August 13, 2013 Updated: August 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm
At age 6, Denver Broncos linebacker Steven Johnson found his faith, thanks in part to the persistent love of his grandmother.
But that faith was put to the test after the split of his parents, which led to much less time with Grandma. Johnson admittedly struggled.
"I went through a stage where I didn't know who Jesus was," he said.
Johnson coped by eating. He knew he needed a change.
That's when he found peace in football and Christ.
Johnson was among several NFL players who shared their stories of faith with more than 600 at Praise with the Pros, an annual event hosted by Woodmen Valley Church in conjunction with a football camp for kids ages 7 to 14.
"My sanctuary is the football field, me just being on the field, thanking God for the opportunity, for life," he said.
Johnson's life turned around, he said, when he attended a Bible study as a junior in high school. And that's where he was every Wednesday night until he graduated. As he focused on the religious aspect of his life, his physique became stronger and his play on the football field started to stand out. To him, that wasn't a coincidence.
"I always say I'm normal, but I believe in Jesus Christ, and he's super," he said. "I'm natural, and he puts his super on my natural."
Church has always been a part of life for Greg Scruggs, a defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks.
"From the time I was young, I was 'that kid' on Sunday morning," he said. "Monday, I was at Bible study; Tuesday was choir rehearsal. I mean, I was 'that kid' in church."
But Scruggs hasn't been immune to life's trials. His father died when Scruggs was 8, leaving his mom to raise four kids on $20,000 a year.
"I was always a man of faith," he said. "Even at that trying time of 8 years old, I didn't realize that Jesus was doing something in my life. I didn't know he was making me into the independent man I am today."
Scruggs met adversity in the form of a DUI when he crashed into a light pole, shortly after graduating from the University of Louisville. He used a few verses in Matthew 8 to describe the event. The passage focuses on Jesus calming a storm at sea.
"I'm sitting in this boat, and I'm having all this water come in," he said. "See, when I hit that light pole, that was the water pouring into my boat."
Then, Scruggs said, Jesus calmed the storm.
He spoke of his dreams to become a fighter pilot at the Air Force Academy, then quickly noted that God had a different plan that included the NFL.
"I just love what it (football) teaches me," he said. "You see my enthusiasm; you see the discipline that I have with everything that I'm doing. I'm paying respect to the game that has given so much to me, materialistically as well as emotionally and spiritually."
Charles Bobo attends the event every year with his wife and said it's encouraging to see more players such as former Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow openly proclaim their love for Jesus.
"It's a good example in the sports environment where we only hear the negative," Bobo said.
And the message strikes a chord with young people.
Alexis Riehl, 11, was touched by what the football players had to say. "I really wanted to come and get inspired, and that's what I got," Alexis said. "What they said inspires me to share the love of Christ through the sport."