With the second overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected quarterback Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State University. The pick by the Eagles came after much wheeling and dealing, as they landed the number 2 pick from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the 2016 no. 8 overall pick, a third- and fourth-round selection in the ’16 draft, 2017’s first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2018. The legions of Eagles’ faithful, long suffering for their first playoff win since 2008, instantly pegged Wentz as their new savior. But before he ever stepped onto the field in an Eagles’ uniform, the only savior that Wentz was concerned with was Jesus Christ.
Growing up in Bismarck, North Dakota, Carson was raised by parents that taught the importance of faith and family, but it wasn’t until his freshman year of college that Wentz truly devoted his life to Christ. “You raise the young man to go to church, but a little light came on his freshman year,” said Doug Wentz, Carson’s father, to reporters in April 2016. “He tackles that just like he does buying a hunting dog. He learns and he digs.”
Carson credits the nudge to dig deeper in his faith to fellow ND St. quarterback, then a college Senior, Dante Perez. Wentz said that it was before an early season practice that Perez approached him and asked him if he ever read the Bible. That started a year of mentorship from Perez where Carson and Dante would meet in the cafeteria at lunch and discuss religion, delving deeper into the Bible and in their faith in God. The result from these daily meetings was Carson going all-in on following Christ. He volunteered to lead the school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and led weekly Bible studies on campus. After becoming the Bisons’ starting quarterback during his Junior year and winning a Division 1-FCS National Championship in 2014, to help keep himself grounded, Carson had “AO1” tattooed on his right wrist during his senior year. The term stands for “Audience Of One”, a reminder that he lives his life only for Jesus Christ. “It was kind of a motto I picked up early in my career, and I finally put it on my body just to live with the Lord as my audience,” Wentz told reporters in April of 2016, “whether it was playing football, going to school or whatever I’m doing in my life.”
Carson went on to lead North Dakota State to the 2015 FCS Championship before turning his attention to prepping for the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft. Widely regarded as a sure-fire first round prospect, Wentz cemented his status as a top 5 pick with an incredible Pro Day in March. Drawing comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger due to his prototypical size and ability to run, Wentz was running neck and neck with Jared Goff for the first overall pick. Once the Los Angeles Rams announced their plans to draft Goff with the number one overall pick of the 2016 Draft, the Eagles knew Wentz was their man and pulled of the huge trade with Cleveland to grab Carson.
Arriving in Philadelphia, Wentz quickly formed a bond with wide receiver Jordan Matthews, a fellow Christian. Speaking to reporters in September of 2016, Matthews had this to say about his new QB; “He doesn’t play for you. He doesn’t play for his parents. He doesn’t play for me,” Matthews said.” He plays for God straight up. So when you do that, there is no pressure. It is just straight up. So that is why any time he says something he says, ‘AO1,’ and everybody wants to say, ‘Oh, is it this? Or is it this?’ No. He puts himself in a position where he doesn’t have to put pressure on himself. . . . I knew that about him and that he has got the skill set, and he has got the body and he has got the arm, and he works his butt off every single day.”
That relationship with Matthews, combined with an incredible work ethic led to Wentz being named the opening day starter for the Eagles, and Philly quickly jumped out to a 3-0 start in 2016 before fading to a 7-9 finish. Carson played great at times, and other times looked like a rookie as he threw for 3,782 yards with 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Through it all, Wentz kept playing, and living his life, for an audience of one. Carson would visit children at local hospitals and served on a Missions trip to Haiti with Mission of Hope, a Christian ministry that is helping to bring healing to those recovering from the devastating earthquakes of 2010. This past July, Carson formed the AO1 Foundation to “demonstrate the love of God by providing opportunities and support for the less fortunate and those in need” while specializing in supporting the youth in Philadelphia.
All the work Carson does within the community of Philadelphia and overseas is just an example of him living for Christ; “Being in the NFL, obviously it’s a big platform,” Wentz said to the media in July. “As a quarterback in Philadelphia, you have a lot of eyes on you. I just want to do the best to redirect all the eyes off me and give them to Jesus.”
Addressing a Fargo, North Dakota church congregation in late July, Carson summed it up perfectly. “Jesus died on that cross so that we can have eternal life with him,” said Wentz. “We need to be intentional about our conversations. At the end of the day, I need to think, What have I done for the kingdom today? Who have I impacted? Who have I talked to?”
As the 2017 NFL regular season draws near, there’s no doubt who Carson will be playing for.
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