Marty became a follower of Jesus in the tenth grade. He was 16 years old and followed a girl that invited him, to a Young Life meeting. After dating this girl for 4 months, he had heard a lot of talks about this Jesus person.
He got to be close with the Young Life leader in Columbia, South Carolina at the time. On a trip to Destin, Florida with his youth group, which included this girl that dragged him to Young Life, Marty was truly shown the gospel.
In August, later that same year, Marty prayed to receive the Lord in his heart. He gave his testimony in front of hundreds of his classmates at a Young Life retreat called “Windy Gap.” He had been praying for a sign from God to prove to himself that his relationship with Him was real. Marty believed having to stand up for his faith in front of his classmates was indeed this sign. Marty cried while talking in front of the group. He was overwhelmed with emotion while talking about his Young Life leader. So much so, that many students where impacted for the gospel that day.
Marty returned home from Camp on cloud nine. But within a few days started to question God again. This time saying, “God, you spoke to me in your language with that last sign, please speak to me in my own language…something I can really understand.”
Most folks reading this will not understand the significance of what happened next, but those in Columbia, South Carolina in the 1980’s probably will remember.
Just one week after giving his testimony about his relationship with Jesus, and then questioning it upon arriving home, Marty Simpson was fortunate enough to kick the game winning field goal in the 1988 AAAA State Championship game against nationally ranked Gaffney High School.
Marty said later that the entire run down the field after making the walk off, 3 to 0, winning kick, he was yelling praise God, thank you, Jesus, the whole way!
You can see video of this kick here.
Marty then went on to play football for the University of South Carolina, where he continued his journey with Jesus. After a six month struggle with finding himself his freshmen year, while God spared him from any seriously regrettable mistakes, Marty rededicated his life to the Lord.
It was through an emotional roller coaster of football that Marty started feeling convicted that athletes tended to only show their love for God after touchdowns or after great plays. Marty resolved himself that he would commit to hitting a knee and praying a prayer of thanks after each “attempted” field goal, instead of after each made kick.
As you might imagine it, prophetically, the only real way to really stand out for God after having made this commitment, is to be tested in front of 80,000 screaming fans. This happened in 1992 versus East Carolina. Marty had the finest game of his collegiate career. He set the school record for the longest field goal off the ground, with a 50 yarder, then added 3 more field goals of 46, 27, and 22, while downing 3 punts inside the 5 yard line and kicking off into the end-zone 4 times. All of this was accomplished during a hurricane season-in-the-south torrential down pour. (Video of some of these kicks can be seen here, and the picture in this article is from that game.)
With 8 seconds to go in the game, Simpson lined up in the very stadium where a few years earlier God spoke so clearly to him. (The state championship game in high school was played at USC’s stadium.) The score was 18 to 20, East Carolina was leading. Simpson lined up for a 38 yard field to win the game and seal the deal on some form of national award for special teams player of the week for sure. The snap was perfect, the hold was perfect, but the kick was blocked! With 2 seconds remaining on the clock, East Carolina took the field to down the ball and win the game. Simpson remembered his commitment to the Lord as he walked off the field, and he slowly started to take a knee and pray a prayer of thanksgiving (for the abilities to play and kick and enjoy the great game of college football.)
Then, suddenly in a flash, the coaches were calling to Simpson to retake the field. It turned out that in the rush to the field with only 8 seconds to go in the game, everyone, including the officials, had forgotten that the Gamecocks lined up to kick this field on 3rd down. Ironically, Marty’s roommate had recovered the blocked kick and had done so behind the line of scrimmage, which meant that it was not East Carolina’s ball just yet, but rather, fourth down for the Gamecocks. (The slight problem with the fact that the clock should have kept running will be overlooked and chalked up to a little bit of home cooking by the referees for the home team.)
So, Marty trotted back out to the field, having given thanks to the Lord for his “missed” field goal attempt. Marty said later that he truly felt like God had blessed him with the perfect opportunity to glorify Him in a time of adversity, and then spared him from the actual adversity.
However, that would not prove to be entirely true. Now, with the clock set at 2 seconds, Simpson lined up again for another 38 yard field goal. (Simpson’s roommate had taken the ball back to the original line of scrimmage after recovering it.) The snap was perfect, the hold was perfect, but this time, Simpson’s left foot slid about 12 inches in the ground as the water mounted up on the field, and the kick sailed 30-40 feet wide to the right.
Simpson stared on in amazement. Knowing exactly what to do at this point, Simpson slowly took a knee. Just like D.J. Dozier did in 1986 when he scored his game winning touchdown versus Miami, Marty Simpson prayed to the God in heaven, and thanked him for the ability to kick a football, and for the ability to go to the University of South Carolina on scholarship, and for having the best game of his career (right up until the double game losing misses, of course!)
The newspaper the next morning had a large picture of Simpson on one knee praying. Except the caption read, “Simpson sulks with teammates.” Simpson was scheduled to give his testimony at a large church in Columbia that very next morning. He held that picture of the paper up and showed it to the kids and told them that he was not sulking, but that he was praising God. He explained how the newspaper didn’t even ask him what he was doing.
Simpson has maintained since 1992, that adversity in athletics is what provides the means for Christian athletes to bring glory to the Father while playing competively.
Simpson went on to teach and coach at a private Christian School (Ben Lippen) in Columbia, South Carolina for 9 years before becoming a stand-up comedian. His stage material is rooted in the same principles he learned while playing football in high school college. The main principle that you will hear summarized in Simpson’s stage performances is, “God is good, win or lose.”