Patrick Towles decides to give up his dream of the NFL to pursue a new calling.
At Highland High School he won the prestigious “Mr. Football” title and went on to pass more than 5,000 yards and 24 touchdowns over 3 seasons with the Wildcats, but now Patrick Towles has made the decision to leave behind a possible pro-career to become a missionary with FOCUS.
Herald-Leader Sports proudly tweeted about his decision.
He explained his decision and the inspirations which led him to it to FaithandAthletics.com:
My path to accepting this job was all but ordinary. It included lots of ups, lots of downs, low amounts of clarity, and a whole lot of trust. Although I don’t think anyone who decides to quit their job, leave their home, or shelf the expectations that they had for their life to be all the way sane either. That being said, there were specific moments in my life that led me here. Some were substantial, some were very minor, but all were vital. In total, six major factors led me to say yes: one thing, two places, and three people.
When he was a sophomore at the University of Kentucky, he attended Mass infrequently and particularly avoided the confessional. One day he was invited to attend a Catholic event called SEEK, a bi-annual conference organized by FOCUS. It was at this function that he experienced a revelation, “It was that Thursday night, reduced to tears, that I truly surrendered my life to Jesus.” That night he received Reconciliation for the first time in 6 years and knew that something inside of him felt different.
In the following months he dove head first into his faith, starting a Bible study group with members of his football team and attending Mass as frequently as possible. That spring, he went on a mission trip in St. Lucia with Varsity Catholic, where he discovered his love for spreading the Gospel. When he returned from St. Lucia, he couldn’t help but think, “Maybe when I get done playing football, I’ll leave everything behind and go be a missionary somewhere.”
After transferring to Boston College for his fifth year, he went on a second mission to Kingston, Jamaica, where he worked with Missionaries for the Poor and spent a week caring for the physically and mentally disabled. He said, “Most of the day I was in the ICU, caring for the men whose earthly future looked grim. I had never encountered Jesus like I did when I was with those men.”
He became friends with, Stephen, a 35-year-old patient who was paralyzed from the waist down after being hit by a car and left for dead. Stephen was suffering from enormous bed sores to the point where half of his rear end was an open, rotting wound. It is clear how much Towles cared for Stephen by the way he writes about him:
I had the opportunity to care for him all week, carry him from his bed to another to be washed, pack and clean his wound and make sure the flies didn’t get in it, and hold his hand. I held his hand a lot. We later baptized Stephen, and I was his Godfather. Upon my return to the states, I received a call that Stephen had died. I truly began to understand what “Mission” meant.
Over the next year and a half, Towles’ dreams of the NFL began to fizzle and he began to pray for guidance. He contacted a friend at FOCUS, Mark, who set up interviews with the Catholic outreach program. During the interviews his mind kept going back to his work in St. Lucia and in the ICU, when he identified that he had a calling to a vocation as a missionary.
With all of this, I was scared. A “yes” meant saying no to so many things. But that’s the way it works. St. Therese of Lisieux talks about having childlike trust. It was time for me to trust. To not have to know, but to trust, to say yes to the most incredible adventure, to say “yes” to mission.