Steve Thompson: More than a Super Bowl Winner
While not a New York Jets fan, I was saddened by their late-season collapse that once again doomed their chances of making the upcoming National Football League playoffs.
The reason: I had hoped the team’s success would spark the New York media’s attention to a most unusual ministry to Wall Street financiers, led by former Jet Steve Thompson.
Thompson is not just any Jet. The 77-year-old minister was a defensive tackle on the 1968-69 team. Many football fans will recognize this as the only Jets squad to ever win a Super Bowl.
When I received an assignment last summer to write a story on Steve Thompson, I didn’t recall his name. But I remembered this particular team because of his teammate, “Broadway Joe” Namath.
Ironically, today Namath is a familiar face because of his oft-aired TV commercials for Medicare Advantage plans.
Back in the day, the colorful quarterback stirred up plenty of attention with his boast that the Jets would defeat the highly favored Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts. Then he went out and led his side to victory, 16-7.
One reason I remember it so well is that it was only the third Super Bowl ever played. In those days, the game wasn’t the culmination of a week-long extravaganza. It featured marching bands at halftime. And, it kicked off in the afternoon.
On that particular Super Bowl Sunday, I was covering a high school basketball game for our local newspaper. The crowd buzzed with excitement when the announcer came on the PA near the end of that contest to relate the Jets’ victory.
Thompson told me how the unusual nature of that victory—a feat that becomes greater with the passage of time—still attracts attention. As he put it, “The ring is big enough and has enough bling on it that if the conversation gets dull, I just scratch my chin with the ring.”
However, it isn’t just Steve Thompson’s Super Bowl ring that is of interest. He has a fascinating story following his playing days. For 10 years he was in business in Oregon, working with two other businessmen on their consulting business in wood products.
The trio was so well-respected in the state that a government agency asked them to oversee safety insurance matters for wood mills. Ultimately, Thompson ended up on a retainer for the state insurance fund, training company personnel in safety procedures.
Later, he had a dream of attending church with a friend (disillusioned in his younger years, he had stopped going to church). The Lord told the former NFL player: “I want you to follow this guy and keep your mouth shut.”
Steve and his wife, Starla, spent 10 years there before he sensed a call to full-time ministry. At first a part-time associate pastor over men’s ministry and marriage, he later become the senior pastor of Marysville (Washington) Foursquare Church.
Although he retired in 2015, Thompson later returned to the church to oversee the seniors ministry for several years.
Then he left again last September to devote more time to traveling to New York. He tells people on Wall Street that they are called by God and have a responsibility to use their gifts to further His kingdom.
My favorite comment came early in our interview. Thompson said that he sees God’s calling as a lifetime experience, even though our assignment can change.
“I feel like I’m on call with the Lord,” he said. “He (told me), ‘Don’t get too focused on your age. I’m much older than you.’”
The comment shows that retirement is an American invention, not a divine one.