by Michele A. Yowler

While the secular media has a nose for NFL scandal, Ray Jackson and other NFL players continue to keep their standards high.

       While questions abound on the success of this season for the Cleveland Browns, at least one member of the team is keeping his focus on the Lord. Corner back, Ray Jackson, #31, is keeping the faith by pressing into a relationship with Jesus Christ. "The Lord is always with me. That's one aspect of my life that will never change. As Christians sometimes we [back]slide, [fall away from our relationship with God], but that's one thing I focused on more than anything this year. Not sliding, not doubting, just keeping my faith," Jackson told Connection Magazine.

       During a time when ignominious shadows loom over the image of the NFL, resulting from a barrage of scandalous events involving some league members, this NFL player is depending on his faith, Christian fellowship, and the Lord to keep him focused. "We have a bunch of [Christian] guys around here that I congregate with and that helps out a lot. It keeps me in focus with the Lord and being able to speak about the Lord. Sometimes you go around and you hear different conversations that you shouldn't hear. Being with other brothers-In-Christ helps out a lot," Jackson said. "There are more Christians on these teams than people know about." Unfortunately, most of the admirable things leaguers accomplish go on behind the scenes and are not considered newsworthy by a media world looking to get to the 'juicy' news. "Last year, we took a hard hit, the NFL was taking a bad rap. They never talk about the guys before and after the games that [gather] in the middle of the field and pray, or the guys who get together in the locker room and pray. But when something bad happens they speak about it," Jackson said.

       Ray attributes his successful career with the NFL to his reliance on the strength found in Jesus Christ. "Before every practice, I sit out here and I stretch and pray. Because I know without my prayer life, without me first giving honor to my God, there is nothing I can go out there and do. I can't do it on my own," Jackson said. "There were times when training camp first started that I'd be tired. But I'd say, 'Lord bless me just to get through this next play. Give me the energy just to make it'. You'd be surprised how much energy He gives you, how much joy too. Some guys get emotionally up by yelling and stuff like that. But me, after I pray and I get that Holy Spirit in me, I can't do anything but smile; because [I know] He is going to bless me with a big beautiful blessing in the practice or game."

       Ray is able to go forward without worry and yield his future, with the NFL and in life, into the hands of his Lord. "If you put your heart and mind and soul in the Lord everything is going to be okay. I don't have to worry about getting cut, and that was the biggest thing when I got here and they drafted all these corners this year. [People were saying], 'Well Ray, they drafted 5 defensive backs'. I don't worry about that. I know if the Lord wants me to be here, I'm going to be here and I truly believe that," Jackson stated.

       Asked about how walking with the Lord has changed his view of the future, Jackson replied: "The Lord didn't bring me this far, to give me these things to take them away. So I know that whatever He has in store for me is nothing but a blessing. Just like when I go out here [on the field], if I mess up on a play, I look at it as a blessing, because He is teaching me something. [The Lord may say,] 'Okay, but next time don't do it like that."

       Going into his second season wearing a Cleveland Browns uniform, Ray Jackson is looking to the future with hope and expectation that God is going to continue to bless and prosper him. Ray tries to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. He runs hard during practice knowing a future NFL player may be watching him. He wants to be an example to the youth; "If a kid comes out here and watches me in practice, and they see me running hard. They should know, oh man, that's the way to do it, that's the way to get into the NFL."