Leaving Footsteps Worth Following: Trent Shelton & Peggy Rowe
Trent Shelton: If I look back, there was a time where I was saying, “You know, this was the worst thing that happened to me, losing football.” But now I look back and say, “That was the best thing that happened to me.” So I’m often trying to find the good in every situation, and I allow my perspective to be my power instead of my prison.
Leaving Footsteps Worth Following: Trent Shelton & Peggy Rowe – Episode #213
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Sometimes we have the great privilege of following in the footsteps of those we respect—whether it be our parents, a teacher, or someone we admire. But how do we continue to carry a legacy of good into our own lives, so our footsteps are worthy to be followed as well? Our guests, former NFL wide receiver Trent Shelton and writer Peggy Rowe talk about whose footsteps shaped their paths, and the legacies they’d like to leave for others.
When he was a little boy, Trent Shelton dreamed of being a professional athlete. As he tried his hand at sports, he found he particularly excelled at football and worked tirelessly to earn a spot at the top. But when he finally reached the NFL, Trent discovered that in order to keep his place on the team, he’d have to take his discipline and sacrifice even further as he tried to compete at an elite level—which included an ever-changing schedule that kept him away from friends and family. Trent’s life changed dramatically with the onset of two events—being cut from the NFL, and becoming a father. Trent began to evaluate what it meant to be a leader—and asking himself if he was living the life that he’d want his son to emulate and knew that it had to be a life steeped in faith.
Trent Shelton: My name is Trent Shelton. I’m a former NFL player. Now I’m an author, motivational speaker, and my best titles are that I’m a husband and I’m a father of three. And so my whole mission is to rehab the world. My organization is called Rehab Time, and it stands for Renewing Every Heart And Body. And the word rehab also means just putting strength back into weakness. Some people might call me an influencer online, too, because I have a lot of videos, and social media is the place where it really changed my life as far as my popularity with my message.
A Strong Foundation of Faith and Family
I owe a lot of my life now to my household and to my family. Both my parents have been in my life, and they’ve been married for forty-plus years. I have two older brothers, and I always say my older brothers were my heroes and still are. They are probably the reason why I made it to the NFL, because it was always them two versus me. I don’t know how that was fair, but they really strengthened me and made me tough. I just had a great household of faith and a great upbringing and a great foundation.
My father’s a pastor, so, you know, faith was a staple in our household. Our relationship with God was everything. And that was instilled in me since I was five years old. I remember going with my mother, because I was the little one, so I would go where to all these crusades and everywhere. And so I understood the power of God at a young age.
To be honest with you, though, through middle school, high school, and even college, you know, I kind of steered away from my faith. Of course, God was a big part of my life, but it was more like, I’ll call on God when I need Him, or, I’ll go to church when I need Him. I had that type of relationship.
But what I realized, once I hit rock bottom, was I never really built a solid relationship with God for myself. It was the relationship my parents gave me, which was great, but I had to go on a journey of understanding what that relationship was for me.
“What I realized, once I hit rock bottom, was I never really built a solid relationship with God for myself.” – Trent Shelton
Reaching the NFL, Battling Demons
My main dream was to make it professionally. I was inspired by my brothers. I was inspired by what was around me. I was blessed to have an uncle that still coaches in the NFL. I lived across the street from a Saints player, Gene Atkins. His son Geno now plays for the Bengals. And so I was blessed to be able to see my dream vividly. You know, sometimes a dream is so far out of reach because we never experience it. But I was able to experience it growing up. And I just knew I wanted to do that, whether it’s baseball, basketball, football. And football just ended up being the sport that I was better at.
I really had my mind made up since I was a little kid, but I would say I was like, Okay, this could really happen was during my senior year at Baylor. I was on draft boards. You know, my uncle, he was—he still coaches. And so he kind of gave me some feedback. So I knew I was going to be a reality. And, you know, it was . . . it was terrifying at the same time because it’s like . . . When you realize that your vision becomes, it can become a reality, you don’t know if you’re prepared for it. A lot of times people have imposter syndrome, or a lot of times you think, “Oh, I’m not cut out for this.” Or you think about the worst that can happen instead of the best that could happen.
So for me, it was like a little bit of fear. It was a lot of excitement. And it just made me really dial in on the hard work that it took to actually stay there, because that’s the thing. It’s easy—I’m not gonna say it’s easy. It’s easier to get there. But what’s harder is actually staying there. What’s hard is actually separating yourself. And, you know, I knew how hard it was just to get to that moment of dedicating my whole entire life to be able to say, “Nah, I’m not going out with my friends,” to be able to say, “You know what? I want to focus on this,” to really commit yourself to discipline, hard work, commitment, consistency is very hard to do. And to think about, There’s another level to that? That was insane to me. And maybe that was the reason why, too, when I got there, I stopped working as hard.
It was a very dark time because at that time, my son Tristan, he was just born, So Tristan’s birth was unplanned, which ended up being the greatest blessing of my life.
But at that time, I was dealing with that. I was dealing with being released from NFL teams and having an uncertain life. You know, one week you’re here, the next week you’re at home. You don’t know where you’re going to be, different cities. And I found myself really questioning God and just becoming angry.
Why would I come here and now I would fail?
And I had to take responsibility because oftentimes I feel like we place blame on God for situations we put ourselves in. And it was a lot of things I was putting myself in. I wasn’t turning to Him. I wasn’t turning to my faith. I was turning to clubs. I was turning to temporary fulfillment, turning to these things that would give me a temporary high, but leave me empty permanently.
“Oftentimes I feel like we place blame on God for situations we put ourselves in.” – Trent Shelton
And it took the death of one of my closest friends committing suicide to really wake me up in my life and make me realize:
What am I doing with myself? Do I want this to be the legacy that I leave for my family, for my kids and for my grandkids?
That answer was no.
A Son’s Arrival, A Father’s Quest to Be Better
Tristan’s birth changed everything for me, because I wasn’t a selfish person, but I was self-centered. You know what I’m saying? I wasn’t a person who was all about me. But at the same time, I was focused on what I wanted to do with my life. And when Tristan was born, it was the first time in my life where I felt a responsibility, like, a true responsibility outside of myself.
And it made me realize something. It made me realize that I was a leader. And whether you have kids or not, I believe that title is still true, that you are a leader, because somebody somewhere is watching what you do. But immediately I asked myself this question:
If my son follows my footsteps, which he probably will until he can make his own decisions, where is my life leading him? What’s the path that I’ve created? What’s the mindset? What’s the faith?
And I wasn’t happy with the answers that I told myself. And so I said, “You know what? I have to make a change. If I can’t do it for myself, I have to do it for Tristan.” And that was my journey.
“If my son follows my footsteps, where is my life leading him?’ And I wasn’t happy with the answers that I told myself.” – Trent Shelton
I would say Tristan was the catalyst of me becoming a better man because I wanted to set an example for him on this is how life should be lived. Because I had a great example in my father, you know, so I wanted to make sure I carried on that legacy and I gave him the baton, not in last place, but with a lead where he doesn’t have to play catch up his whole entire life. Because let’s be honest, there’s so many adults today who spend their whole entire life, trying to recover from their childhood.
I want to make sure Tristan didn’t have to go through that. I want to give him the right tools to build his future, not broken tools.
A Void Only God Can Fill
I’m often connecting with God in nature. I’m a big nature person. I believe it’s like God’s canvas of this world. I mean, there’s just so much growth, so much life there. And I always say nature heals. You know, nature is God’s natural medicine for the soul. So I’m often there in the mountains, talking to God and just reflecting and praying and just asking God to use me. My prayers used to be asking God for things, and now my prayers are, “God, what do you need from me?” And that has brought more clarity in my life. That has brought more peace in my life.
“My prayers used to be asking God for things, and now my prayers are, ‘God, what do you need from me?’ And that has brought more clarity in my life.” – Trent Shelton
And I think we underestimate the value of peace. I think a lot of times we think we need all these things, but what we really need is peace that surpasses all understanding. And I feel like that can only come from God through reflection, through appreciation, and through prayer. So I’m making sure that is a daily staple of my life, and I’m making sure my kids see that in my family and make sure that’s a go-to. Prayer, there’s nothing too powerful for the power of prayer. My dad taught me that and I always hold onto it.
“There’s nothing too powerful for the power of prayer.” – Trent Shelton
The first time I heard about Jesus Calling had to be maybe like six or seven years ago. I was looking for an app, actually, for a devotion. The book was also gifted to me. And I just needed something that was digestible, something that was no excuse for me, that I could take it, I could read it, I could apply it, I could also share it. And it’s been very helpful. I think application creates transformation, so I’ve loved it and I continue to use it.
Narrator: As Trent has grown closer to God, he’s found that his relationship with his spiritual Father is the most important one he can have, because it makes him a better father, a better husband, and a better man—which we’re reminded of as he reads the September 16th entry of Jesus Calling.
I DESIGNED YOU to live in union with Me. This union does not negate who you are; it actually makes you more fully yourself. When you try to live independently of Me, you experience emptiness and dissatisfaction. You may gain the whole world and yet lose everything that really counts. Find fulfillment through living close to Me, yielding to My purposes for you. Though I may lead you along paths that feel alien to you, trust that I know what I am doing. If you follow Me wholeheartedly, you will discover facets of yourself that were previously hidden. I know you intimately—far better than you know yourself. In union with Me, you are complete. In closeness to Me, you are transformed more and more into the one I designed you to be.
I’ve had it all, everything the world promises that will fulfill you. If you’re disconnected from God, you can have happiness. You can have success in the world. But you won’t have that fulfillment and that peace. And I feel like God leaves a void in each and every one of us that can only be filled by Him. And until He fills that void, you will never feel that overwhelming internal peace in your life. So that’s what it means to me, it’s a reminder that no matter what you have and who you have in your life, if you don’t have God, You know you’re probably missing a lot.
“I feel like God leaves a void in each and every one of us that can only be filled by Him. And until He fills that void, you will never feel that overwhelming internal peace in your life.” – Trent Shelton
Change Yourself to Change the World
This book, the title is Straight Up. The subtitle is super long, but it’s Honest, Unfiltered, As-Real-As-I-Can-Put-It Advice for Life’s Biggest Challenges. And this book is about twelve different chapters of just real raw, honest things that I want to talk about, things that I wish I would’ve heard in my life, or things I wish I wouldn’t have heard in a straight-up way in my life. And so I have fifty-two lessons throughout this book. So I’m straight up about relationships, straight up about pain and suffering, straight up about mental health, about your environment, your friends, your dreams. So many different things that I know that a kid can pick up this book—a young adult, or even an adult—and be able to read it, but also digest it in a way to apply it, because that’s my whole thing. I don’t want them just to read it. I want them to apply it.
My overall mission is just to let people know that they’re enough. I want a kid to know, like, maybe your household isn’t a good foundation, or maybe you struggle with certain things, or maybe you’re not the popular one, or maybe you’re an athlete and things aren’t panning out right. Or maybe you’re an adult and you have all these things. I want to let you know that despite all your transgressions, despite all your struggles, all your quote unquote flaws, you are still you and there’s still a purpose for your life no matter what. And so I just hope when people read this book, they build confidence in themselves because they know that God has their back, truly.
The most important work that you ever will do is the work that you do on yourself. I mean, you know, if we are broken inside, if we don’t deal with the things that we need to deal with, you have to just think about, like, What type of person are you showing up as? I’m obsessed—and that’s a strong word—with being the greatest version of myself, not for selfish reasons, but so I can show up the best version of myself to those that need me to be.
“The most important work that you ever will do is the work that you do on yourself.” – Trent Shelton
You know, if I’m struggling with so many things, and I’m keeping these battles silent, and I’m not asking for help, then I might be a lesser version of myself for my family, or for my friends, or for my community. And so I want to be able to be the best version I can be so they can benefit off of it. And maybe that light that comes from my life, because I did the work on myself, could be the light that they need to light up their dark world or their dark times. And I just feel like everything is reciprocated. Well, we start with self and we do the work that we need on our internal self.
“Maybe that light that comes from my life, because I did the work on myself, could be the light that they need to light up their dark world or their dark times.” – Trent Shelton
So if you want a better world, create a better you. You know, oftentimes, especially in the climate that we’re in in 2020, we’re always looking out for the problems. We’re always looking out to say, “Okay, this needs to change. That needs to change.” And that’s probably true. But that’s the easy approach, right? I’m always about “It all starts with you.” So if you want something to change, you have to make sure you’re a reflection of that change.
We can change the world. Right? I think it’s possible. But we can’t change the world if we don’t change our households. We can’t change our households if we don’t change the way we think, if we don’t renew our mind, if we don’t renew our heart. And so it all starts with you. So be the reflection of the change that you wish to see. And that’s how we create the ripple effects of change to our communities, to our schools or our neighborhoods, and hopefully through our society and through our world.
“We can’t change the world if we don’t change our households. We can’t change our households if we don’t change the way we think if we don’t renew our mind if we don’t renew our hearts. And so it all starts with you. So, be the reflection of the change that you wish to see.” – Trent Shelton
You know, I say this to myself: If you never see yourself as a part of the problem, you’ll never realize the power you have to become a part of the solution. And so I’m always looking at myself. I’m always having my family, we’re having these conversations, like, “Okay, how can we bring more love in the world? So our challenge to Tristan is: “So to the kid who doesn’t look like you, or the kid who might not be as popular as you, or the kid who might feel like they’re different—are you going to help them? Are you going to go there and sit with them at lunch? I want you to do that. Because if we can’t give the same type of love and respect to other people in their time of need, we can’t really complain about not getting it in our time of need.”
So, again, I always want everybody around me to be a reflection, right? And to have the empathy. I mean, it comes down to this: Love thy neighbor as you love yourself. I think when we can empathize, we can start to understand. And when we can understand, we can start to relate. And when we can relate, we can start to actually help and change not just our lives, but the lives of others.
Narrator: You can find Trent Shelton’s book, Straight Up, at your favorite book retailer today.
Stay tuned for Peggy Rowe’s story after a brief message about a brand-new video series from Jesus Calling on YouTube!
Jesus Calling is always looking for stories that might add peace to your life. In that spirit, we’ve created a brand-new video series on YouTube called “Peace for Everyday Life” that features celebrities, authors, and people from all walks of life sharing the ways they’ve been able to connect with God to conquer worry, fear, anxiety during uncertain times. You can find these videos at YouTube.com/JesusCallingbook. And be sure to subscribe!
Narrator: Our next guest is Peggy Rowe, writer, teacher and mother to three sons—one of them being Mike Rowe, the host and star of the popular Discovery Channel television show Dirty Jobs. Peggy began writing in her sixties and has been published in newspapers and magazines since 2002. Through contributing humorous texts, letters, and essays to her son Mike’s social media page, she gained millions of followers who love her stories. Now in her eighties, Peggy was inspired to share her stories to a wider audience and wrote her first book, called About My Mother.
Peggy Rowe: My name is Peggy Rowe. I’m a wife, a mother of three sons, two granddaughters, two granddogs and three great-granddogs. I’m active in my church. I sing in the choir. I enjoy Bible study. And of course, I write. I write every day. I can’t not write. It’s like I was born to write.
I was born in 1938 and raised, lived my entire life, in Baltimore, Maryland, where I still live. I was born into a middle-class working family and lived in a middle-class working neighborhood. My dad was an electrician and later on he became an electrical contractor. He was a gentle, loving person, the best father in the world. There was nothing he would not do for his family. He was hardworking and smart with just a seventh grade education. My mother was a take-charge kind of person, a real organizer, a decision maker, very capable. There was nothing my parents could not do, it seemed to me, growing up.
From the time I was born, I was horse crazy. I was a tomboy, much to my mother’s chagrin, as she wanted me to be a refined young lady. galloped around the yard. I jumped over the neighbor’s bushes and jumped over the birdbath. I jumped over the ditch out front. I think that I actually thought I was a horse early on.
Stories of a Loving Mother
Growing up, my mom’s goal for her two children was to raise two refined young ladies. Well, being a horse crazy tomboy just did not fit in with her plans. But she came around. And when she saw how devoted I was to horses—of course I didn’t have a real horse—she was on board, and she did everything she could to make my love a reality.
One day I was out running around the yard, galloping around the yard with my dog, and I stopped to eat some grapes from the grapevine. Well, the grapevine was wrapped around two sturdy vertical poles. They were horizontal poles, but one was on top of the other. And I happened to step on the bottom pole. And when my right leg over the top pole, and my goodness, I thought I was on a horse and on my virtual horse was the grapevine.
Where some mothers might have decided I needed counseling, my mother was right on board, and she went in the house and she got me an old cushion. She got some clothesline rope so that I had a saddle and reins for my horse. And every day I got on that horse, and I rode the prairie. And that was my horse until I was about ten years old. And of course, my mother must have been embarrassed when neighbors looked outside and saw me sitting on top of the grape vines like some weather vane on top of a barn, but she was really a good sport about it.
A Love That is Sacrificial
I have written quite a bit for newspapers and magazines. And whenever I would write a story about my mother—I wrote mainly for The Baltimore Sun—I would get these wonderful responses from readers, comments like, “Oh, Peggy, I can relate to your mother. My mother was just like your mother.” Or, “Your mother sounds like a wonderful person, and such a character.” Well, after a while, I came to realize that my mother was really good material. And so I decided to write about my mother.
They say that hindsight is 20/20, and I believe it, because writing this memoir, for me, was not only cathartic, but it was an eye-opener. Growing up, I did not appreciate my mother, as most children don’t. But as an adult, writing about her and looking back, I see the sacrifices she made for me. They were not just financial sacrifices, because there came a time when I did have my own horse. And my parents, I don’t know that they actually struggled, but they spent a lot of money on horse feed and on tack and clothes and so forth, because I did get into the show scene and I did ride my horse in horse shows. So that was a bit of a sacrifice.
But I saw, as an adult looking back, how devoted they were to me and how they sacrificed their own desires and their own interests so that I could go to horse shows on Sunday and take my horse on a trailer. My mother constantly shopped second-hand shops so that I could have nice riding clothes. I didn’t appreciate that at the time. But as an adult, I certainly have an appreciation for what my parents, especially my mother, did for me.
I think probably the greatest gift my mother gave me was an ability to treat people the way that I would like to be treated. That was a gift that she had. My father also had that gift. They treated people with the utmost of respect. And I hope that I do that. I think I do. The greatest gift that my parents gave to me was their love.
“I think probably the greatest gift my mother gave me was an ability to treat people the way that I would like to be treated.” – Peggy Rowe
Building A Legacy Through Storytelling
I am leaving a kind of legacy, I know. And I can see a very direct result of that writing that I’ve been doing. John and I have come to Florida for a month to spend with our family down here. We have two sons down here, and one of our sons is a writer. He’s a wonderful writer. He doesn’t write the kind of things that I write. He is more into science fiction and fantasy, but his writing is so interesting and exciting. His characters are great. I’d like to think I’ve had some influence on Scott’s writing.
My husband John and I have always been impressed by the way Mike can share stories. I can see in his writing the lesson that I learned from my parents. Perhaps you’re familiar with Dirty Jobs. It’s a show that Mike did for The Discovery Channel for some years. I bet it went on for ten years.
In that show, Mike worked with people every day who do the kind of jobs that make our lives comfortable, but they’re the kind of jobs that can be difficult to do. He cleaned porta potties. He worked in sewers. He worked with sewage. He did black topping. He did roofing. He did so many jobs that are difficult to do, but he unfailingly respected and continues to respect the people that he worked with, the people that get up every day and do those less-than-desirable jobs. He treats those people and has treated them with the same respect that he would like to be treated.
From time to time, I would write a story for Mike. And it all began with a story about losing my blue purse at Walmart. So I wrote the story as a letter to Mike, and I told him about my experience. It was a very funny experience. And so what did Mike do? He read my story on his Facebook page. He had to go off and do a job somewhere, and he came back, I think maybe the next day, looked at his Facebook page—and he had millions [of likes]. My little story about that Walmart experience had been shared about 100 million times.
“[Mike Rowe] unfailingly respected and continues to respect the people that he worked with, the people that get up every day and do those less-than-desirable jobs. He treats those people and has treated them with the same respect that he would like to be treated.” – Peggy Rowe, on her son, Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe
There is a story in my book called Just the Two of Us. It’s a story of my mother taking me to Chincoteague, Virginia, to a pony penning, a pony roundup. One of my favorite books as a child was Misty of Chincoteague. I have fond memories of my mother sitting with me and reading that book with me.
I can’t remember how old I was, but probably around ten or eleven, she took me a couple of hundred miles, just she and I together in our station wagon. And we couldn’t find a place to stay. So we went to the volunteer fire department and we went inside together. And my mother said to those firemen, “We don’t have any place to stay. Could we sleep in the parking lot overnight?” And they were just so kind and they let us use their bathroom. We slept in our station wagon, they let us use the bathroom, they gave us complimentary donuts. They were wonderful to us. And I thank my mother for that.
The next day we got up, we went out on a boat, and we watched the ponies swim from Assateague Island over to Chincoteague, Maryland. We went to the pony pending, which is simply a round up. And I was in my glory because it was all about the horses. It was just wonderful.
I never forgot that trip. My mother and I bonded in that station wagon together at night like we had never bonded before. It was wonderful. I still remember every minute of that trip. And I can only hope that I have given my children similar experiences that they will be able to look back on someday.
I think that we human beings need constant reminders that we are not alone. I think that’s a good reason for doing a daily devotional. I think that’s a good reason to go to church on Sunday. And I think that is the best reason for participating in Bible study. The fact that we should never feel hopeless, and I would wish that for anybody.
“I think that we human beings need constant reminders that we are not alone.” – Peggy Rowe
I’m reading a Jesus Calling devotion from September 27th.
RELAX IN MY EVERLASTING ARMS. Your weakness is an opportunity to grow strong in awareness of My Almighty Presence. When your energy fails you, do not look inward and lament the lack you find there. Look to Me and My sufficiency; rejoice in My radiant riches that are abundantly available to help you. Go gently through this day, leaning on Me and enjoying My Presence. Thank Me for your neediness, which is building trust-bonds between us. If you look back on your journey thus far, you can see that days of extreme weakness have been some of your most precious times. Memories of these days are richly interwoven with golden strands of My intimate Presence.
When I read this passage, I feel that it’s a message to me never to feel hopeless. There’s always hope.
Narrator: You can find Peggy Rowe’s book, About My Mother, and her new book, About Your Father, anywhere books are sold.
If you’d like to hear more stories about the power of legacy, check out our interviews with The Bachelorette’s Luke Pell and pastor Jack Deere.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk with Lori Allen, founder of the shop Bridals by Lori, and star of the TLC reality show Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta. As an entrepreneur, Lori has stepped out in faith many times in order to serve her clients and grow her business. Along the way, she’s faced some trying times—but credits God with getting her through it all.
Lori Allen: So you talk about scary times, I’ve been through scary times economically when I had a brand-new space, a brand-new building, two mortgages because I hadn’t sold the other one yet, and no customers. How am I going to get through this? You talk about saying a lot of prayers and having faith and trusting in God that everything would work out, you know? But was it easy? No. But, you know, God never promises that our lives as Christians are going to be easy. But He does promise He’s gonna be there for us. And He’s always been there for me.
Want to hear more inspirational stories of people who have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then subscribe today to the Jesus Calling Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And please be sure to leave a review, which helps us reach and inspire others with these stories. Plus, if you like seeing our guests as well as hearing them, you can find video interviews available on our Youtube channel at youtube.com/jesuscallingbook, on Facebook, and on the Jesus Calling Instagram page.