From the Press Box: Valuable lessons in faith and perseverance can be learned from Kirk Cousins

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About two years ago, I lauded then Vikings quarterback Case Keenum for his testament of faith and calling his big game-winning play against the Saints the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs the “third-biggest” moment of his life behind turning his life over to Christ (No. 1) and marrying his wife (No. 2).

Once again, I am impressed with a Vikings quarterback. This time it’s  Kirk Cousins, who took similar action after his game-winning drive in overtime to once again knock the Saints out of the playoffs:

Cousins was told by Fox Sports’ Chris Myers, “I know you are deep in your own faith. I know you try to handle it like a professional, but you can’t block all the outside noise.”

Maybe Myers was trying to bait Cousins to say something to shut up his critics, who understandably didn’t give him or the Vikings a chance as he was 6-30 versus teams with a winning record and 17-26 on the road. 

Maybe Myers wanted a “cooler” answer than a prototypical Christian answer of “leaving it up to God” as Cousins has dealt with some adversity in recent weeks. (Myers seems to have indicated that he knew Cousins was a Christian and may have talked to him about the “noise” before.)

Or maybe Myers was just doing his job as a journalist, read the writing on the wall and asked Cousins a question related to the topic. 

Whatever Myers’ motive was, it didn’t matter. Cousins answered it in a manner we are not accustomed to from athletes at this level making the kind of money Cousins’ made when he signed with Minnesota.

“Ultimately, it is about the team. I am just trying to do my part for this team, help us win,” Cousins said. “The quarterback carries weight, but that comes with the job. Like you said, my faith is important to me. It is the foundation of my life. And ultimately, that (faith) is where I gain my peace and strength. Win or lose today, God is still on the throne. And I take comfort in that.”

As we take a deeper dive into Cousins’ career, leaving it up to God has always been Cousins’ M.O.

Cousins was drafted in 2012 out of Michigan State by the Washington Redskins. The Redskins also took Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in the same draft with the No. 2 overall pick. It has been said that former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan actually didn’t want Griffin and wanted Cousins, so he took him with the team’s third-round pick.

After a couple of years of backing up Griffin and going in and out of the starting position, Cousins was finally named the starter in 2015.

The Redskins went 9-7 that year and Cousins was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. But the Redskins, not really sure if he was their guy, put a franchise tag on him. Franchise tags are put on players scheduled to become a free agent, but gives the player a one-year salary of the Top 5 of that position. At the time, $20 million was the salary of a quarterback, thus that’s what Cousins received. 

The tag is great, in theory, for the short-term. Teams have a tendency to abuse the tag, however, and players hate being tagged.

Cousins didn’t moan and groan about it, signed the tag and got back to work. In 2016, the Redskins went 8-7-1 and Cousins was named to a Pro Bowl, threw for 4,093 yards and 27 touchdowns. 

Again, Washington tagged him. The two sides tried to workout a long-term deal, but couldn’t, so Cousins went back to work.

For the third straight year, Cousins threw for more than 4,000 yards, posted a career-high 70.1 percent completion percentage with 30 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

The Redskins were unable to use the franchise tag anymore and Cousins hit the market for free agency in 2018. 

Cousins signed the $84 million deal (fully guaranteed, which is the important part when talking about this Monopoly money) with Minnesota and instantly made this loaded roster a Super Bowl favorite.

While most players moan and groan, and even refuse to sign the franchise tag leading to holdouts or missed seasons (i.e. Leveon Bell), Cousins bet on himself and God.

Cousins continued to play and was rewarded with the first-ever fully guaranteed contract. 

Heading into 2019, there was a lot of noise surrounding Cousins and the Vikings. 

All of the talk centered around Cousins’ record against winning teams. His own receiver Stefon Diggs took a dig (pun intended) at Cousins after a bad game. 

But again, Cousins kept to his faith, didn’t get distracted by the noise and led the Vikings to a 10-5 record and now his first career playoff victory. 

There are several lessons to be learned from Cousins and his career. Don’t complain about your situation, just do your best to get out of it and stay close to Christ. 

In life and in sports, it doesn’t matter what the current situation is, God is still on the throne. You can take comfort in that.

John Lee is the editor of The Pampa News and can be reached at pampanewseditor@gmail.com. Find him on Twitter: @jcl1987.

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