Good looking, talented and popular, US footballer Landry Jones was living every teen's dream until, when he went to college, the emptiness underneath his "success" was revealed and he spiralled into depression.
Landry, who until recently played quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, tells the I am Second website about his journey to true joy and purpose in 2010:
When I was younger, everybody wanted me on their team. By world standards I was a successful person as a high school student and a college student – I had all the friends, all the girls – everyone liked me. I had nothing I needed. I had everything, so I didn't think I needed God.
When I was younger, I was one of the athletic kids. Sport came easy to me. All the praise used to drive me. "Look at Landry!" It made me want to be the best at everything. "He's so good at basketball, he's so good at football." You want to keep getting more and more of it – it's like a drug.
After winning a football game you are on this high. I had the world at my finger tips and I was reaching out and grabbing everything I could and stuffing it in my pockets. Filling my life with earthly things not heavenly things.
I grew up in a Christian home. I knew all the [Bible] stories, everything about Jesus but it seemed like more of a fairy tale to me than actual real life.
About my junior year of high school I got my first offer [to play college football]. I decided to go to the University of Oklahoma. I was going to go in there and start playing immediately. So I get to Oklahoma thinking this was going to be exactly like high school. I was pretty naïve, thinking I was going to come in and take the top spot. Obviously, that wasn't going to happen.
So, when I get on campus the first day my identity was stripped away from me. Everything that I put my faith, my hopes and dreams in, was stripped from me. I started believing the lies that satan had spoken into me at high school, that without football, without sports, I was worthless and everyone hated me. 'Why am I even here on this earth if I can't play football?', a voice in my head would say.
I believed those lies so much that I became sad and lonely and went through a stage of depression. For that first year of college, when I walked into practice I would just have a bad attitude. No one wanted to hang out with me or anything like that. When others were having a good day, I would try to drag them down so that I would feel better about myself. I was drowning and it was like satan was pushing me deeper and deeper under the water.
So, I kept feeding my sinful nature. I kept feeding it all this trash. I starting really getting into drinking and trying to get all the girls. I was sick all the time, my stomach was in knots.
I got done with that first year of college not knowing whether I want to continue at OU. I didn't know whether I wanted to quit. I wanted to just crawl into a hole and just be left there alone, all by myself. I didn't know if I wanted to keep living. How could I go through another miserable year like that? I just wanted to die.
This is when God comes in and drastically changes my life. And it was literally, God showing up in the room saying "Here I am Landry, you've been doing all these things, you've been chasing after worldly dreams." And He freed me from all the sadness I had and all the loneliness I had been through. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.
I remember feeling so much love pouring into me and God saying that He didn't care where I was or what I'd done, all He wanted was me. Instead of being Landry Jones the athlete, I was Landry Jones the son of God. That is all my identity is in now.
My life has been drastically different. I have never felt happier in my entire life. It is the internal joy that God speaks into you. At the end of time it is not going to matter if I am a Hall of Fame quarterback or a great college quarterback or anything like that, it is going to matter what I did on this earth and how I used my gifts for God.
In 2012 Landry married former basketballer Whitney Hand-Jones and they now have a son, Ezekiel.
Landry was released from the Steelers last year, and after a brief stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he is unlikely to catch on with another team this season, but by no means is his career over.
The nearly 30-year-old is expected to be on an NFL roster next season, and in the meantime, according to his Twitter account, he will be following the maxim, "In everything you do, work as if you are working for the Lord."•