Indianapolis Colts punter and Christian rock artist Hunter Smith talks about worshiping God through all of life’s situations.
Not too many rock bands include Super Bowl champions in their ranks. But Hunter Smith, punter for the Indianapolis Colts, is finding much success with his Christian rock/worship band, Connersvine. Smith, whom Beliefnet recently named one of the Top Evangelicals in Sports Today along with longtime friend Chris Wilson, co-wrote all of the music on their self-titled debut album, and take turns at the mic, sometimes playing acoustically, and other times with a band. Currently on the Winter Jam tour, where they are performing with artists Mandisa, BarlowGirl, MercyMe, and NewSong, Smith recently spoke to Beliefnet’s Dena Ross about songwriting as an act of worship, leading Bible study with Third Day, and the importance of faith among the Colts.
In the liner notes to the new album, you thank Mac Powell, lead singer for Third Day. Has Third Day been influential to you and your band?
Absolutely. I used to go out on tour with Third Day, back before I was married, and lead them in Bible studies. We had a really good time. Mac is a good friend of mine and he’s had a lot of influence and a lot of say in my life and my career musically.
It’s been a privilege to use them as a sounding board for a lot of things–whether it’s songs or ideas or future plans. All of those guys have been good to us.
You toured with them before you were in Connersvine?
It was not a musical thing. It was just a spiritual thing for them as a band. They asked me to come on and lead them in Bible studies and kind of be a tour pastor–sort of Bible study leader for them. I did that a few times with them. They never had any idea I had musical aspirations, and I certainly never wanted to violate our friendship by trying to sneak any sort of agenda in there musically.
It was good for me to be around the industry, but it certainly was not my agenda to try and get an in through them. They have continued to not be any sort of a resource for us and our involvement in Christian music. We’ve tried to keep our relationship strictly personal and not business at all.
Are there any other Christian bands that influence you that you are inspired by?
There are a lot of great bands out there right now. We think that Third Day is a great band. We enjoy the songwriting of MercyMe.
For both of us there have been a ton of influences that are both Christian and mainstream. I think U2 has been a huge influence on me just as a band, their songwriting. In Christian music there are a lot of people who we think are pretty special and like them as people and their music.
Do you ever feel the presence of God with you when you’re out on the football field or on stage playing a show?
For sure. I really do. I think one of the things that we’re prone to do as human beings is seek the presence of God more in the pressure situations–up on the stage or out on the field.
Do you ever feel strengthened by prayer when you’re doing those things?
Absolutely. I can feel the prayers of my wife and the people around me that are praying for me. I can feel the grace that comes from that. There’s no question about it.
It’s fairly well known that the Colts, and Tony Dungy in particular, hold onto their faith very strongly. Do you feel that faith as an important part of the Colts
Yes, I do. What I was talking about earlier, just being anointed, and not just in the extreme moments, but just in the everyday, ho-hum details of life—I think Coach Dungy absolutely exemplifies that, models it, does a great job with it.
He’s changed the culture at the Colts. It’s not that we’re some religious organization that prays all the time and has Bible studies all the time. It’s just that the way people live their lives, not all together, but certainly to a large degree, does honor and love God.
In what ways is playing football similar to your new music career? Do you consider both of them ministries?
I consider both of them ministries. It’s strange how it all works. From the public point of view, it looks a whole lot different than from the insider’s point of view, which I do have. Everyone thinks that the platform of a football player is such a huge thing and such a strategic thing in the kingdom of God. And while I don’t downplay that God can use me, I don’t necessarily think my platform is any larger than anybody else’s platform. God can use people in very normal professions to glorify Himself, and I see my job on the Colts being to influence the many men who come in the organization and leave the organization who play for the Colts.
And through that I’m not ignorant. Through that channel of playing for the Colts, I’m able to talk to kids and talk to people, and they want to hear what you have to say. But, I never want to get away from the reality that it is God who calls people and draws them to Himself, not men.
They’re two very similar things. They’re both ministries, but they’re both very different. Music is a ministry where you’re put up on a platform, and you can minister through a microphone to the people who are out there— talk, share, sing your songs.
What did you think about this year’s Super Bowl?
I actually really enjoyed it. There are all kinds of ways to look at it. Going in I thought it would be neat if the Patriots won because I know what it takes to win games—a whole lot of hard work, a lot of focus, and getting the right balances. For them to go all that way…it would have been neat to see them go ahead and win it.
At the same time, I thought the Giants were a scrappy team who played really hard throughout the playoffs and were right there at the end ready to make a run at it. It was such an interesting game. I was excited about the outcome. I think I would have been excited either way, but I thought it was pretty neat that the Giants were able to pull it off.
Do you find the act of songwriting itself is actually a form of worship?
No question about it. I find that every part of life is worship, and for sure, songwriting. The longer I write songs when I really get into a groove with a song, I just sense the presence of God around me.
It’s something not many people probably experience because of songwriting, but in other aspects of their lives, I’m sure they do. Being near to God and hearing His voice and sensing His inspiration giving you lyrics and ideas, that’s awesome. There’s nothing like that.
Will their ever be a time when you’ll need to choose between a football career and your music career, or do you think you can balance them both?
I think we’re doing a good job of balancing them right now. Obviously, I can’t go full boar for music right now in terms of playing year round, but I am still able to be fully into football because music does not take away from that. The thing about football is that at some point, [it] ends for everybody who plays. It won’t be a matter of if—it’s just a matter of when. Who knows when that’ll happen? There’s only one thing that’s for sure about every NFL football career—that it will end.