Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I had no idea that I would spend two hours talking to my old college rival Ryan Leaf. I had no idea that I would shed tears with 1984 American League Rookie of the Year Alvin Davis, a man I met for the first time right before we turned on the mics. And I had no idea that a conversation with Hall of Fame wide receiver and former Oklahoma Rep. Steve Largent would go so deeply into a broken upbringing and radical forgiveness.

Those are just some of the places where my podcast, “Above & Beyond: The Intersection of Faith and Sports,” has taken me in the past year.

Tackling the junction of faith and sports in Season 1 of “Above & Beyond” is one of the most powerful things I’ve done at any level of my career. It has been such an encouragement to hear so many unique perspectives of faith in sports: from Sam Ponder, host of ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown,” dealing with cyberbullying and sexual harassment with the support of her husband Christian, a former NFL quarterback; to former Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn, whose players accused him of forcing his religion on them; to Mr. Leaf, whose story of not living up to the hype as a top NFL draft pick is a lot more known than his story of finding faith outside of himself after addiction and time in prison. Hearing of their pain and struggle, the providence and blessing has been such a rich experience.

In the decade-plus I’ve worked in sports media, I’ve never had the opportunity to fully explore the depth of impact my faith has had on my professional career. It wasn’t until my employers, 710 ESPN Seattle and Bonneville International, approached me about starting a podcast about a topic that I was passionate about and was underserved in the media that I was able to seize that opportunity by starting “Above & Beyond.”

This podcast isn’t designed to be “The Brock Huard Show” — in fact, I told my producer, James Osborn, from day one to check me if it seemed like it was becoming that. This is the Lord’s platform to do what He wants to do, and it is well above and well beyond anything I could ever do alone. My goal is to keep it that way by continuing to deliver an authentic, passionate message with each episode, something that seems to resonate with those that have listened.

You would think that there would be a lot of feedback in the media world that I live in, whether it’s from producers, executives or program directors, but it really is minimal. With this podcast, however, the feedback has been enormous and overwhelming. The personal emails have been amazing, and they’ve come from a whole spectrum of people: school teachers, people in ministry, people of different faiths, people that have no faith. To correspond with those that have been impacted, touched and encouraged is the overwhelming part.

These conversations have hammered home something I have long believed: people want authenticity.

The drive to spread real, authentic journeys in faith has brought out some incredibly powerful stories, both from people that helped shape my life and faith such as legendary NFL coach Tony Dungy and former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and people I was able to get to know through the conversation we had on the podcast like major league pitcher Steve Cishek.

I’ve been doing my show on 710 ESPN Seattle for 10 years, but “Above & Beyond” has been a completely different animal. I’ve been able to let people all the way in, and the platform allows the same for the guests. Part of me is like, “Man, why didn’t I do this earlier?” Ultimately, I’m just thankful to have that chance now.

The first season featured 15 very normal people — including myself — simply sharing the story of their faith. Season 2 will be equally as diverse — mentors, friends, total strangers, men, women, all ages, all backgrounds — and, frankly, I can’t wait to see what doors will open.

Brock Huard is a former NFL quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst and co-host of “Brock and Salk” on 710 ESPN Seattle. His podcast, “Above & Beyond: The Intersection of Faith and Sports,” can be found on iTunes or at AboveAndBeyondPodcast.com.

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