DENVER - What is your worst nightmare?
For an NFL safety, the last line of defense, it is this: a deep pass soars overhead, landing in the arms of a wide receiver. Touchdown, bad guys. A playoff game, and a season, is lost.
What is your worst nightmare? For an athlete, who relies on his body to earn a living, it is this: lying on a hospital bed, the doctor suggesting an injury is severe enough that he might amputate the leg. A career, and a way of life, could be lost.
This is your life, Rahim Moore. What is your worst nightmare?
"Sounds bad, doesn't it?" he says. "But you can't look at it that way."
Then, with a booming laugh, he adds, "Here's the thing, man. Here's how I look at it: God is going through some things, too. A lot of people don't believe in God. He's had that problem for years! Some people don't think he's real! Now that's a problem."
The laugh hangs in the air, the smile shines.
"But what I went through? That's nothing, man. That's nothing. I'm so lucky to be here, man. You don't even know."
I don't. But I want to. I want to know how Moore is here on the sideline of the Broncos practice field, smiling as if he's a 12-year-old who just met Peyton Manning, a grin as wide as the troubled neighborhood where Moore grew up, joking and chuckling as though he is, in fact, the luckiest guy on the planet.
Yes, the money is damn good. Yes, his job is a game. But these are possibly the two things most professional athletes won't compromise: pride and health.
For Moore - over a span of 10 months - both were battered and beaten.
When Joe Flacco's fling sailed over Moore's head in the 2012 playoffs and the Broncos ultimately lost to the Ravens, his pride sustained a vicious blow. Once a pass defender, Moore became a public punchline.
When he suddenly developed compartment syndrome in his left leg during the 2013 season, the health of his football career was in serious doubt. Once a player, Moore became a fan.
What is your worst nightmare? As he explains, that's the wrong question. How did Moore emerge from these trials - with more optimism than before?
"It's not complicated. People want to make it complicated, but it's not," he says. "In the Bible it says that you must cast all your fears to God. My cares have been my health, my family, my career. I cast it all to God. I put it all in his hands. When it's in his hands, the things that he can do - he says it in the Bible - are unsearchable.
"He says mankind can't even fathom it. What he can do, it's too powerful. God, he's my temple. He's my infrastructure. He's my No. 1. So what do I have to worry about?"
Some people will love him for his beliefs. Some people will resent him for his beliefs.
I simply wanted to know the how. This is his story, and he swears his life by it: The Christian faith his mother instilled in him is what kept his spirit above drowning levels. Not to trivialize matters, but in some ways Moore is the Broncos' Job, his career and his passion tested again and again. But never his faith.
Moore speaks of his good fortune, not his bad luck. He talks with conviction, like the pastor at the California church where he grew up: "Bible studies, children's church, three services on Sunday," Moore says. "And you know what? That saved my life."
When leg surgery ended his season and he couldn't play in the Super Bowl loss to Seattle, how did he feel?
"I felt like how I felt the year before," he says. "I felt like I lost the game for us. I couldn't help us win."
After a deep breath, he says, "But here's the thing. I never looked at it like: What could we have done better? I look at it like this: Rahim, what can you do now so it doesn't happen again?"
What is your worst nightmare? After a 10-month span that tackled his pride and health, Rahim Moore didn't look to the football field or to his bank account. He looked elsewhere.
"Why would I worry about what the world thinks?" he says. "Our job, as Christians and prophets of him, is to spread the gospel. People who see us and they think: What is it about that person? Why is he acting so different? Why isn't he worried? It's God.
"It's as simple as that. It's not complicated. It's not about how hard we work. It's not, 'Oh, he's just blessed.' No. It's not about us being blessed. It's about who we're blessed by."
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