Tell us about your newest book.
First and Goal, What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up, published by Harvest House Publishers. Just newly released.
Here’s the back cover blurb:
Jake Byrne dreamed of playing professional football. He had the size, the talent, the drive…but at age 14, he found out he also had type 1 diabetes.
Still, Jake was determined to reach his goal. And God was determined to guide and empower him all along the way.
Jake’s journey to the NFL is the backdrop for this collection of inspiring devotions based on nearly a hundred football terms. Jake takes you to the weight room, practice field, and even across the goal line. You’ll feel as if you’re lined up next to him, facing a very large defender you’re about to take down. He also includes Scripture and then ties up each story in a way that feels real and encouraging. You’ll discover…
- what to do when God calls an audible in your life
- how to respond when God puts you on special teams
- why prayer is never an incomplete pass
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Now that I’m no longer playing professional football, I’m working for Champion Management, a marketing firm in Dallas. I also got recently married to beautiful, supportive Christian woman, Emma. She’s amazing. And I’m starting a foundation – Type Won – to help kids with Type One Diabetes lead healthy, active lives.
Where did you get your book idea?
When I got diagnosed with Type One Diabetes as a teenager, I didn’t have mentors. I really struggled with managing diabetes while competing as an athlete. It took a lot of trial and error to excel in the sport of football. I learned a lot through those difficulties and went on to play football at the University of Wisconsin. Then, while in the NFL, playing for the San Diego Chargers, my mom called me.
She’s a Christian author and was planning to attend a writer’s conference. She suggested I write a devotional about my experiences with Type One Diabetes and my journey into the NFL. I had mentored kids with type one diabetes in college and agreed writing a devotional would be a great way to encourage youth to reach their goals in spite of obstacles. We put together a one-sheet and my mom pitched the book and Harvest House offered us a contract.
Do you outline or are you a seat-of-the-pants writer? OR HOW DID YOU WRITE FIRST AND GOAL, THEN?
I got together with my mom (the ghostwriter) through Skype or phone or in person and we put anecdotes of my life together in the form of short devotionals and added football terminology. We really enjoyed working on the project together and she even has one last devotional in the book called, Extra Point. Moms always get the last word, or extra point.
Are you working on a new project now?
While working full time and getting my foundation going, I’m pretty busy, but I’d like to write another book – an informational, practical book based on my experieces with diabetes and geared toward helping those with diabetes stay healthy and active and succeed in life, whatever their goals.
Anything you would like to add?
Well, like in football, getting cut from a team is pretty commonplace. So is getting a few pages or words cut in the final edits in writing. Here’s an excerpt from First and Goal about being “cut” that we had to “cut” due to too many pages for the book. Though my devotional is aimed at the teen market, it’s really a book for all who need a little inspiration. In the end, in a fun and inspiring way, readers might learn some football terms to impress family and friends.
On the curl route, the receiver runs hard downfield as if to run deep, and then—between 12 and 20 yards—he turns sharply and takes two steps back to face the football. The comeback route generally is run along the sideline. To work effectively, the quarterback usually throws the ball before the receiver turns. He throws to a spot where he expects the receiver to stop and turn.
Joining the New Orleans Saints my first year in the NFL, I survived rookie camp and regular camp only to get cut before the start of the season. I took the news like a deer lost in the glare of oncoming headlights.
I had worked hard and come a long way from OTAs (Organized Team Activities), learning a lot, but of course nowhere near the playing ability of seasoned veterans. At the end of camp, the Saints acquired a nine-year player and I was bumped out of my spot on the roster.
Moping at home in Arkansas with no job, I didn’t know what to do next. Had my NFL career, which started out with so much promise, ended so soon?
I hung in there for weeks, working out and traveling across the country in tiny airplane seats when teams called me for a tryout. I grew weary of hearing, “If someone gets hurt, we’ll call.” No one called. I wanted off the NFL roller coaster. After prayer and a long conversation with my dad, I called my agent and told him I was done with the NFL and returning to finish college.
Within an hour, he called me back. “The Texans have a spot for you. A tight end got injured.”
“But I quit the NFL—”
“No more tryouts. Just get to Texas and you’ll be on the practice squad.”
In the dying embers of my passion for football, a spark ignited. Why not? With only two games left in the season, if it didn’t work out, I could return to college, finish my last few classes, and return to job searching.
I flew to Houston and had a great end-of-season with the Texans. I was called into the office after the last game, where Rick Smith, the general manager, and Coach Gary Kubiak waited for me.
“We want you for next year,” Rick said.
Now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
Those few words from God in Isaiah are loaded with hope, promise, and love. They are God’s words, not only for me, Jacob, or for the Israelites, but for all of humanity.
The Bible is chock-full of comeback stories. Jesus, being crucified and coming back to life, of course, is the greatest story. Joseph’s experience in Genesis 30–50 is another amazing one. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and endured years of false imprisonment. At all times, Joseph maintained his integrity and faith.
Even while in prison, God had a plan for His servant’s future. Joseph became one of the most powerful figures in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. And in the end, when Joseph could have taken revenge on his brothers, he chose to forgive them, understanding that through the worst situations, God was preparing him for his destiny. If Moses, Joseph, and even someone like me can make a comeback, you can too.
Ultimately, even if we’ve made mistakes, God wants us back. He doesn’t abandon His children. He wants us reaching our goals and living our life to the fullest. If things aren’t going well or according to our plan, we might have to run fast, turn around, and take a couple steps forward, like the comeback play. When we turn to face God, He will be there to redeem us and bring us to the place where He needs us. He loves us enough to open the right doors at the right time—and occasionally close them at the right time too.
BIO: Jake Byrne has battled with type 1 diabetes since a young teen and has since been proactive combating the disease and mentoring diabetic youth. He played football for the University of Wisconsin as a tight end and went on to compete in the NFL. Originally with the New Orleans Saints in 2012, Jake has also been a Houston Texan, Kansas City Chief, and San Diego Charger.
Jake blogs at www.typewon.net.
Facebook Page (Type Won): www.facebook.com/typewon1