Good News: Believers at Work in the World Today – Danny Wuerffel

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"Danny Wuerffel's new mission" by Tim Ellsworth for BAPTIST PRESS NEWS

Danny Wuerffel's football career was impressive. Although he wasn't a star in the NFL, at the college level he won the Heisman Trophy and led the Florida Gators to a national championship in 1996.

Now Wuerffel's doing something even more impressive.

Wuerffel announced his retirement from the NFL [last] February, and took a position as development director and associate athletic director with Desire Street Ministries in New Orleans.

"Desire Street Ministries is a faith-based organization that is committed to transforming the Desire neighborhood into a desirable place to live," Wuerffel said. "That's no small task."

The Desire neighborhood in New Orleans was once the murder capital of the United States. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development once rated it the worst place to live in the country.

But that didn't stop Mo Leverett – a white guy from Georgia, as Wuerffel calls him – from moving into the black community and beginning the ministry in 1990. The organization helps with both spiritual and community development in the neighborhood by offering such services as Bible studies, recreational activities, tutoring and health care.

Wuerffel first learned about Desire Street Ministries shortly after the New Orleans Saints drafted him in 1996. He said he received a brochure from the ministry and was "blown away" by Leverett's commitment. Wuerffel soon visited the operation, and never stopped being involved.

"This is an amazing thing that we're doing," he said.

Wuerffel told about one teenager who, when the ministry began 14 years ago, had stolen 200 cars and was heavily involved in drug usage and sales. But Desire Street Ministries had an impact on Kedrick Levy's life, and now he's one of the youth ministers there. He's 30 years old and married with four kids.

Stories like that are common around Desire Street Ministries, and they're a big reason why Wuerffel decided to let go of a football career to join the work.

He spent seven seasons as a backup quarterback in the NFL with the Saints, Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins. Wuerffel also spent one season playing with NFL Europe.

"The average pro career is three years, so to be able to play seven was a blessing," he said. "It was tough to say goodbye to football. But giving up and leaving the NFL wasn't so difficult. That was a stressful seven years, and we moved 13 times in the first four years of marriage. I'm very excited to settle down."

Wuerffel might miss playing football, and nobody can blame him for that. The sport has been a huge part of his life for years. But the satisfaction he gets from working for an organization like Desire Street Ministries should compensate nicely for the void football left.

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