United States men's national soccer star Clint Dempsey has made headlines of late with his stellar performance in the World Cup. And while his abilities on the field are capturing a great deal of attention, so is his intense Christian faith.
Dempsey, a native of Nacogdoches, Texas, isn't shy about his beliefs, as he openly discusses them in interviews. Noting recently that he began playing soccer at a young age, he credited the sport with helping sustain his Christian views.
"Little did I know that the sport I loved and the skills I learned would later play a role in my relationship with God," he told Sports Spectrum last month.
United States' Clint Dempsey works out during a training session at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Saturday, June 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)
Growing up in a Catholic family, Dempsey went to church with his grandmother every Sunday. But when he was 12 years old a tragic event challenged his worldview and turned his life upside down.
"My sister [Jennifer] died [from a brain aneurysm] and I was faced with questions about why things happen and what role God played in it all," he told the outlet. "For a number of years, I struggled and put distance between God and me. But He was faithful and patient and provided gradual healing and strength."
Fans might have noticed that Dempsey, who is the captain of the U.S. team, raised his fingers to the sky recently after scoring an incredible goal just 29 seconds into a game against Ghana.
The act is done, he said, in remembrance of Jennifer. He recently explained that he and his sister had spoken about death before she passed away and that she pledged to help him "get the ball in the net" if she ever died.
"And that's why I look up to the sky now when I score — to remember her," he explained, according to the Daily Mail.
Eventually, Dempsey came to embrace his faith more deeply. It wasn't until college that he said he began to understand what it means to actively seek God and have a relationship with him. Through a Bible study he began to attend, Dempsey said the importance of exploring scripture became clearer.
United States' Clint Dempsey, centre, is challenged by Portugal's Bruno Alves, left, and Portugal's Miguel Veloso, right, during the group G World Cup soccer match between the USA and Portugal at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Sunday, June 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)
"I found that questioning Him and searching for answers through Scripture helped me grow and gave me direction. Now my faith in Christ is what gives me confidence for the future," he added. "I know that through both good times and bad, He is faithful and will watch over me."
He credits the Bible with guiding his path, according to Sports Spectrum. And in a reflection published on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes website, an organization that challenges coaches and athletes to spread the gospel, Dempsey expounded upon these ideals.
"Today, I pray for strength to walk the road before me. I play to the best of my abilities and am thankful for the many opportunities and amazing success He has given me," he wrote. "Through it all, I want to do right, not make mistakes, and live a life that pleasing to Him."
Another little-known fact is that Dempsey is a rap artist who goes by the name "Deuce." He will soon be releasing an album and has already put out his first track. Listen to it below:
Read the entire interview with Sports Spectrum for more about Dempsey's faith here.
The U.S. will play Germany in the World Cup at 12 p.m. ET today.