John Beck: Centered in Christ
For four years, John Beck lined up under center at BYU as quarterback of the football team. He is likely best remembered for a winning play in a rivalry game against Utah that is often referred to as “The Answered Prayer,” but in the years since his collegiate career, Beck has learned a lot about seemingly unanswered prayers and perceived failure. On this week’s episode, Beck discusses the refiner’s fire as well as the delicate balance between putting in the work to achieve success while allowing space for recovery and rehabilitation—both mentally and physically. He believes this begins with being centered in Jesus Christ.
To achieve the most difficult things, failure and fear is something you have to look straight in the face and be okay with.
John Beck's pass to Harline:
The Washington Post article about John Beck: John Beck Facts
All In episode with Justin Su'a: The Role of Spirituality in Developing Mental Toughness
2:07- Beck to Harline
6:09- A Good Little Arm
8:52- Favorite Cougar?
12:56- Missions and Sports
17:53- Working On Our Sculpture
22:28- A Father’s Love and a Refiner’s Fire
27:18- Perceived Failure
33:34- The Master Teacher
38:01- Work: A Delicate Balance
40:42- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
I didn't grow up in Utah. In my mind the greatest college sports rivalry of all time is, without a doubt, North Carolina versus Duke. So in November 2006, I didn't care anything about the Utah-BYU rivalry football game, but I'm well aware that there are a number of people who listen to this podcast who watched with fainted breath, as BYU's John Beck scrambled to the right side of the field being chased by Utah's defense and through a cross field prayer to a wide open Johnny Harline who slid on his knees to make the game winning grab in the endzone.
But the reason I wanted to have John Beck on this podcast is not because of that pass that won that game. Rather, it is because of his testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So whether you are a BYU fan or a Utah fan, I hope we can put that 2006 answered prayer behind us and come together for the next 45 minutes.
John Beck spent six seasons as a quarterback in the NFL from 2007 to 2012. Before the NFL, he played for four seasons at Brigham Young University, where he finished his career as second in all-time passing yardage for the university behind 1990 Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer. Most recently you may recognize his name as the trainer who worked with BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. Beck just completed a master's degree in sports psychology.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so excited to have John Beck on the line with me today. John, welcome.
John Beck 1:46
Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Morgan Jones 1:47
Well, first of all, I feel like I need to apologize for the PTSD that this episode may give Utah fans–specifically my boyfriend–he's a die hard Ute and so I feel like – especially like these first couple minutes, maybe if you're a Ute fan, just fast forward. But my first question for you, John, is how many times have you watched the clip of your pass to Harline?
John Beck 2:14
Well, it's not like an annual thing in our house, that's for sure. But it usually does come up every year when BYU is gonna play Utah or it's kind of the week of the Utah game, I tend to end up on the radio stations a lot, doing some interviews, as they kind of hype up the game. And usually because of social media nowadays, that play is kind of on my Twitter feed, or, you know, something will come up like my kids school or something, "Hey, your dad's the guy that through that pass, my dad told me," And then my kids – my kids, actually, they know the Greg Wrubell call better than I do.
Because they like to repeat it, especially out in front of the house when we're playing catch. Every once in a while, we're playing catch, it just happens to turn into this, like, "Dad, dad, go stand over there. And then I'm gonna do the thing, you know, like, 'No time left on the clock, running to his right,'" all that stuff. So, I mean, it's fun. I mean, I can't say . . . I think at least, you know, probably a couple times a year, it pops up somewhere in my life, and I get to see it. And actually, because I knew I was on this, and we talked a little bit about what did that play feel like and everything, I actually kind of relived it this morning as I was driving into work, knowing that we were going to be talking here later today. And it's not every day that I get to relive it. But when I do, it's a really cool memory to have an experience to share with a lot of good friends.
Morgan Jones 3:26
Yeah. So tell us, John, kind of through your eyes, what was happening in that play?
John Beck 3:35
Oh, man, well, you know that that moment in time, I think for a program and as a team, we were trying to get over that hump. There had been some tough games in the previous few years, a tough loss to Utah the year before and overtime. So there was a lot at stake on that final drive. There was a lot of, you know, offseason work that we had put into it. All this, you know, time you put into preparation. So there was a lot on the line, like I said, but I do remember and I will always remember this – of just this moment in time, as I glanced up at the scoreboard, I saw how much time was left. And I went to kind of just take a deep breath, there was like this calm feeling.
And I will always remember that because you know, I wasn't immune to the feelings of pressure. I wasn't immune to the, to the situation or knowing what it meant if something went well and knowing what it meant if it didn't. Like I was well aware of all those things, but there was just this peaceful calm about just going out and playing ball. To me, that's one of the coolest moments of that whole experience. But I remember just then it's like playing ball, right? You're going through your progressions, your reads, you're recognizing they're dropping everybody in the coverage you anticipated, they might do something different, they didn't, they drop out, now you have a plan because of things that happened the year before.
I kind of, in my mind had a little bit of a plan for if they did that. So I started moving, I start moving, nobody's getting open. And when they brought some pressure, I just knew I needed to buy more time and as I bought more time, and everybody kind of flowed with me, just so happened that Johnny Harline was kind of trickling back to the other side of the end zone. And, you know, I knew that once he cleared that space, he was going to be the only guy over there if I could get the ball to him. And so I jumped, let it go.
And, you know, I've heard from a lot of BYU fans over the year that that play took so long, it's just, "Oh my gosh, that was the longest 13 seconds, that took so long." I can promise all of them, there was nothing as long–to me–as when that ball was flying in the air towards Johnny. And you know, they talk about sometimes in sports things happen in slo-mo, I, when I saw Johnny go to his knees, it was in slo-mo and I seriously for a split second wondered if he slides on his knees and ends up on the one-yard line, like, what in the world? But as soon as he caught it and stood up and everything just went crazy, and I knew we'd won the game, that was the next coolest moment because it just turned into pandemonium.
I mean, it was like this calm, and then you're playing a game, and then it's this slow-mo, “Is the ball going to land where I need it to land?” And then he catches it, and then it's just like this rush of emotions, rush of people, cameras are in my face, our teams jumping up and down and jumping on my teammates. We're all just like, I mean, it was, again, one of the coolest moments I've ever had in my life in sports.
Morgan Jones 6:07
That's so cool. I think it's funny because regardless, for anybody that's played sports, you can kind of relate to that, what you just described and it kind of takes you back to the highlights of your own, whether it be like high school career. But I think that that's way cool.
John, I want to throw it way back, and I read an article where your mom was talking about you as a baby. And she said, "He was a terror in church. He used to drink his bottle really fast, and he had such a quick release. If we weren't careful once it was empty, he'd grab the nipple and throw it about six rows up." And the article that I read said that this is actually controversial, because another news outlet said that you threw it four rows up, but whether it's four rows up or six rows up, is this true? And also, is it true that you could throw a perfect spiral at age two?
John Beck 7:04
I don't have any recollection of any of those, but the thing that I, I mean, the thing I do know is obviously my parents would tell me things. And they would basically say, "Oh my gosh, John, like when you get your hands on things, like, you were just firing away." So I don't have a, like a memory of a bottle. I don't have a memory of throwing a spiral at two, but I do have very young memories of throwing with my dad and also I have a cool memory–my dad was a track athlete at BYU and he used to train in the Fieldhouse.
And the area of the weight rooms was shared between other athletes. So like the football players and basketball players, they would all be down there. I do have memories of me being a really young kid and having this like stuffed blue and white ball. And football players would poke their heads, or other athletes would poke their heads out of the weight room and like flash their hands at me, like, "Throw it to me, kid." And I remember just like standing there waiting for somebody else to poke out, and I would throw it, and I can remember seeing my dad kind of poke out with a smile on his face, and just kind of nod his head like, "He's got a good little arm, doesn't he?"
Now, I mean, I must have somewhere been between the ages of you know, one to four around that age. So I mean, somewhere in there, I do have a memory of throwing stuff. And I mean, maybe it's coming back to me now because I have a young five-year-old now, but at the time that he was like between two and three, he actually shattered two of our TVs. The first one was an old one so I was okay with it. He threw a controller at it. And then when we got the new one, we only had it for a week and he threw another controller at it. So I don't know if throwing things is something that runs in the family, but I guess if there's any testament to maybe those stories being true, it's what I'm seeing in my own son, who now at a similar age is just chucking things.
Morgan Jones 8:48
Yeah, karma coming back to bite ya. John, you are a cougar fan through and through. I read that when you were eight years old you dressed up as Jim McMahon for Halloween. But you also tried to force yourself to become a lefty like Steve Young. And then you named your son Ty. So you've got a lot of different Cougar greats covered, but who is your favorite former Cougar? And then also, what did it mean to you to represent BYU on the football field?
John Beck 9:22
Yeah, I was definitely a fan of a lot of those quarterbacks. Like you said, my first jersey I ever owned was a Jim McMahon jersey. To this day, I still think a smooth lefty stroke just looks awesome. But it's an easy answer. I mean, Ty Detmer was the guy for me at that age that just captured my imagination. As a young boy, where I had already knew I loved football, I just was, you know, captivated by the game, captivated by the different styles of play. But you know, being at that age of like 9-10 years old and my dad would watch the BYU games and I would see two things really, it was: I loved seeing Ty just make plays. He just always found a way to make plays, whether it was just, you know, ripping somebody through the air and making like a perfect pass where he threaded the needle or scrambling around, dancing around, and making something out of nothing, it was that style of play that just, I mean really kind of captured my imagination.
And when I played in the street with my friends I wanted to play like Ty played. But then I always have this image in my head of Ty Detmer, he's got this bandage on his chin, he took this huge hit when playing University of Miami in a big-time game for the Cougars, and one that's you know, gone down in history because BYU upset the number one team in the country, but at that time, he was throwing a corner out to tight end Chris Smith, and just took a lick and it split his chin. And I just have this image of Ty with this like, bandage and bloody chin, and just – he was one tough sucker. And I just loved that too.
My dad always just tried to raise us boys to just be tough in everything that we did. So Ty kind of just embodied everything that I wanted to be when I put the shoulder pads and the helmet on. So that's–and like you said, my oldest son got his name because of it.
Morgan Jones 11:04
That's awesome. And then following up on that, when you were able to put those shoulder pads on and the helmet and it was Cougar blue, what did that mean to you, as a lifelong fan?
John Beck 11:18
Yeah, thanks for bringing that question back up. You know, there's something special about a program that has a history of a position, like quarterback. I think that there's a lot of boys that grow up dreaming of being a BYU quarterback. And I can remember a lot of times my dad would always talk to me when we were out in the street throwing late at night practicing, he'd always say, "There are a lot of boys that want those type of positions," you know, whether it be at BYU, Arizona State, some of these other schools, but a lot of people want it, but it takes a ton of work, and when you get there, it takes even more work.
So when I went to BYU, and I got to be a BYU quarterback, I was well aware of the work that went into that position, the guys that held that position before me, and what it took to be great. And really, it's a price to be paid, right? You know, so it was really cool for me to be recruited by LaVell, the very same guy that recruited those guys. And it was cool for me to don the same helmet that they wore, play on the same field, you know.
When I–honestly like in some of those, you know, record books or whatnot, or the days when you know, you get announced as you just surpass this guy–to me, I didn't care about surpassing a guy, but it meant a lot for me to be named with those guys, because I look at it as a group of guys, that, not everybody gets to be them. And when you, when you are them–when you are that BYU quarterback–there's an expectation that is not an easy expectation, and every Cougar quarterback feels it. But when you get to do it, and things go good, it's really, really special. So I guess, you know, I kind of wanted to continue to carry the torch the way that it's supposed to be. So that when, you know, when people look at BYU and the quarterback position, they look at it the same way.
Morgan Jones 12:52
Yeah, for sure. John, you were–when you finally did make it to BYU–you were a 22-year-old true freshman. You went on your mission prior to your freshman season, how do you feel like your mission and beginning your collegiate career several years older–I feel like this is something that comes up literally every time BYU is playing basketball or football and the ESPN commentators are always like, "And they've got four guys that are this old," –so how do you think that that affected your approach to football, whether it be mentally, physically, whatever?
John Beck 13:33
Well, it's not easy. It affected all of those things. The mission was an unbelievable experience. An experience that, you know, in the same situation, I would make the same decision 100 times out of 100. You know, the decision to be a missionary I had made when I was a young boy. So it was never in question if I was going to go, but all the blessings and the life lessons and all those great things that come from a mission, there's still things that are setbacks when it comes to playing a sport.
You know, for me, a lot of my life revolved around my training. The things that I did to better myself as an athlete, I was an extremely late mature and developer, so I had to work extremely hard. And because of that, I had to learn how to sacrifice way more time than maybe some other guys did. But because of that when I left on my mission, and I don't get to sacrifice that type of time and I'm gone for–you know, I ended up missing three football seasons because of the time on my birthday–back then you had to wait till you're 19–when I put my call in and when I was called was way different than what I anticipated.
I only wanted to miss two football seasons, but I ended up missing three. So I just remember a lot of different feelings. One I'll never forget, when I came home, I think I came home on like a Tuesday, I think maybe Monday or Tuesday, there was like a Friday night football game that I watched and it was a Florida State–I believe like Miami football game–I remember sitting in my room, my front room of my house, watching the game with my dad and just feeling like, oh my gosh, like, this just looks so different. Like I'm used to seeing soccer balls, I'm used to seeing– when I see a sport on TV, it's soccer. And to see somebody, like hold the ball in their hands and throw it through the air and see some running person catch, it just looked foreign to me.
So it was a lot to have to, like, catch back up on from a physical standpoint, I think even from a mental standpoint. I was not a young man that went to a school that like ran a lot of things offensively that was going to prepare me extremely well for the collegiate game. And my high school, we were really good at what we did, but it wasn't very complex. So to go to college, and to run a system that was far more complex, like I had a lot of catching up to do.
But yet, because of the mission experience, you feel this shift in your value system kind of. Football still meant a ton to me, but I had this very strong experience that I just come out of where a lot of things held a different priority in my life. And not saying that they weren't a priority before, I can remember having goals of a mission, goals to read the Book of Mormon, you know, good goals. But did I truly know how to follow those up with the actions that needed to follow, to make those the priority in my life? You know, no. There was a lot of things I could have done better. But I had practiced a lot on making football and sports a high priority by the time I invested.
So when I came home, I had like this, this value system I wanted to keep. I did not want to be one of those missionaries that just experienced his mission and then went back to his old ways. I absolutely had planned on my mission affecting the rest of my life. And I wanted to live up to that by the choices and decisions I made. But it's hard when you come home, because I didn't feel as good of a football player when I came home as I was when I left. And there was a lot of work to do to get back to that.
And then not only that, but having to play young at BYU, like you said, although I was a 22-year-old freshman–and that sounds like that's a huge advantage–I felt like there was a disadvantage because of how long I've been away from the game. And I made a lot of mistakes as a young player, not only because of inexperience playing the collegiate game or running a college style offense, but just from being out of the game. There's a lot of like sixth sense things that you do as a quarterback and as a player that there were many times in games that I would take a hit or I would do something and I'd be like, “Where did that– like sense that I usually played with, where did it go?” And I know that it was just from time away.
So it was an absolute challenge. And I tell people all the time when they say that, "Oh, you BYU guys, you got all these like 21 and 22 year old freshmen," I always say, "I invite you to leave the game for two to three years and come back and see how you play right away. It's not easy."
Morgan Jones 17:32
Absolutely not. And I think I think it's important to acknowledge that and to recognize that like you said, while you would do it 100 times out of 100, it still is a sacrifice. And whatever it is that you're stepping away from there are going to be pros and cons when you come back. And I think it's important to acknowledge those things.
John, you've always been a big proponent of hard work. And I think that it's even more interesting now because you work with young athletes and train them outside of their traditional practice. People that are big Cougar fans currently will recognize your name, if not from your time at BYU, but from the many references to Zach Wilson coming and training with you.
But, going back to your NFL career, when people were critical of you, I read a quote where you said, "I'm kind of chiseling my way at a sculpture. And I know what I want it to look like, and I believe that it will be. I've been chiseling away and there's still a lot more to chisel away at. And there's going to be more times where I'm going to stand back and say, 'Okay, now what do I have to do?' And then I'm going to walk towards it and chisel away some things and then stand back again, there's still a lot left to do."
And I thought that was such an impressive quote. And I wondered, how does that work ethic that you applied to your football also apply to your approach in life outside of football?
John Beck 19:05
Well, it's, it's still the exact same. I think–I can remember actually giving that when I was playing for the Miami Dolphins. And I don't know if I used it again before – I mean, sorry again later – in my career, but I feel like I can remember making a similar statement then. And you know, as I think about that, it takes me back to that time in life where I was really excited to be drafted by the Dolphins. Here I come out of BYU, our team has a great year, I get to get drafted really high. And I have you know, and like an excitement for the future. And it feels like great things are going to happen.
And a coaching staff, an organization picks me to be their future. And then it felt like all of a sudden in the blink of an eye, all of that just gets turned upside down. And there's new people running the organization and new team coming in and people are very critical of, you know, the performances that I had as a rookie, and I'm going out there trying to go through a learning process that the group before me was all about, right? "We want you to go through this learning process, we want you to go through that sculpting process. And we're going to be a part of this with you, and we're going to help you on that."
And then all of a sudden, a few months later, all of those people are gone. And I'm left feeling like I'm doing this on my own. And it's not an easy process, because sometimes you go up to that sculpture and you do something to it that you feel may be the best. And then as you step back, and you experience something else, you realize, man, maybe, maybe that wasn't the best. Maybe now I got to actually step back and make an adjustment on what I just did. And it's a– I mean, it's a difficult process.
And you know, now standing where I'm at, and looking at that, I mean, I can almost say that, like, at times, you may have to just step back and say, "Man, you know what I'm not going to actually get from this thing that I've been working on for all these years, what I hoped, I may have to actually just start over." And I'm not saying like, you know, that happens to everybody. But the feeling at times that like the complete sculpture isn't even close to what you thought it was going to be, despite the hundreds and hundreds of times you step forward, step back, step forward, step back, worked on it a little trying your best, step back–it's a tough process when you put in that type of investment. And then it's, you're looking at it saying, "Man, how did it get here?" But that's life, right?
And I appreciate those moments. I appreciate though, what I feel like is what makes Christ special and His relationship with us, and the position that He is in the Gospel is because, although we may think that that sculpture that we've been working so hard on isn't even close to what it should be, He has that Master's touch. Where, with Him, He can step with us and say, "Look, this is not ruined," right? Like, "This is actually still going to be beautiful. And although you may think that somehow it's messed up, it's actually totally fine. Because I knew you would be in this situation. I knew you would feel this way, and with me, this can even be more beautiful than what you thought."
And I think that that kind of tying that into like as I look at my life, and as I think about some of the lives of my friends, or just even as I ponder about my children, and how they'll feel in life, we're all trying to do the best job sculpting that we can. But we need those moments in time where we look at it, and then have to turn to Him and say, "We need help." And then, "Please help me make this what it's supposed to be."
Morgan Jones 22:25
I love that. I love the way you put that. When we talked beforehand, John, you said that the refiners fire has been a topic that you're really passionate about. So I wondered–first, why is that topic important to you personally? And how do you feel like you yourself have experienced the refiners fire? Or how have you seen it in the lives of people that you love and care about?
John Beck 22:50
Yeah, I think that there's something about the refiners fire, that when you're going through it, it's the pains, the frustrations, the disappointment that nobody likes. There's not a single person I think that would choose that. But it's the times that you see the beauty of the refinement, that you're so grateful and appreciative of those moments, right? Yet, knowing that you still have so much more to do.
There's just something about that process. I think the reason why I gained such a love for it was because I felt like for so long, I was like–in it. And there wasn't like a . . . man, what in the world, like I am trying everything I possibly can and it just doesn't seem like either things are playing out like I hoped, or even despite my best efforts to align my life, how like, it's supposed to be. Like when you are trying to align your life, why are other things not working out? Or why does it seem that you're being made aware of these aspects of yourself that served you so well in years past, and for some reason, in the current situation, is not serving you well? Yet you're left feeling like, well, that's the tool that I've used so well in the past, why is this tool not working now?
And you go through that growth, right? And when I think about the growth of anyone, Joseph Smith, when I think about people in the scriptures I read about, right? And I just taught this lesson to my boys the other night of how Christ learned–even He learned–line upon line. It's all of those teaching moments that means so much to us when we get to step out of the fire, and the refiner looks at the metal and says, "Okay, this is much, much closer to what I'm wanting it to be." We can't see what the metal is supposed to be, but He can.
And there's a, there's an actual thing that I love so much. It was a story of this group of women that they were reading in the Bible, they're reading about the refiners fire, and they felt it would be an awesome idea for their women's group to go meet with this person that was working with metals. And so they went in, they watch the person who was working with metals, and I believe he was holding like silver or something over the flame and one of the women went and asked and said, you know, "What are you doing?" like, "How do you know what to do? How do you know when it's done?" And he said, "Well, it's simple, I hold it in the hottest part of the flame, and it has to be removed at the perfect timing. Because if I remove it too soon, it's not done. It's not ready. But if I remove it too late, it's gone too far, and I've taken it past that point."
And the lady said, "Well, then tell me when the perfect moment is, how do you know?" And he says, "It's when I can see my reflection." And I'm sure that that's a story that a lot of people have heard, but I just love that aspect in terms of Christ. Like, who are we here on earth trying to be like? We are trying to be like Him, but sometimes despite our best efforts, we fall short. And yet, who then can help us be like Him? It's He who knows us best. It's He who can draw us towards Him, but He's gonna keep us in that fire until he sees His reflection in us.
And although there's going to be times where we just complain and are wondering why, I am so grateful for those moments in my life. I've had a lot of things that like didn't work out like I thought, and you know, it'd be lying if I said, there weren't still moments that I look back and go, "Man, I wish that did work out because I really wanted it to work out that way." But then there's these like, 10 moments that I'm like, teaching my kids with my family helping other people, that then I'm like, man, thank goodness for those experiences and the things that the Lord taught me, because I know I would not be able to be this person or teach those things had I not gone through it.
And I think it's for those moments that I love the refiners fire. And I know I have so much more to go. But you know, when I look at my own children, I know they have to go through that, and I want them to go through that. And I just hope that they can look at it the right way when they come out of it.
Morgan Jones 26:34
I love John, that you tied that into your children, because I think sometimes we're like, "Heavenly Father, why are you allowing me to go through this?" But you, from an earthly father perspective, also want that for your children, and I think that that's, that's kind of the beauty of going through hard things and why God allows us to go through it because He knows how good it can be for us in the long run. And if we go back to the refiners fire thing, you know, if I'm a father and my kid is being put through a refiners fire, my instinct is to take him out of the fire. But you got to wait until just that right moment.
John, you talked to me about how many people–especially youth–feel overwhelmed by expectations and perceived feelings of failure. And I wondered, what do you wish that people–specifically the youth and I think this applies to athletes that you're working with–what do you wish people better understood about failure?
John Beck 27:41
Well, failure is one of those things that growing up, you don't want it, right? I was raised to be like an extremely hard worker, be very prepared, do everything you can, be positive, have confidence, all of those things, right? Well, those things don't lead to failure, right? And you almost want to like avoid failure. You just – like you want to do everything you can to be successful. Well, in doing everything you can to be successful, that means you don't fail. And at times, it can be hard in life because you know, sometimes success and failure is not always about what we do but sometimes about circumstances.
I've had to learn a lot of lessons about sometimes life does not always set you up for winning situations. And sometimes those are some of the lessons that I've learned have been the hardest ones. Through some of my experiences growing up, I was fortunate to have a lot of successes and failure was not something that I had to learn a lot about.
My earlier life story was more about people doubting me, people criticizing me, people not believing or telling me, "You're not going to be that," "You won't ever achieve that. Are you kidding me?" Like "Why would you think that you're ever going to do that?" So it was like where people doubted–I had to believe. But failure was not something that I really had to spend a lot of time learning how to deal with.
But throughout my collegiate career, my professional career in football, failure was something that I had to have a completely different perspective on. And I learned it going through this circumstance, but because of that situation with failure, I know that I treat people that I train–the, you know, the kids that I mentor and my own children– completely different when it comes to failure. I don't want to say, "You have to be okay failing." But you have to somewhat have a willingness to know that to get to where you want to go, or to achieve the most difficult things, failure and fear is something you have to look straight in the face and be okay with.
And at times it's about how you talk to yourself, how you perceive situations, and the perspective that you just carry with you. And so, you know, to me, I look at the youth and this is why I think I've been very passionate about it–it's just because I look at a time in my life when I believed so much that my lifelong goal of succeeding the NFL and being a starting quarterback was in my fingertips and things were going to go really well. And I'm not going to get into the conversations that I had with the head coach of the coordinator or all of those other surrounding things, but just the feeling of feeling like it's right there in my fingertips and I'm so close, and the things that I did were all of the things that I believed were going to give me my best opportunity to succeed.
And yet, despite my best efforts, it didn't work. And when I look back, probably the number one thing that I needed to–if I could shift something, was how I viewed failure. I was never okay, with failing. And like I said before, people will say, "Well, you should never be okay with failing." And I'm not saying that I needed to be okay with it, but there are some situations or there are times in life where you are trying to grow, develop, or you're learning lessons that you don't quite have the tools yet for, and you will fail. And that doesn't mean that you're a failure. It just means you're learning.
There's a phrase in our house that my kids have memorized. I always say, "Boys, what is failure?" And they say, "Feedback." And I learned that from Justin Su'a, who is an LDS guy that is the mental performance coach for the Tampa Bay Rays. And why do I, like why did I learn those things? The experience that I went through as a professional athlete led me down this road of learning, of questions, wanting to kind of like–what could I have done better to see things differently? It led me into this road of performance psychology. And actually, this weekend, I've finished a master's degree in performance psychology, and Justin Su'a has become a great friend and mentor.
And because of that, I'm a completely different dad. I'm a completely different person when I train my athletes. And as I think to the youth, like there's nothing wrong with failure. Failure just means you're trying. You're not going to accomplish any difficult thing in life unless you experience some failure. I think of babies. How many times does a baby fall before it learns to walk? Tons. How many times does a child fall on their bike before they learn to ride a bike? Tons. How many times does a young female gymnast attempting a routine or a certain mount on like a dismount on a bar or different things on a balance beam–like I can go through all types of athletics, anything. Musical instruments, I watch my son fail a ton on trying to get his chords right on his guitar at night or trying to transition from one to another.
Failure is a part of achievement. If you're really willing to achieve something, you have to be willing to fail. And the worst thing is, when people set such high expectations, which is a good thing, but they feel they fall short, and that gap that they feel like, "I am so far from where I expected," there's nothing wrong with it, the only wrong thing is how you perceive it. And that's where I believe in this thing with the you know, right and wrong, a Savior and an adversary. I believe that's where the adversary steps in.
It's just like with sin. I don't believe that the adversary tries to bring us down and make us feel terrible in the act of sinning, it's after that happens. It's in that space when we feel guilty, we feel shame. We like regret something, that then he tries to step in and pull us down. And I think with expectations, that's exactly what happens. There's nothing wrong with setting a high goal. It's great. Go for it. And there's nothing wrong with falling flat on your face and feeling this large gap. All that is, is feedback. And it tells you alright, if I'm going to chip away, this is the first step I got to take.
But it's in that large gap that the adversary wants to step in and just make you feel terrible, wants to make you feel bad, worthless, not enough, all those things because he knows that drags you down. And if he's dragging you down, it drags your spirit down. And I think the strongest part of us is our spirit, and because of that, the adversary wants to do everything he can to drag that part of us down.
Morgan Jones 33:25
So well said. And I love that you know Justin Su'a. Justin has been on our show, and I adore him. I think he's just the best guy.
In a text to me prior to our interview, you said this, and I want to quote it directly because I think it's so good. You said, "I just love how Christ wants us to feel the humanness that we all have, so we will turn to Him, and that that's part of the process of the gospel." How has turning to Christ for you, John, in your humanness changed your life? And what do you feel is the beauty of the process of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
John Beck 34:03
Well, I think, as . . . I think as we all move forward in life, it would be nice if life became easier, but I just don't think that's the case. I think life has a way of bringing situations into your life that either cause you to become more self-aware and more aware of your weakness and more aware of your need to rely on a Savior and turn to Him, not less aware of it. And as we become more aware of it, that's that humanness, that like, I almost want to say you just kind of have to smile and embrace it, right?
Because that's who we are. Like we're not on this planet, to like turn into robots, not at all. If we are turning to robots, how do we ever relate to one another? If we turn into a robot, how could I ever strive to have empathy or understand somebody that's completely different from me, right? It's in recognizing our own weaknesses. We really – like recognizing that this is a part of the planet, there's a reason why there's a Savior, it's because of all those things. And then looking at like the beautiful parts of that, right?
That gives us such an opportunity to have a great relationship with the Savior. What type of a relationship am I going to have with Him if I don't have that weakness, that humanness a part of me? I'm not gonna. Why would I turn to Him? But it's because of those things and how they tie together. And that's, you know, sometimes in life, I just smile, because I think like the phrase, "The master teacher," right? He was so unbelievable at the way that he taught and many of us marvel at the scriptures and the lessons and the way that he was able to teach us through parables through different things and we can read the scriptures many, many times and things are unlocked later in life to us of a scripture, we read 20 times, but all of a sudden, it clicks differently when we're 39 years old.
Well, why would our life not be the exact same way? Why as we experience life, why would it not feel the same way with us and the gospel? And I think that to me, when I think of my Savior, I look at those parts, and I'm so so grateful, because I can't imagine that as the years go on, and I'm more and more aware of my humanness, I can't imagine not having Him. In fact, I'm more and more grateful for Him and what He did, and the plan that was laid before us. And I think all of that ties into my testimony of a Savior and of Christ's role in my life.
And I'm so far from being perfect, but I'm grateful for that . . . Sometimes. In reality, sometimes I wish I was a bit more perfect. But I'm grateful for it because of the lessons learned, especially because of my children. Those guys just mean the world to me.
I just saw a picture of them that my dad sent me yesterday of my little boys, three of them, it was from the tunnel of a Houston Texans football game. And I see those little boys and I think about the love that I have for them, and I think that this is the same love that our Savior feels for every single person on this planet. And yet every single person is so imperfect. And to me that is the beauty of the gospel. That like, that much love can be contained in one being.
Who–He and His father loved us so much that Christ was willing to lay down his life for all of us. To me, that is why I want to commit every single day for being like Him. It's why when I start my prayers in the morning, I just lately as I read the stories of Joseph Smith, through "Come, Follow Me," and I see his human-ness, and maybe people want to bash him and beat him down or claim what he wasn't because he was human, I just think how truly amazing it was that Christ was able to take him and within Joseph's effort to be who he wanted to be for Christ, and to fulfill that role. And what Christ knew Joseph could become, it's that becoming that I think is so special in the Gospel. It's this change of heart, it's change of all of us, and it's becoming more like Him. To me, that's my testimony. That's something that when I look at my little boys, I just pray that they embrace it. Like I just pray that they embrace that "Becoming" that really, truly is the gospel.
Morgan Jones 37:57
John, thank you so much for sharing that testimony with us. I'm curious, I feel like I shouldn't have an athletic trainer on the show without asking this question. But I feel like there are a lot of parallels between training our bodies physically and training ourselves spiritually and putting in work to strengthen our testimonies. What have you learned from your experience in working with athletes about the importance of putting in work? And how does that relate to our spiritual or religious lives?
John Beck 38:31
Yeah, I think it comes down to stress, a workload. Athletes have a passion to achieve something, and through years and years of training, they understand that to have adaptation for your body, the muscles to change, you have to put stress on the muscles. And then through continued training, that's how the muscles adapt.
When you aren't able to be consistent, despite–maybe you can say–your best efforts, you will not see the same adaptation, the same improvements, but there's like an equation, right? There's things that have to go with it. You can train as hard as you want, you can put that stress on yourself, but there also needs to be time for recovery where the body needs to rest and recover. And that's mentally and also physically.
And then there's also the equation of what you put into your body, right? If you're not putting the right nutrients like into your body, that training that you're putting yourself through can actually work against yourself and muscles can break down. So it's this delicate balance but, you know, athletes, those that strive to reach their highest potential, they put a lot of time and effort into understanding that equation, where they actually seek out and they form a team around them of people. A dietician, nutritionist strength coach, mental performance coach, they put this team around them so they can have the right balance for them.
And as I think of that, like how that relates to the gospel and like our spirituality, it's the same thing right? We need to be spiritually nourished. Our spirit needs the same thing. It needs times for recovery, it needs time of rehabilitation, when we all make errors mistakes, you know, we need to go through a rehabilitation process which is the Atonement.
When we are striving to grow spiritually, we need to turn to the scriptures. We need to turn to prayer, turn to our Father in heaven. We have like this team around us, right? We have, we have Heavenly Parents, we have earthly parents, we have a Savior, we have our bishop, we have–if we're young men, we have like young women, we have our leaders, we have like this team around us that can help us in that equation, so that we can spiritually adapt. So that our spirits can become stronger and more like Christ and how they're supposed to be, so then when we return to our Father in heaven, we've become what He hopes we can become.
Morgan Jones 40:36
John, you are an absolute Rockstar, and I'm so appreciative to you for sharing all of this with us. My last question for you is, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
John Beck 40:48
I have been pondering that question for so long since I knew I was going to be on this podcast. Okay, I'm going to use football, okay, real quick to end this. When I train quarterbacks and I'm getting them ready for college ball, the NFL, all that type stuff. I talked about centering on the defense, okay? I'm going to try to say this in a way for people that don't understand football, it will still makes sense. But essentially, you have a plan as an offense. And to start that plan, the quarterback has to be protected by the offensive line. And there's a scheme that is happening. And throughout the field, receivers, running backs on past plays, they're working together, because they're trying to put key defenders in positions where if they make one decision, they're wrong. If they make another decision, they're wrong. Those guys are called key defenders, we create two on ones, three on twos, high-lows, in and outs, it's a way to attack a defensive coverage.
But then there's this other element called protection, where the offensive line has to block. They have to pick up the right guys. Well, what happens, the defense wants to bring a blitz, the quarterback in the offensive line, they have to be on the same page. So that who the defense is bringing on the blitz, the quarterback knows. Do I have enough guys to block them? Because if I don't, I now have to make an adjustment with my receivers to get the ball out of my hand. And when I do, now I can efficiently execute the play downfield.
So players have to be on the same page. So the quarterback and the center have to center the defense. Sometimes you'll get on TV, you'll watch TV, and you'll hear the quarterback yell out "55 is the mike." They're saying that the number 55 is the mike, they're centering the defense, they're talking with the offensive line and the quarterback. It's a communication thing saying, "This is where I'm seeing the center of the defense is, so that your blocking scheme, I know that you're blocking one way, you're going to pick up this person, the running back is responsible now for these two people, he can only block one, so if two come I got to make an adjustment."
But what it does is it gives you a starting point. Because you, the offensive line, your running back, because all of you are centered together, you can execute plays, you can make adjustments, you can change the play, you can change the blocking protection, if you know that you're going to have a blitz, and you need to change where the lines going, you can do all of that. And because you're centered, you can really be ready for anything. And then when it comes to attacking the defense, now you can be in control.
And as I think about like all in also, I thought about centering in Christ. Like what does all in mean to me? It means centering on Christ, because when I'm centered on Christ, I'm seeing things clearly. I see the defense clearly, "Oh, you're trying to bring that Blitz? I know what I need to do. Because I'm centered with the line, I know my back's doing," And now it can work. And now it can be really efficient.
And that's when people watch some of the star quarterbacks in the NFL and they go, "Oh, man, he's doing this. He's doing that, he makes it look so easy." He's actually doing a lot. But because he's centered and he has great communication with the people around him, it looks easy. And to me, all in is that learning process. It's not being that right now, but it's learning how to do that.
I think our Father in heaven has designed an earth, an environment, an existence, an experience, where he wants us to learn how to center on Christ. Because when we center on Christ, we can see the defense, the offense, we can see all those things with the right perspective. And then when we have those glasses on, when we see it the right way, now we can be ready. And I think that's then that feeling of feeling like that armor of God. I think that's that feeling of feeling close to the spirit. When people feel those whisperings and they know what to do when they get those whisperings, they're centered, right? And I think to me, all in is that whole process of centering ourself on Christ.
Morgan Jones 44:26
John, thank you so much. You've given me a lot to think about. As a football fan I feel like I'm going to have to chew on that one for a while, but thank you so so much for taking the time and for just being such a fun person to talk to. So thank you.
John Beck 44:42
Oh, yeah, you're very welcome. I enjoyed it as well.
Morgan Jones 44:48
We are so grateful to John Beck for joining us on this week's episode. Thank you to all of you who answered the call to leave us a rating or review over the past couple of weeks. We read every one and it means so much that you would take the time to do that.
Also a big thank you to Derek Campbell from Mix at Six studios for his help with this, and every episode. We'll be with you again next week.