mechanical bull,” Phillips said. “Even in all his athletic grandeur, (he) could not conquer the bull. I used that night as proof that I was more athletically inclined than him for a long time. No matter if he outran or out jumped me, I always had the bull to fall back on.
“My appreciation of Leonard’s athletic ability pales in comparison to my respect for him as a Christian man,” Phillips concluded.
Weaver attributes faith in Christ as the key factor in his development, as a person, a husband and father and as a professional football player. He says the game has provided him life lessons that dovetail with his devotion.
“Football teaches a lot about faith, especially with me,” he said in the Seahawks’ locker room following a defeat in Atlanta. “There are hardships and hard times, but, if you continue to keep your head up and keep your confidence, good things will happen later on.”
Called “Bishop” by his teammates for his Christian commitment, Weaver says he is thrilled to be a part of what he calls “a big faith community” with fellow Seahawks.
“We pray together before every practice and after each game,” he said. “And there are a core group of guys, and we have Bible study every week. Ultimately, it’s all about accountability to one another.”
While most people think Seattle is about as far away as one can get from Atlanta and Miami, Weaver says recent unexpected news from those cities has rippled throughout the Seattle community. The murder of Washington’s Sean Taylor who lived in Miami and Atlanta’s Michael Vick’s admission of guilt to dog fighting charges — as well as his imprisonment — have rattled the professional ranks.
“Those have had a big affect,” Weaver said. “They are just like brothers. You know, half of the guys in the NFL have either played together or against each other. So something like these things happens and it’s hard. But we have to move on, so we pray, try to send them blessings and we move forward.”
He said he has also learned something about his spiritual growth in the wake of success on the field.
“After a big play you cannot really get caught up in the moment because nothing’s final. You just have to continue to play your hardest.”