One of the great ironies of the secular sports world is that the best leaders often have a bedrock of genuine faith.
Terry Bradshaw, retired Steelers quarterback and four-time Super Bowl champion, is a winning leader and a proud man of faith. Kobe Bryant, the closest NBA fans have ever gotten to having a “new” Michael Jordan, cited his Catholic upbringing as a source of strength. Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh is one of the winningest coaches football has ever seen, at the pro and college level — and he’s also one of the most pro-life coaches football has ever seen.
Then there’s former Florida Gators and Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Despite being a Heisman winner, two-time college national champion and the only quarterback not named Peyton Manning to win a playoff game for the Denver Broncos since 2006, Tebow’s most enduring legacy is his unwavering faith.
Well, the U.S. men’s national soccer team has apparently caught onto this correlation between faith and leadership, as one of the most prominent players on this year’s World Cup squad is a proud Christian — not unlike a certain Mr. Tebow.
Walker Zimmerman, who at 29 years old is one of the older players on this year’s team, is as proud of his faith as he is to represent the United States in the 2022 World Cup.
As Fox Sports noted, this year’s iteration of the USMNT is woefully short on actual World Cup experience, so they will need leadership and maturity to fill in that void.
Zimmerman appears more than ready for the task.
Even removing the fact that he’s a very accomplished defender, having won a pair of MLS defender of the year awards for Nashville SC, Zimmerman’s greatest attributes appear to be of the intangible variety.
Zimmerman’s coach at Furman University, Doug Allison, told Fox Sports that Zimmerman is “the Tim Tebow of soccer” because of his leadership and commitment to faith.
Just as important as Zimmerman’s faith is his unwavering patriotism, a trait that is becoming all too rare in professional sports these days.
David, Zimmerman’s father, told Fox Sports that his son “loves the idea that it’s honorable to represent your country.” (LeBron James could learn a thing or two from Zimmerman.)
Of course, even if you were to remove Zimmerman’s patriotism and faith, he still exhibits the hallmarks of what you’d expect from a great leader.
“If someone is doing something wrong, he’s pointing it out, and if someone scores, he’s the first to jump on him,” Allison said.
As with any good leader, Allison described how Zimmerman has a natural penchant for rallying the troops.
“It’s like in ‘Braveheart,’ ‘Now who’s with me?’ Well, Walker is not doing his hair for nothing,” Allison said, referring to Zimmerman’s William Wallace-esque mane. “He’s going into battle and you want to go with him. That’s what he brings.”
And a quick glance at Zimmerman’s social media shows that his leadership isn’t just lip service.
“A lifelong dream come true,” Zimmerman wrote on Instagram. “Praising God for this opportunity. Here we gooo!”
And this isn’t a recent fad or trend that Zimmerman is attempting to take advantage of. Look at this tweet from 2013:
“I may be weak, but Your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God you never will.”
— Walker Zimmerman (@thewalkerzim) January 13, 2013
On top of all the faith and leadership qualities Zimmerman exhibits, he appears to be an incredible father to boot:
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 10, 2022
If there are any lingering doubts about Zimmerman’s sincerity, look no further than this letter he penned for his younger self, recounting the hardships, relationships, trials and tribulations of his crazy soccer journey.
“There’s absolutely nothing like playing for your country,” Walker wrote to his younger self. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Zimmerman will start at center back for America when the games begin on Sunday.
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