Throughout most of 2020, kicker Ryan Succop was without a job.
An injury-riddled 2019 season led to his release from the Tennessee Titans after six seasons, and with a pandemic raging, Succop had plenty of time at home to ponder his future.
“Last year was a really difficult year for me, coming off of an injury, trying to play and maybe wasn’t where I needed to be, and really struggled when I played,” he told Sports Spectrum in an interview last week. “It was tough, it was frustrating, there was definitely some adversity. When you go through something like that, I think it’s human nature where you start to kind of doubt yourself.”
Fast forward four months and Succop is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and busy preparing to play in Super Bowl LV against the Kansas City Chiefs, the team that drafted him with the last pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
“It’s a really neat experience,” Succop said. “It’s something that, I’m in my 12th year and it’s the first time I’ve gotten this far.”
Succop returned to his old form in a major way in his first season in Tampa, making 28 of this 31 field goal attempts (the second-best percentage of his career) and 52 of his 57 extra-point attempts. He finished the regular season ranked sixth in scoring with 136 points, and he’s the NFL’s leading postseason scorer with 32 points in three games. His 46-yarder late in the fourth quarter of the NFC championships game — before which he said his usual prayer for peace — helped secure Tampa’s spot in the Super Bowl:
But it almost didn’t happen. After getting cut in March by Tennessee, Succop was hounded by doubts about his health and facing the prospect of a months-long separation from his family, which would stay home amid the pandemic if Ryan signed with another team. But in late August he went to meet with the Buccaneers.
“This is wild, but literally the night before that workout (in Tampa), I had been praying about this like, ‘Lord, if You want this for me and my family, I just trust You with it and I’ll just trust You to take care of it. And You’ll show me if You want us to be here or not,” he said.
As Succop walked out of his hotel that evening, he saw something that he said must have been from God.
“There’s a rainbow that goes directly over, and it looks like it goes directly into Raymond James Stadium. … It was unavoidable, like I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the Lord is showing me that He wants me to be here.'”
Four days later, on Sept. 1, 2020, Succop signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay. Throughout a socially distant season that saw the Bucs win 11 games for the first time since 2005, Succop has found extra time to immerse himself in the Word, in prayer, and in fellowship with other believers on the team.
Before every game, Succop reads Philippians 4:6-7, and before every kick, he prays that simple prayer for peace. And now, after 12 years in the NFL, after an offseason that seemed bleak, Succop will have an opportunity to play on the biggest stage in his sport.
“When we trust Him, man, it’s amazing what He’ll do in our lives,” Succop told Sports Spectrum. ” … Sometimes I think God uses the challenging times to grow us and mold us. He’s the Master Potter and we’re the clay, and I think He uses these times to get the clay exactly how He wants it.”
Super Bowl LV is set for Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET in Tampa.