Former Steeler, Nittany Lion speaks at men’s rally

LEWISTOWN – Jeff Hartings, a former offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penn State Nittany Lions, spoke at the 60th annual United Methodist Men’s Rally, held April 4 at First United Methodist Church.

Hartings took the place of John Kolb, who originally was scheduled to speak at the rally but had to cancel because of a family event. Hartings said he was honored to have the opportunity to speak to the congregation, but admitted to some nerves.

“To be able to take John’s place is nerveracking because he’s a good Christian, and he won more Super Bowls than me,” he said.

Hartings spoke about growing up in a small town in Ohio and worshipping money from an early age because his family didn’t often have any.

“We grew up without very much money, like a lot of people today. I wanted all the things my friends wanted. I developed this idea that I’m missing out on happiness because of lack of money,” he said.

From an early age, Hartings discovered he could use his natural football ability to improve his life. He made it his goal to make it into the National Football League because that would mean making money, which he believed would make him happy.

“Being in the NFL would be like hitting the lottery. I would become wealthy, and I’d be happy, he said. “I would never argue with my wife for the rest of my life because I’d have money.”

However, after his first few years in the NFL, Hartings’ marriage was falling apart and his career was stalling. He finally realized he was worshipping the wrong thing all along.

“I worshipped success. I worshipped money. I didn’t worship God … I needed to worship God and serve him only. I was humbled,” he said.

From then on, Hartings said he became Christian and joined Bible studies, learning about God’s message.

His strong faith prompted frequent questions about whether or not it was right for people to pray for favorable sporting outcomes, particularly when he reached Super Bowl XL with the Steelers in 2006.

“I said I prayed to win the Superbowl because I’d know I would be sad if we lost. But I think God had a part in me winning the Super Bowl. God has a part in everything,” he said.

Hartings also talked about how current NFL players struggle with what people consider to be “normal” and with their faith.

“It’s so hard not to conform to the norms of this world, especially for a football player,” he said.

Hartings was particularly upset with the public’s reaction to Tim Tebow’s outspoken devotion to God.

“I love Tim Tebow. I get upset when people say he needs to stop talking about Christ,” he said.

Hartings spoke for an hour and ended his speech with a prayer.

He resides in Pittsburgh with his wife of 17 years, Rebecca, and their seven children.