Super Bowl champ: I've won AND lost the big game – Here's the incredible thing I learned

On Sunday evening, players of either the Los Angeles Rams or the New England Patriots will experience the euphoria of being deemed the best team in the NFL and winners of Super Bowl LIII.

I have walked in their shoes. The high fives, the teammate embraces, the confetti flying, the tears flowing. I played six seasons as a long-snapper with the Seattle Seahawks and was part of the team in 2013 when we crushed the Denver Broncos to win the coveted title of Super Bowl XLVIII champs.

That day was a whirlwind for me. I remember storming the field, jumping into confetti, and being right behind Coach Pete Carroll, as Zach Miller and Russell Wilson doused him with Gatorade. It was one of the most epic days of my life.

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After that moment, my teammates and I were greeted with screams and cheers by hundreds of thousands of fans as we paraded down the streets of downtown Seattle. We felt like kings. I remember standing on top of the truck I was on with punter Jon Ryan and kicker Steve Hauschka holding the Lombardi trophy and starting a massive “SEA-HAWKS” chant.

All of it led to the concluding ceremony at Century Link Field, where each player was introduced and all kinds of insanity ensued. It is a day I’ll never forget.

But two months later the celebrations ended and the cameras quit rolling. I can’t tell you how many times I heard my teammates say, “I keep waiting for it to sink in that we won the Super Bowl.” I said it, too.

Was it awesome winning a Super Bowl? Absolutely. Did it make me happy and satisfy my core need for significance, joy, love, or value?  Not even close.

It went on for months until I realized what all of us were really saying was: “I keep waiting for this thing to make me happy the way I thought it would and it hasn’t, and now I’m actually kind of scared about that, because I have made this my life pursuit and I got it, and I’m still wanting more.”

Was it awesome winning a Super Bowl? Absolutely. Did it make me happy and satisfy my core need for significance, joy, love, or value?  Not even close.

You may not be able to relate to winning the Super Bowl, but we all have a “Super Bowl” for which we are waiting. Unfortunately, in focusing on this, we incorrectly place our identity in the wrong things.

For me, it was football. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life. Sports were a way for me to perform, to feel strong and to feel like I mattered.

For you, it may be a job title, a fancy car, a beautiful wife, handsome husband or money in the bank. But I’ve learned it is a trap to fix our whole identity around the things that give us a false sense of significance.

I went back to the Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2014, only to be defeated by the New England Patriots. It was an insanely raw moment for my teammates and me as we processed our defeat. We were all looking for something that would make us not feel pain, but pain is  OK. The idea of running from our pain is actually what is destroying our world.

It’s only in your pain that you can grow. God really can use the bad for our good. Understanding this is a process. It takes time and a concentrated purpose. But we must learn to love the process.

For me, it was my faith in God that helped me find peace. Faith helped me to bring gratitude into every moment. When I can be grateful no matter what happens, dealing with anxiety and hardships doesn’t have such weight to it. It creates a space for me to buffer what happens when I get anxious instead of identifying with the feeling.

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When we build our lives on things that’ are shakable, then when tough times come, they shake us to our core.

And when we achieve what we thought would fulfill us only to be left empty, it feels like our life is crumbling. My Super Bowl experiences taught me that the most important thing in my life is to build a strong foundation on the things that truly matter.