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Gridiron Calling

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Although David A. Canales once spent five years as a bivocational worship leader, ultimately the 36-year-old Seattle Seahawks wide receivers’ coach sensed God calling him to football.

“I knew early on I wasn’t going to be in full-time ministry in the church,” says Canales, who joined Coach Pete Carroll’s staff in 2010. “I started to feel in junior high that I was being called outward.”

Still, as the grandson of Miguel Canales, the founding pastor of Mission Ebenezer Family Church in South Los Angeles, David also felt the pull of family expectations.    

Initially, he tried to mix high school coaching with church duties. Attempting to balance the two left Canales in inner turmoil — until he received a pair of prophetic messages.

The first came at a concert by the gospel group Shekinah Glory Ministries. The lead singer approached David’s row, motioned to him, and said, “The Holy Spirit is telling me: ‘It’s OK. You can go now. You’re ready to go.’”

Two weeks later, an associate pastor at Mission Ebenezer told him, “The Lord is getting ready to promote you. Prepare yourself for a rapid climb.”

That’s when the tug of war ended.

“It was freeing when I was prophesied over to go,” says David, who soon after advanced to coaching at the junior college level. “I am blown away by God’s love for me that He would speak through His people to give me the words that I needed to hear in His perfect time.”

The prophecy about his rapid climb came true three years after he went to El Camino College. After observing Canales volunteering at the University of Southern California’s summer football camps, Carroll offered him a position on USC’s staff.

However, just a year after Canales took his “dream job,” everything changed when Carroll accepted an offer to coach the Seahawks. With his wife, Lizzy, nine months pregnant, the question of whether Canales would be offered a job in Seattle — or be able to keep his old one — left them on edge.

David and Lizzy prayed about the situation at a park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. David concluded by telling the Lord they trusted Him. As soon as the couple said “amen” and opened their eyes, a massive hawk landed in a nearby tree and stared at them.

“We looked at each other with tears in our eyes and I said, ‘I guess we’re going to Seattle,’” David recalls. “Two weeks later I got the phone call to take this position.”

Initially hired as a quality control assistant, two years ago Canales became wide receivers coach. While David lives in Seattle year-round, he still is listed as a staff member on the Mission Ebenezer website. Executive Pastor Josh B. Canales is delighted with the spiritual maturity of his younger brother.

“The greatest example Dave sets for people in the church is to not despise small beginnings,” says Josh, 38. “In the last three years, I’ve watched him go to another level. He realizes at that level of coaching and sports, you have to be all in.”

David has come to appreciate that during the past two years, as he has solidified his direction. He says relationships are the most important part of his calling, including challenging players to ask themselves hard questions about their identity, future direction, and how they will get there.

Part of strengthening his sense of calling involved overcoming the reluctance that had developed because of the demands of the NFL and the time it takes him away from family.

Thankfully, some Christians in his profession helped David see the value of his vocation, sharing about players whose lives changed for the better after they decided to follow Christ.

“Just knowing that helped settle me in my spirit that this is where the Lord has me,” Canales says. “We don’t get to see the end of a lot of these relationships, but I know that they’re real.”

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