Jason Avant, wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, carries his Bible around the team locker room while singing gospel music, but some may be surprised to find out that his priority used to be selling drugs.
Avant, 29-year-old native of Chicago, Ill., does not hide the fact that he used to be a part a street gang in the city. Even as a high school student, the wideout recalls experiencing the effects of a gangster lifestyle.
''There were dead bodies, metal detectors, drugs in lockers, all that type of stuff,'' Avant said in an Associated Press report. ''A teacher got killed and her body was found in a dumpster all cut up. A guy I played basketball with got shot.''
While Avant admitted to selling drugs at the tender age of 12 as a youth on the South Side of Chicago, he admitted that his grandmother's prayer was life changing for him.
"She was a great woman, a saved woman," Avant told AP of his "Granny."
"She would pray for me every night. 'Lord, let him be different. Let his life change.' I was her favorite and everybody knew it. We didn't have much money, so I would sleep in the same room as my grandmother. She would lay her hands on me for an hour at night and just pray for me," he said.
The professional athlete admitted that going to church with his grandmother made him feel convicted to stop selling drugs.
"I was the worst drug dealer in the world," he told AP. "I had too much of a conscience from going to church, and sitting there hearing the songs would always make me cry because I knew I was selling drugs. But God had a different plan for me."
Sports became an outlet for Avant to quit selling drugs and he became a top football prospect in Illinois before deciding to attend the University of Michigan. He began to attend church with his roommate, a pastor's son, when he decided to surrender his life to God.
"The Lord began to replay all the times my house was shot up when I was selling drugs. The bullet hole right where my grandmother sits and she wasn't in the chair. All the times the bullets just missed me or the shooters didn't see me," Avant told AP of his decision to give his life to God in 2003. "I was in places where I had 15 guys running after my car with bats, weapons and all this stuff. God is replaying this through my mind and the last thing He says:
'I made a way for you to go to school. After all I have done for you, Jason, you can't surrender your life to me?'"
Avant decided to do just that. Now, the wide receiver is making God his priority.
The wide receiver described why reading his Bible was so important.
''The enemy can place thoughts in your mind through television, commercials and other forms of temptations,'' Avant said in the AP report. ''So you have to have something to combat him, and studying scriptures and learning the word can combat him. The word gives you something to fight him.''
Although Avant has a multi-million dollar contract with the Eagles, he described why life with his wife and two daughters took precedence over his five-year $15 million contract signed in 2010.
"God has blessed me with so much. I think a Bentley looks fine. But what's that going to lead to? It's not necessary," Avant said. "What that is going to lead to is more distractions....You are a steward over what you have and if you let it get to your head, it can get stripped away."