Blessed By the Cleveland Browns

Roger Chanoine, Jr. has left the Cleveland Browns and joined the Jackson Jaguars in Florida, but it was in Cleveland where he saw the light.
by Cynthia K. Berry

Roger Chanoine Jr.

When the Jacksonville Jaguars were forced to recruit a right tackle to back up Todd Fordham, who replaced injured starter Zach Wiegert, the team looked no further than to Cleveland Browns veteran Roger Chanoine, Jr. Chanoine, who was just released from the Browns in November, was a desirable choice for the Jaguars because of his starting experience.

But, the three years Chanoine spent playing NFL football with the Cleveland Browns will not be quickly forgotten. When Chanoine was drafted in 1999, he could not have imagined the life-changing decisions that lay in store for him.

The 6-foot 4-inch, 305-pound offensive tackle came to Cleveland after landing on the Injured Reserve list just four months into his contract with the St. Louis Rams. Before the injury, Chanoine had only known an upward career path. From the moment his coach urged him to play football as a sophomore in high school, he was a natural. College scouts were watching him. A football scholarship took him from his home in Linden, New Jersey to Temple College in Philadelphia, where he played his way through school while earning a marketing degree. Immediately upon graduation, he was signed on by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted rookie. Life in the fast lane had begun.

By the time Chanoine tried out for the Browns, his life was already spinning out of control. "The older we get and the more money we make, the more complicated life becomes," the brawny tackle surmised by the time he was only 23 years old. A relationship with his fianc? at the time resulted in the birth of twin girls, but the marriage never came to be. Chanoine was confused and overwhelmed.

While struggling through his emotions, Chanoine felt a tugging back to the spiritual roots of his childhood. He began attending church. "My Mom used to force me to go to church. I shrugged it off and rebelled as soon as I had free reign of my life," Chanoine confesses. "Until I was in the NFL, I never took my spiritual life seriously."

Soon, Chanoine was wearing football jersey 69 and playing backup at the right tackle position for the Browns; he was also playing on special teams in some regular-season games. It wasn't long before he began to notice something different about many of the Browns players. "They dealt with obstacles differently and carried themselves differently. They always had something positive to say," Chanoine explains. "I began to feel something was missing in my life."

When Offensive Lineman Orlando Bobo invited Chanoine to a Bible study, he was more than ready to try it. Tom Petersburg from Fellowship of Christian Athletes led the study. One night after attending the Bible study in July 2000, "I got down on my knees with my Bible, confessed my sins and invited Jesus to be Lord of my life," Chanoine recalls with great joy.

"God began to help me heal and work through things; mentally, things don't bother me as much," explains Chanoine, who still attends a weekly Bible study on and off-season.

In August 2001, Chanoine went into the Browns training camp not knowing if he would even make the team. To his great satisfaction, he earned the first-string spot of right tackle, and started all 16 regular-season games for the Browns that year. In 2002, he moved back to swing tackle position for the Browns before joining the Jacksonville Jaguars as back-up right tackle mid-way through the season.

"Football is ever changing," he commented on his move. "It is a volatile business and tough to keep a job year to year, but I have confidence that God has a plan for my life."

When asked to comment on the highlights of his long list of accomplishments in the football seasonal reviews, Chanoine point-blankly replies, "The most important thing that has happened to me is my relationship with Jesus."

The second best thing, according to Chanoine, is his new bride, Yolanda, whom he married last March. The two met at a gathering being held at the home of a mutual friend two years ago. "There was truly a chemistry there," he shares. "I got her phone number and something inside told me to call."

When Chanoine is not on the football field and Yolanda is not in nursing school, the couple spends considerable time with Chanoine's twin girls, Zanay and Zhianne, now two-and-one-half years old. "There is no doubt the Lord put us together. The way Yvonne cares for my girls is proof of how God brought her into my life. She helps me with my spiritual walk, pulling me along when I hit bumps. I love her to death," the proud husband and father beams.

Chanoine also donates his time to various charitable programs, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and hospital visitations.

"If the Lord hadn't taken me to Cleveland as part of my career journey, I wouldn't be happily married and in a relationship with Jesus," Chanoine ponders. Without hesitation, he sums up, "I love football, and I hope to play all of my life, but I have found what lasts through eternity."

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