Even though Greg Zuerlein is used to dealing with long distances, he did need some time to adjust to the Rams’ move earlier this year from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Zuerlein holds many kicking records — including the longest field goal in team history, at 61 yards — yet the 1,800-mile transition from the heartland to the West Coast was challenging for him.
What made the experience run more smoothly was the diligence and ingenuity of his wife of three and a half years, Megan, who handled most of the moving while her husband was busy with offseason training in Oxnard, California. Also prominent in the transition, as in every other aspect of the Zuerleins’ family life, is trust in God.
Greg Zuerlein, whose Rams are 3-5 this season, spoke of kicking, moving and believing, with Register correspondent Trent Beattie, as the team looks forward to playing the 3-6 New York Jets on Nov. 13.
Was the move from St. Louis to Los Angeles difficult?
It was. At the end of last season, I was a free agent and unsure which team I’d sign with, so there was a period of three months in which everything was up in the air for me and my family. The only certain thing was that we would not be in St. Louis. We had to move, but we weren’t sure where that would be.
I did end up signing with the Rams, so we moved to Los Angeles. My wife handled almost all aspects of moving and finding a place to live, since I was preoccupied with OTAs [offseason team activities] in Oxnard, California. I’m very grateful for her organization and diligence, which paved the way for us to settle in to our new surroundings.
The last time we talked, you were just married. Do you have children now?
Yes, we have three children, and our youngest is now only 2 months old, so that was another aspect of the move that was challenging. It also enhances my appreciation for my wife. Three very young children, as wonderful as they are, do not make moving any easier, so my wife proved once again that she has excellent organization skills.
Have you found that, despite a greater population in Los Angeles, people are not as interested in the Rams, since there are so many other pro sports teams in L.A., not to mention the USC and UCLA teams?
So far, that seems to be the case. It is still early for us in our new city, so there’s plenty of time for that to change, especially if we play well. However, there are lots of other sports for people here to watch — not to mention countless other activities they can do — so even though there are millions more people in the area, we’re relatively anonymous outside of the very well-attended home games.
I like that anonymity outside games. People might not expect that from a kicker, since by the nature of our position we’re often in the limelight during games — whether we want to be or not. There’s a contrast of that with the rest of life, since I’d much prefer to be one guy in the crowd — and outside of a game, there’s no reason to pay attention to me anyway. I’m just an awful sinner.
What helps you to reach beyond the “awful sinner” status?
One thing that helps is that I rarely watch TV, since there’s almost nothing worth seeing on it. ...
I have a book here by Jason Evert called Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves. In it, Jason writes of the Holy Father in relation to young people, human love, the Eucharist, Our Lady and the cross. Jason spoke at my high school years ago when he was with Catholic Answers, and now he has his own chastity organization.
Even without Jason officially being part of Catholic Answers, I find the Catholic Answers site very helpful. They have all kinds of information on all kinds of Catholic topics — the Bible, Mary, the sacraments, Church history, canon law, pro-life issues and more. If you have a Catholic question, it can usually be answered by Catholic Answers
Catholic Answers is based in San Diego, which is fitting, since California has such a deeply Catholic history — so many cities named after so many saints and angels. I went from a city named for a French king, and now I’m in a city named in honor of Our Lady, Queen of Angels. There are so many other holy ones honored here, too. Joseph, Raphael, Clement, Rose, Clare, Francis, Barbara and Anne are some of them.
What are some of your favorite aspects of family life?
Well, sort of like Tyler Cloyd, who went to the University of Nebraska-Omaha like I did, there aren’t really specific events I appreciate more than others. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, I just enjoy being around my wife and kids. Being a husband and father is a completely amazing thing, so I’m just very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their lives.
Our oldest is 2 1/2, so we’re able to pray with her, explain who Jesus is on her crucifix and pass on some other basic things. Now we’re on the “Angel of God” prayer with her. That’s a good one that every Catholic child should know.
Is praying to your guardian angel still part of your game-time prayer routine?
I still pray to my angel, since there’s something special about a spiritual being whose job is to get you to heaven, but I’ve changed my game-time routine a little bit. Now, the main focus I have is on the short Divine Mercy prayer of “Jesus, I trust in you.”
It goes without saying that I want to do a great job on the field and help the team win every game. It would be wonderful to boot 60-yarder after 60-yarder and win the Super Bowl, but if that’s not God’s will, then that’s not God’s will. So, regardless of what does or doesn’t happen, the prayer of all the faithful should be, “Jesus, I trust in you.” He is more than capable of bringing good things out of our failures, so even when we mess up, everything is just fine in a divine sense. Nothing takes God by surprise.
On the other hand, we’re often taken by surprise, so we’re in need of help to know and do God’s will. The basics of his will are easy — to know him, love him and serve him in this life, in order to be happy with him in the next life — but as for specifics, we each need continual discernment. That means a general disposition to live in God’s grace, personal prayer, avoidance of occasions of sin, Mass attendance, confession, good works, making little sacrifices by doing things we know are good but which we don’t feel like doing, and even spiritual direction by a good priest.
Without God, we’re quite pathetic, but with his sacramental system of salvation, doing his will becomes easier and easier. One thing to guard against, though, is overanalyzing. St. Thérèse of Lisieux said that the closer you get to your goal, the further you can feel from being there. The reason why is that, as we approach God’s infinite majesty, we become more acutely aware of how awful we are. That’s when we should, like little children, hide in his arms, forgetful of our own weakness, while resting contentedly in his strength and greatness.
Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.
His book, Fit for Heaven (Beacon, 2015), contains numerous Catholic sports
interviews, most of which have appeared in the Register.