Black jerseys, face paint and an ocean of enthusiasm. These are the calling cards of the Raider Nation, which were on full display when Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr visited Monte Vita Chapel on Monday to share his testimony of faith.
Close to 600 people, most in Raiders regalia, lined up to see Carr, a local favorite with roots in Bakersfield and Fresno. They were drawn by Carr the athlete and quarterback, but when the chapel's seats were filled and the man of the hour stepped on stage and spoke, those in attendance got more than just a football player— they got Carr the man.
“It touches me every single time,” Carr said after the event. “I just want Christ's love to shine through me.”
Instead of talking about the sport that has made him so recognizable by so many, Carr stripped himself of his NFL persona for a candid discussion about his journey from adolescence to young adult and the role Christianity played in his personal development.
After accepting Christ into his life at the age of six, Carr explained how he began to deviate from his faith’s path when he reached junior high. As a California transport in Texas, Carr said his number one focus was to be cool and fit in, which led to an unfulfilling lifestyle that carried on for years to come.
“I don’t want to be made fun of, I don’t want to be weird, I don’t want to be different. And this is how it slowly started happening, just that little mindset in sixth grade, is how it started,” Carr told the crowd.
By seventh grade Carr was experimenting with girls, the start of what Carr called a “road of destruction.” He continued down that road through high school and into college, living a lifestyle of deception, to himself and others.
“I started hanging out, started going to parties, started having sex; I started doing all those things… Then I was like, ‘Well if I’m doing that I guess I can smoke a little weed. It’s not going to hurt,” Carr told the crowd. “I thought if I did these things and I prayed at night I would be alright.”
Carr’s life of deception and selfish pleasures finally came to a head while at Fresno State, however, after he befriended a woman named Heather who eventually became his wife. According to Carr, the catalyst for his return to faith was a letter written by Heather that included the line, “You’re not the person I thought you were.”
“I crumpled it up, threw it in the trash, fell on my knees and I bawled my eyes out that whole night,” Carr told the crowd. “For hours I sat there and cried my eyes out because God had finally grabbed my heart and said, ‘What are you doing? Enough is enough, I’m putting my foot down on your throat and I’m changing your life today.'”
The transparency, the willingness to show his vulnerability, was probably not what those in attendance initially expected of Carr. It was appreciated all the same, however, as his words were met with nods and callbacks from the crowd.
“I want to tell the truth. And if I think that the truth out of my life and out of my story, about how Christ turned my life around can help, then I’m going to tell you everything. I’m going to tell you exactly what I did, that way some kid my age doesn’t make the same mistake,” Carr told the crowd.
The sharing of faith drew a line between Carr and his fans, but it also did more than foster a spiritual connection with those in attendance, it also helped raised much-needed funds for the Turlock Gospel Mission.
The mission runs a homeless day center, meal ministry and cold weather shelter for women and children.
"It was a huge boost to our general fund heading into the summer," said TGM executive director Tim Guerino.