OCEAN CITY – The local community kicked off the year on a positive note with an uplifting address by former NFL kicker David Akers at the 2019 Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.
Akers, who became the franchise’s all-time leading scorer in his 12 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, spoke to hundreds of area residents Jan. 11 at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel during the Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, which is organized by the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. He was quick to praise resort officials for continuing the annual prayer breakfast as many cities did away with the tradition.
“I see a tight knit community here,” he said. “I thank you for the opportunity to come up and share today.”
Though he’s well known now, Akers was cut from the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers and the Washington Redskins early in his football career. He joined the Eagles in 1999, however, and went on to play 12 seasons for the team. He was named to the Eagles 75th Anniversary Team, was voted onto the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s and set the NFL mark for most points scored in a decade (1,169 from 2000 to 2009).
During two ensuing seasons playing for San Francisco, Akers broke the single-season records for field goals made, field goals attempted and points scored without a touchdown. In 2012, he tied the NFL record for longest field goal at 63 yards.
Today, Akers — who is also a minister and author — travels the country as an inspirational speaker. He told the crowd at the Clarion he wanted to discuss three things Friday — perseverance, perspective and personnel. He said he didn’t want to share his accolades but rather his struggles.
“We are all going to be given different challenges in life,” he said. “I’m here to tell you we’re going to win in spite of it… As believers we’re winning in spite of anything we’re going through.”
He described his perseverance in working toward an NFL career in spite of having been cut by various teams. He pointed out that if he hadn’t been cut by those teams, he’d never have ended up with the Eagles.
“To make it in the NFL as an undrafted free agent, your statistical chances are very slim,” Akers said.
As he told his story Friday, he recalled a memorable game at the Meadowlands in 2002. The score was tied and Akers was asked to make a 35-yard field goal, a kick he thought he could make with his eyes closed.
“We lose in overtime,” he said. “I have 10 minutes to gather my thoughts before the media comes in and they put the cameras in my face. Ok, what can I say that’s kind of witty yet answers their questions? I’ll say ‘I have one thing to say. I missed.’ The reality is once the cameras are in my face I say ‘I have one word to say. I missed.’”
The two-hour bus ride back to Philadelphia was a brutal one as Akers agonized over the loss. A moment spent rocking his infant son when he got home brought things into perspective.
“In life we are going to have to let things go,” he said. “We are not going to be perfect. There’s going to be times we get knocked down and we have to pick ourselves back up.”
Akers acknowledged that he still struggled with difficult situations.
“I don’t understand why we go through these hardships,” Akers said. “That’s going to be a great question to ask one day.”
He shared another personal story to illustrate his point. In 2009, just after he and his wife decided to tithe to support some church families in need, Akers received a call from the FBI.
“I basically lost a lifetime of money, in layman’s terms, in a Ponzi scheme,” he said. “I could go on about this…It doesn’t even matter. It was gone. Fathers, husbands, how do you tell your wife what we’ve invested in is gone? I struggled with that.”
To his relief, Akers said his wife took the news well.
“My wife goes ‘oh, I thought you were leaving me or you’d been cheating on me,’” he recalled.
Akers said deciding whether or not to tithe in light of the financial loss was hard.
“Ten percent of an NFL contract is a lot of money,” he said. “It was a bit of a struggle for us. We prayed on it, we fasted on it and it was like we need to do this because the lord put it on our hearts. We went ahead and we did it.”
The money was able to fund mortgage payments, the purchase of a new car and countless other gifts for families in need.
“It was interesting to hear from the other side how the lord’s provision worked,” Akers said.
He rounded out his talk by focusing on what he called personnel. He likened the people in one’s life to teammates.
“Who’s snapping for you?” he said. “Who’s holding for you? Who’s blocking for you in life? We have to surround ourselves with people that will encourage us, love us, lift us up, teach us. We’ve got to have those people in our lives.”