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Former NFL player finds fulfillment off the field

Elias spreads Christian message at North High

Elias spreads Christian message at North High

September 12, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN

HAGERSTOWN -- Keith Elias had everything he thought he'd ever want: An NFL football career, plenty of money and plenty of women. Then he found out everything he thought he'd ever wanted, wasn't actually what he wanted at all.

"What defined me was how many times I could score, how many women I could hook up with, how much money I could make," said Elias during Saturday evening's "Choices: Be The Voice, Not The Echo" presentation at North Hagerstown High School. "I got everything I ever hoped and dreamed of. I had everything the world ever told a young man he should want, and you know what I found out? It's a lie. ... It couldn't cover up the hole in my heart. I had the greatest lifestyle known to man, but I didn't have life, and nothing could fill my emptiness."

During his speech, Elias stripped off his New York Giants jersey -- the team he broke into the NFL with in 1994-96 after setting numerous records as a running back at Princeton University.


That was a symbol of his own shedding of the mask he said he wore because that's what he thought the world wanted him to be before he became a born-again Christian.

Elias, who also played for the Indianapolis Colts in 1998-99, was the featured speaker at Saturday's event, sponsored by New Day In Christ Fellowship and the Western Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes. About 400 people -- many of them students -- attended.

Elias said it "wasn't my plan" to become a youth speaker and spread his Christian message -- "I was going to play football and live in a mansion," he said -- but the rewards of his work today are greater than the rewards of his football career.

"As God came into my life, I just wanted to spread his message," Elias said. "You always have that nervous energy (before speaking), but there are times you see God grab a heart, and there is no better feeling. I've scored touchdowns all over the world, I've played in Japan, I've played in Europe, but to watch God use me to touch a kid and transform him, it doesn't get better than that."

"The first time we saw him speak was for an FCA event in Berkeley Springs," said Jessica Klick, who helped organize Saturday's event along with her husband Tim. "He really connects with today's youth. He's very relatable to the youth. He speaks truth, and so many times the youth are looking for something to fill that void that only God can fill."

Jessica Klick gave her own powerful testimony during the event. She spoke about her own bad choices in her high school and college days -- choices involving drugs and alcohol, partying and promiscuity -- and the shame and self-worthlessness she felt because of those choices until she turned her life back to God.

Elias used the nursery rhyme of Humpty Dumpty to illustrate the consequences of choices, asking, "Why was Humpty Dumpty on the wall?"

"Sometimes we make choices that take us places we never should have been ... and then we fall and break in pieces," Elias said. "All the king's horses and all the king's men cannot put you together again. What you need is an encounter with the King Himself."

Saturday's event also featured the Pop-n-Lock dance group, hip-hop performances by Pastor Tyree Sterling of Gateway Ministries and speeches by Pastor Brad Nigh of New Day In Christ and Scott Myers of the Western Maryland FCA. Admission was free to all.

"We just wanted to get something out to the community," Jessica Klick said.

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