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[Blog] Andre Forde’s Big Drive

blog Jan 26, 2022

            A ninth-grade decision by Andre Forde became the first step on his path to receiving one of the most prized symbols in professional sports—a Super Bowl ring. As a College Scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Forde received his prestigious piece of jewelry for the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV victory last February.

            Though he never won a major trophy in his own playing days, he gets great satisfaction from seeing others make it big and having the opportunity to invest in their personal lives through informal ministry.

            Arriving at Penfield (New York) High School, Forde decided to play freshman football instead of varsity soccer, aware that people may wonder why anyone would choose to play on a lower-rung sport. Forde says it was “the big change agent” in his life because “I really believe God was in that decision.”

             The confirmation of his belief came at the end of his four years at Penfield when he received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Buffalo. From 1999-2003, Forde was a four-year letterman as a kick returner, punt returner, and wide receiver for the Bulls. He was also a Mid-American Conference (MAC) Scholar-Athlete every season.

            Even though he was on a football scholarship, Forde focused academically on a sociology major, since he thought that might give him some form of ministerial training. “I loved sociology,” he explains, “because to me it felt like ministry, every aspect of it. Once you talk about into people, culture, nations—that’s God.”

 

‘No pity party’

            But on the field, a serious injury in his 2001 junior year created “a very unique breakthrough.” During a game against Kent State that Forde notes was ironically one of the best of his college career, he was returning a kickoff when “somebody jumped on me and I heard a crack.”  

            The sound was his collarbone breaking, ending his season and seemingly his professional hopes. But he didn’t focus on the potential negatives. Quite the opposite. “There was no pity party, no nothing,” Forde recalls. “I just literally spent a lot of time in the presence of the Lord reading the Word of God. And that is when the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m bringing you to the NFL.’”

            The injury also allowed him to spend more time seeing football from a different perspective, one that would help him develop the scouting skills he now uses. He spent more time with his coaches, studying the game and “seeing kind of the bigger picture of the game, which was super beneficial for me going forward, especially going into my senior year.”

            In 2003, Forde was signed as a priority free agent by the Indianapolis Colts. He was with the Colts briefly before getting released and going to the Chicago Bears. After spending training camp with the Bears, he was allocated to the Amsterdam Admirals, a team in the newly developed NFL Europe, for five months before returning to the Bears. His playing career ended in 2007 after two years with the Tulsa Talons of AF2 (Arena Football).

 

‘A different way’

            Once again, a new direction in life was ahead. Forde and his wife, Patrice—who now live in the Dallas area with their children, Hannah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah—left Tulsa and moved to Coral Springs, Florida. He took a position where he could use his sociology degree to help people who had lost their jobs.

            He knew that God would only have them there for a short period, but during that time, “the Lord just used so many people to just give me some great insight on what he wanted me to do, and he wanted me to start something.” That turned out to be his Man of Valor Football and Speed Training business, which provided personalized football training with an emphasis on speed and skills development. But another life change was soon to arrive.

            His wife told him God had shown her Forde would continue in football but in a different role. Soon after that, he got a call from one of his high school coaches who connected him with a friend who was on staff in the NFL. “I didn’t know which way the Lord wanted me to go—was it coaching? Personnel?” Forde recalls. “I just knew it was a different way of playing.”

            In 2009, one year after that phone conversation, the coach’s friend called again and told him that his best friend had just become the General Manager of the Buccaneers. And he was looking to fill a staff position.

            “And literally two weeks from there—boom!—we were straight in,” Forde says. “Got the job. And here we are.” Now in his 12th season with the Bucs, he started as a College Personnel Assistant and is currently a College Scout focusing primarily on the northeast United States.

            Although the Bucs are reigning champions, Forde remembers his early years when the team was often the laughingstock of the league because of their dismal performance. “Even in those low times, even in the valley times, and those mundane places, [God] was still doing great and mighty miracles,” he says.

 

‘Windows of opportunity'

            Despite his busy travel schedule, Forde still actively pursues marketplace ministry. Although he doesn’t operate a formal organization, he constantly ministers to people wherever he gets an opportunity, whether in a workplace setting, a public area, or a college campus.

            Working so closely with college athletes provides Forde with many moments to impact their lives with the gospel. At scouting combines where college athletes gather to show off their skills to NFL teams, sometimes he gets as little as 10-15 minutes with a player, but “every time those little windows of opportunity were so powerful.”

            There have been times when “the presence of the Lord had come in so powerfully that guys ended up just sharing their testimony, start crying, you start feeling their heart,” he says. “And literally, they just start opening up, sharing their life story, where they are.

            Through all of the changes and challenges in his life, Forde says he has always lived by the three Ps—prayer, preparation, and production. “I just try to take that into every area of my life.”

            His life shows that faithfulness and trust in God will bring a person through both good and bad times, he believes. “He’s not waiting for man’s time,” Forde says. “It’s not on anybody else’s time… It’s on his time. To everything, there’s a season and time, and when that season of God comes he is faithful to see you through.”