University of Oregon grid chaplain tells his story at Hillsboro breakfast
By JOHN FORTMEYER
HILLSBORO — When Josh Bidwell addressed the annual Hillsboro Prayer Breakfast Oct. 19, his beloved University of Oregon Ducks had already lost the previous four games this season.
“I hope my Ducks win another game this year. There’s a level of uncertainty in that, isn’t there?” said Bidwell, to chuckles from the roughly 200 attendees at the Tuality Health Education Center.
As this newspaper goes to press, Bidwell needs more than ever to cling to that hope, because Oregon two days after the breakfast lost its fifth straight game — no doubt painful for the former Ducks and NFL football player who now volunteers as the team’s chaplain. (Update: Oregon finally added to the win column again with a victory Oct. 29)
But Bidwell, who told the breakfast crowd his own life story of fervent faith challenged through times of difficulty, made clear the sharp contrast he sees between the uncertainty of “worldly hope” and the firm certainty of the “Godly hope” communicated repeatedly in Scripture. It is the latter that motivates him to serve Jesus Christ passionately in all areas of his life, including the football outreach he loves even more than his years of playing.
“I’ve never been filled with the kind of purpose and joy since I became the chaplain for the University of Oregon team,” he said. “That’s a joy that football never could give me.”
Bidwell, 40, is originally from Winston. He grew up in a broken home he says was plagued with addiction issues. He came to faith in Christ as a high schooler. After his college years, during which he led the nation in punting, Bidwell in 1999 began playing 12 seasons for three NFL teams. But it was early in his time as a pro player — in fact, three days after he was named starting punter for the Green Bay Packers — that he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“I said, ‘Lord, I don’t know if I have what it takes to get through this,” he recalled.
But the crisis forced him to put his total reliance on God. “It was just where He wanted me to be,” Bidwell explained. “At that moment, I knew that I wasn’t fighting for victory, I was fighting from (a position of) victory.”
Although chemotherapy pernamently took away his thick head of hair, Bidwell survived cancer and stayed in the NFL for more than a decade after.
Today, Bidwell has a real estate business and he and his wife, Bethany, have what he describes as a blessed wife with their four children. He readily shares his favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11, on the hope that God alone can bring to all. For more information, go to OregonFootballChaplain.com