NFL Running Back Achieves Career Comeback With a Pure Heart
New Orleans running back Tim Hightower was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008. In his rookie season he set a franchise record for total touchdowns by a first year player with 13. He also helped the Cardinals make it to their very first Super Bowl. Then in 2011, he was traded to Washington. In his first five games with the Redskins he rushed for 321 yards and two touchdowns. He says as a boy growing up in Virginia, he was taught that faith in God is the key to success with a firm foundation.
“My pastor taught me more is caught than taught. And one thing that I caught was to have a strong faith,” says Tim.
Tim’s career was on the rise, but little did he know his faith was about to be tested. During a game on October 23rd his career took a turn he didn’t expect.
“I was feeling good,” said Tim. “I make a run that I’ve done hundreds of times. A cut, I see a hole, I go through it and make a move that I’ve done hundreds of times in my sleep. Next thing you know just, my knee just cracks, just buckles. I never had that kind of feeling before. Pain that I’ve never felt. The biggest fear is this is it. That it just ended my career at 23—at 24 years old just ended. What now?”
Tim had torn his ACL, which meant he would need surgery and extensive rehabilitation. So, he couldn’t play for the rest of the season. He was eventually cut from the team. After surgery, he had no idea how he was going to make it back to the field. so he began praying to ask God for answers and the Lord began asking him questions.
“Where’s your heart towards Me? Where’s your heart towards your family? Where’s your heart towards the game? You know, where’s your heart,” remembers Tim. “Forgetting your purpose and why are you initially here? What brought the favor of God upon your life? He was working on my heart the whole time.”
Tim realized over the years he’d begun lose focus on what really mattered.
“There are a lot of things, I think, coming into the NFL that tested my faith,” says Tim. “The first thing that I noticed that I really feel like tested my faith was just the whole pride, the whole pride and the jealousy.”
He now understood that in order for God to heal his leg, he needed to allow him to clean his heart. So, his prayers began to change.
“It went from a different knee or the money or the this or the that to, you know, I just want a pure heart again,” remembers Tim.
Tim rededicated his whole heart back to the Lord and believed that he would return to the field. But it took longer than he anticipated.
“I didn’t know how long it would be. As the years and the months and the surgeries passed, that timetable, I’m like okay, all right, all right, what’s –you know, what kind of timetable, you know, are we working with? Man, it took everything I had. It took everything. I literally made a commitment that I’m all in. I will play football again. My son will see me play, my family will see me play. And people will see this is bigger than me,” says Tim.
Tim continued to pray and condition his legs so that he would be ready when an offer came. Then nearly four years later, he received the call he’d been waiting for.
“I’m working doing commercial real estate and I remember sitting in that office and seeing this phone ring, my agent,” says Tim. “And he said the Saints, you know, they want to sign you, they’re sending a contract. Man, I don't know if I could quite describe this feeling. When you fight so hard for something, and you believe in something so strongly, and when that prayer is answered, I just remember running home. I wanted to go grab my son. I wanted to –I wanted to go get my son. I remember just picking him up at his crib. And man, oh man.”
Tim signed with the New Orleans Saints for the 2015 season. In a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he rushed for a career 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tim Hightower was back. Now, heading into this season, he says he has his priorities in order and he’s not allowing fame to go to his head or his heart.
“I really want people, not to marvel at me or anything that I’ve accomplished. I want them to know that man, we all have a purpose,” says Tim. “And when we know that we have a purpose and we know that man, there is somebody out there who created us and who loves us so much, all of our experiences, good, bad, however you feel, no matter where you come from, God can use you, man. He can use you, He can use your story and your purpose, man, you can connect and impact so many people, said Tim.”