Latter-day Saint Life

Former 49er Steve Young will convince you that choosing love is always possible—even on the football field

St. Louis Rams vs San Francisco 49ers
Steve Young, Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers during the National Football Conference West game on November 26, 1995.
Getty Images

In some of the biggest NFL games of his life, Steve recalls how an opposing player showed him brotherly love in a way you wouldn’t expect.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on in April 2022.

Reggie White was six foot six, maybe six foot seven, 375 pounds. Don’t believe the stats you read online about him weighing 300 pounds. That’s just aspirational. He was the biggest human I’ve ever met, but he was big in a perfectly proportioned way—just a larger, perfect athlete. He was stronger than everyone, faster than everyone. And he was a fierce competitor. Reggie played for the Philadelphia Eagles, then he played for the Green Bay Packers for years. I faced Reggie in some of the biggest games in my life.

Every time I ever played him, I knew that Reggie was going to be such a pain. No one could block him. He just threw people out of the way. And you could hear him. When he competed, he competed loudly, full throttle. You could hear him screaming and hollering, and it was always like, here comes Reggie, let me get rid of the ball. A lot of times I didn’t. He was paid millions of dollars to get to me. The quarterback is going down—Reggie was going to make sure of it.

But personally, we were fast friends. Reggie and I went back a ways. He knew my dad. Reggie and I developed this tremendous friendship. We met at the Hula Bowl All-Star game, back in our college days. We came out as rookies together in 1984; he went to the USFL (United States Football League) like I did, playing with the Memphis Showboats. He was a Christian man, a man of God, an ordained Baptist minister. They called him “the Minister of Defense.”

I went to pro bowls with Reggie, and before or after a game he would invite the players to come to a chapel. He would preach and challenge them to be baptized. I went to his services and found them very enjoyable and incredibly uplifting. Once in Hawaii, I went back to the hotel after Reggie preached. I looked out the window to see Reggie baptizing these other Pro Bowl teammates in the ocean off the shore. He was just an energetic pastor of goodwill. He was a seeker. God was a quest for him, not a place of respite but a place of effort—unnerving effort.

But on the field, when Reggie was charging forward with every ounce of his being, this huge human trying to get to me, to earn the sack—the second he got me, I was his friend. He would grab me, then turn and let me fall down on top of him so I wouldn’t get hurt. And then he would want to talk, panting, totally out of breath, saying, “Steve, how are you doing? Haven’t talked to you for a long time. How’s it going? How’s your folks?”

I thought to myself, How do you think it’s going? I just got sacked! I would say, “Reggie. Not so good, bro. Not so good right now. But my folks are fine, thanks for asking. Let’s talk later, OK?”

A few plays later I heard him. Here he came again, charging like a bull, yelling at the top of his massive lungs. He tackled me and turned again so I could land on him as I went down, and said, “So anyway, where are you staying? Do you stay here off-season?”

I felt like half the time Reggie wanted to sack me just so he could talk to me. I had to convince him, “Reggie, I’ll buy you dinner. Let’s just talk after. I don’t want to see you on the field anymore.”

Reggie just amazed me. In that adrenaline-filled environment, the physical challenge, the intense emotional and mental effort of playing professional football in front of thousands and thousands of people, most human beings react to the environment. They become a part of that aggressive world around them; that’s how they find success. Reggie could be part of that, with the same adrenaline, the same intensity, and the same competitiveness, but then there was a flash of a change and he was your friend. He could find common ground.

Reggie lived the law of love. He didn’t have to cushion my fall as he took me down or engage in friendly chatter with me, his opponent. But Reggie loved as God loves, expecting nothing in return.

I can compete and I can have friendship, two things that don’t usually go together very well. But with effort, I can hold them both.

Living the Law of Love

The law of love is loving as God loves, seeking another’s healing, expecting nothing in return. This is not new doctrine. But for me, looking at everything through the lens of the law of love was a subtle shift with vast implications. Some of these concepts were hidden in plain sight, right there in the scriptures. Now that I see them, my whole world has changed for the better.

The law of love is different from love itself. How many songs try to define the word love? It can be compassionate, charitable, romantic, sexual—love is a feeling, selfish or unselfish. But the law of love is a governing force. Just like the laws of gravity, physics, and thermodynamics govern this world, the law of love governs all of creation—the heavens and the earth. The law of love is the highest of all the laws. When I seek to live the law of love—when I make it my quest to steer my life by this highest governing power—the law of love can transform everything. . . .

So often I might have tripped on various looming obstacles that I found in my path, sometimes boulder-sized stumbling blocks that came from different directions. I didn’t come across the law of love from a pleasant walk in the park. I dug deep into the law of love out of desperation, trying to find a way forward during some dark times. Focusing on the law of love helped me zero in on what really matters: the perpetual, unchanging principles of love at the core of Jesus’s gospel.

The Law of Love

Loving as God loves—seeking another’s healing and expecting nothing in return—is a simple principle with profound, life-changing implications. How can we live the law of love? Steve Young shares insights from his own multifaceted life as well as from others who are scientists, fellow Latter-day Saints, Anglican, atheist, Baptist, Catholic, Confucian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and secular people of wisdom, as well as from the scriptures. This practical book may shift your mindset to a more expansive worldview that just might change everything. Whether in football, work, church, or family, the law of love is undefeated.

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