Making a World Cup record of 16 goal saves against Belgium in Brazil in 2014, Team USA goalkeeper Tim Howard became a social media phenomenon, prompting a new nickname 'The Minister of Defence' and a congratulatory call from US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, even as USA was knocked out by a 2-1 loss.
Tim, a 6'-3", 210-pound full-bearded 35-year-old, and also keeper for English club Everton, says the most important skill for a keeper is "explosive power".
"Some people are born with it naturally, and some people need to develop that," Tim shared with FCA.org. "Every move that a goalkeeper makes is an explosive movement. You're either idling or you're wide open."
Tim says that mental toughness is also essential for keepers.
"That mental fortitude is important as a goalkeeper–to believe in yourself and be mentally strong and able to handle criticism. ...It's a hard position... [as] there is no second chance. If the ball goes behind you, it's a really, really bad thing.
"To be able to deal and cope with [criticism] has been a challenge. But it's because of my faith that I have been able to stay grounded."
Among million-dollar pay packets and fame, Tim explains, "it's very easy to lose focus and not stay grounded and forget about humility. That's the one thing I've always clung tightly to—the fact that it is important to me to stay humble... For me, that has been the biggest anchor I have had through my faith."
Howard has drawn on his faith to cope with an illness called Tourette's syndrome. He has also given much of his time to helping others with the same condition, winning a humanitarian award in 2001 for his work with children with Tourette's.
He says: "At age ten, I was diagnosed with this neurological disorder, characterised by physical and verbal tics. Living with Tourette's is not easy. It affects me all the time, even when I'm playing. And even if it's not seen by someone looking on, it's something I have to deal with on a 24-hour basis. I have been able to cope pretty well with it. I've had it for a while now, so you learn to deal with it.
"But God has blessed me with the gift of athleticism as well. He has done some powerful things in my life through the combination of these two gifts. Not only has He helped me earn a place in the top English league, He also has shown me ways to use my position to encourage others with Tourette's."
As a child, Howard saw the effect of faith in his grandmother's life, and it greatly impacted him: "Nana's sense of peace was so powerful because it came from her faith in the Lord.
"In the midst of any storm, she had so much peace, which clearly came from one source: God.
peace”"Through her, God revealed His love for me and it wasn't long before I was following in her footsteps. I wanted the same sense of faith and peace she had, and that is exactly what God gave me."
In a YouTube video entitled "His Decision", Tim Howard shares, "I came to the point when I was tired of being on the fence, when I didn't want to just talk about knowing God, or pretend like I knew God – but I wanted to actually live for Him, live with Him. And I just basically asked Him into my heart.
"It's as easy as ABC, because that was how it was taught to me. Accept (you are a sinner), believe (Jesus died for your sins) and confess (that Jesus is Lord of all). If you do it wholeheartedly, with all your heart and all your soul. I would say that's the first step. It's just believing in your heart that God is Lord.
"My faith in the Lord is vitally important," Tim shares with Athletes in Action. "The joy I have in my life doesn't come from soccer, the winning and the losing. I have an amazing family and we share an amazing faith together.
"Faith is a joyous thing, something to be shared. I don't want it in the background of my life, but I certainly don't want it to be 'in your face', either. I just want to be open about it.
"Today, I am blessed to be living a dream. And yet, if it all went away tomorrow, I know I would still have peace.
"That probably sounds crazy to most people, but that's the kind of peace Christ gives. It is rooted in His love, and it surpasses all understanding. You can experience this same sense of love and peace too. All you have to do is ask for it."
Howard says he really wants to be known as someone who lived for Jesus Christ; "who didn't always get it right, and who made mistakes and stumbled, but at the end of the day, believed and had faith that God is the beginning and the end.
"People are going to see your stumbles, but if people can look at me and see Christ and not just see me, that is of the utmost importance.
"The most important thing in my life is Christ. He's more important to me than winning or losing or whether I'm playing or not. Everything else is just a bonus."
And for the US World Cup team, Howard was certainly a bonus.•