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Jan27WedThe NFL’s Josh McCown is not getting older, he’s getting better. January 27, 2021 by Jayne Thurber-Smith
In the Philadelphia Eagles’ wild-card game last year, Josh McCown became the oldest quarterback to make his post-season debut. At the age of 40, he strode into the huddle to replace an injured Carson Wentz.
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“McCown, seemingly putting his entire body into every throw, made some strikes and managed the offense. The backup, however, couldn’t do enough with decimated weaponry that has plagued the Eagles all season,” wrote NFL writer Kevin Patra.
That’s Gonna Hurt
It was later disclosed that Josh had torn his hamstring off the bone in the second quarter, but that didn’t stop him.
“My injury happened early in the game,” he remembers, “but in the moment, there are so many other things going through your mind other than the pain. With our situation what it was, there was no one else to step in, so I played through it. The adrenaline rush helped. It felt a lot different by 11 that night, though!”
Although the Eagles came up short that night, Josh kept his team in the game the entire time, giving his all on the biggest stage of his career.
“I did my best to help the team,” he says, “and we all fought hard. Coach Doug Pederson and my teammates helped me stay calm. I felt ready for the opportunity, because when you’re helping other guys prepare like I did with Carson, there’s an internalization of the game plan that you benefit from.
“Plus, I’ve done football a long time.”
From Starter to Backup
And for a lot of teams. Drafted in 2002 by the Arizona Cardinals, Josh has played for 11 different NFL teams and, in 2010, played a season in the United Football League. At that time, he didn’t know for sure if his NFL days were over or not.
“That was one of the critical moments for both my wife, Natalie, and me,” he recalls. “Looking back on it, I compare it to the Bible story of David hiding in the cave, after living in the palace. The world as you know it has changed. You’re reasoning with God and spending a lot of time learning about who you really are.”
During that season, Josh never gave up hope. He did wonder if it might be time to start looking in a few directions other than pro football, however.
“I got more involved in my church, trying to keep busy at first, and then I found peace connecting with God,” he says. “I believe that allowed me to play at a higher level, and I’m thankful I did get to return to the NFL the next year.”
With only a year here and there with each team, it was hard to hang on to starting quarterback status. That can be tough on a guy who loves being in the game.
“It’s frustrating to go from starter to backup, but both positions can contribute to any game,” Josh says. “I embrace that, rather than focusing on not playing. No matter the role, when you’re a part of a team, you bring value every day. It helps when you know your identity as a person, because I know I’m more than a football player.”
Ups, Downs and Sideways
With all the relocating from town to town, Josh greatly valued the support he always found on the home front from his wife and four children.
“I appreciate Natalie first and foremost for the type of person she is,” he says. “I didn’t always move my family with me whenever I ended up on a new team, especially those last seven years when the kids were older. Natalie ran our home so well and always kept us organized. Giving me the peace to just go play was huge. I’m thankful for her management of our home and support of me.”
Josh grew up in a Christian home, but early on in their relationship, he and Natalie made their faith their own rather than a hand-me-down.
“In the beginning, we had a faith background, but not to the degree we have now. We knew we needed to decide how we would walk it out for ourselves and what was going to be different for us. That included developing more of a personal relationship with God. We wanted it to be real, and we made faith an important part of our home.”
Another important part of their home is a room filled with echoes of Josh’s journeyman career. Natalie had every one of his team jerseys framed and that takes up a whole lot of wall space. They are a testament to the ups and downs and sideways turns Josh was able to experience with God’s help.
Walking With God
Just before the 2020 NFL season started up, the Eagles announced that Josh would be wearing their jersey for another year.
“Josh McCown, who came out of retirement last season to sign with Philadelphia, will become the oldest practice squad player in NFL history at the age of 41. What McCown brings to the table, even as a No. 4 quarterback, is inarguable,” said Michael Blinn of the New York Post.
“I really like the verse Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things through Christ,’ ” Josh says. “In the context of what Paul was saying in the previous verses, about being content with having a little or a lot, it’s very meaningful to me. It’s all about learning how to walk with God in any situation. That’s something I identified with early on in my career. I knew I could do all things through Christ, no matter what team I was on.”