SUPER BOWL: 49ers' kicker perseveres

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--David Akers spent a dozen seasons in the NFL in a time of plenty.

Now in his second year with the San Francisco 49ers, Akers was one of the most consistent kickers in the game during 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, regularly hitting more than 80 percent of his field goal attempts. Last year with the 49ers, Akers had arguably the best season ever for a kicker, setting an NFL record 44 field goals.

This year, however, has been a time of want for Akers, even though the 49ers will vie for a Super Bowl title on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Struggling with inconsistency, Akers converted only 69 percent of his field goal attempts this season. He drew the ire of 49ers fans and even received death threats on Twitter.

As he rested in God's grace during the bountiful years, Akers has learned to do the same during this season of difficulty.

"I think everybody, as humans, we question a lot of what's going on or we can't see the big picture of what's happening," Akers said. "Sometimes the answer comes quickly and sometimes it takes a long time before reflection is turned into answers."

Those answers have often come to Akers from Scriptures such as "Lean not on your own understanding" and "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD."

Though this season was the toughest Akers has faced in a long time, he's not new to adversity away from the game. From 2007-09, Akers invested $3.7 million with a financial group in what proved to be a Ponzi scheme scam. He lost his life's savings.

Then in 2011, Akers' 6-year-old daughter Halley had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from an ovary. She has since recovered fully from the cancer scare.

Struggles such as those tend to put football in its proper perspective for Akers.

"We all go through trials through life," Akers said. "My business is playing football, and I try to do it to the best of my ability. There's some times where you have success and other times where you have failures. You realize that what you do in life doesn't define who you are."

Akers wrote about what does define him in a recent edition of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' monthly magazine.

"I don't want my legacy to be that I was great at making long field goals or filling up the stat sheet," Akers wrote. "I'd rather be known as a great husband and father, a good friend and teammate, a servant and someone who could be counted upon. I love my Heavenly Father and, like Romans 8:28 says, I have a purpose in this life -- to give glory to God in all things."

When his team takes the field on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, Akers' spot on the team is secure -- even though it was in doubt just a few weeks ago when the 49ers auditioned other kickers because of Akers' inconsistency. But he withstood the test, and on Sunday, he hopes to reap the rewards.

"As long as you love God, then you know that He has a plan for you and you've got to just keep working in the situation that you're in," Akers said. "I've had a blessed career. It's been a tough season for me personally, but it's been one of the most rewarding years as a teammate, to see how well the team's done. It's great to be a part of something like this, and hopefully we'll have even more success on Sunday."


Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports and director of news and media relations for Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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