Georgia Tech Football to Catholic Seminary

My name is Grant Aasen. I am about to graduate from Georgia Tech. Football is a part of my story.

When I was a sophomore in high school, on October 14, 2010, I sustained a head injury during a football game.  It’s called a subdural hematoma, which means there was bleeding on the brain.  In my case, the bleeding was quite large.  I passed out and had a seizure with 1:47 left in the game.  An ambulance drove onto the field, and I was quickly loaded in so they can diagnose me as well as hook me up to some fluids.  They shortly realized the extent of my injury and called in a helicopter to LifeLite me to Atlanta Medical Center where I received an MRI.  The MRI revealed the whole picture, and they started prepping me for brain surgery.  As they wheeled me back to the operating room, I passed by parents and they squeezed my hand as they watched me go by unconscious.  They were approached by a doctor, who explained the situation. They didn’t know if they would lose their son.  They, along about 80 other players from my high school, waited for the surgery to end.  It went smoothly, and I woke up a few hours after leaving the operating room.  The first words I said were to my parents, and I asked if we had won the game.  It was an immense relief to them that I was alive, but the worries had just begun.  I was in the ICU, and most people on my hall were not going to make it.  As that first week progressed, I would sleep about 23 hours a day.  However, I was healing so well, that I was released to go home within 7 days.  The doctors and nurses were amazed at the outcome.  The recovery process continued, though, as I had to start going to speech therapy sessions as soon as I could handle it.  I still slept about 16 hours a day, and these sessions were at 8 in the morning, so one can understand why I dreaded them.  I only had to attend a handful of them as it was clear that I didn’t need them.  With the severity of my injury, the recovery process was supposed to be: a week or 2 in ICU, move to a regular hospital for a few weeks, go to multiple types of therapy for a year, and retake my sophomore year of high school beginning next fall.  What it actually looked like was: get out of the hospital in a week, begin speech therapy and home schooling, speech therapy ended quickly, attend all of the football games that fall (as a fan), and go back to school in the spring.  I have visited a few other neurosurgeons who specialize in this injury, and every single one was blown away at the outcome.  Basically, with the severity of it, I shouldn’t be alive, let alone normal.  It just doesn’t happen, but it did.  My accident was a miracle.  I had short-term memory loss for the next year, and I ran some track in the spring to stay active.  I was dead-set, however, on playing football and lacrosse again.  During this semester, I started to wonder about why my miracle had happened.  I knew that God existed, because I was taught that, but I never really cared much beyond that point.  However, the gears started to turn and the interest slowly grew.  I started meeting with a senior football player, and doing some bible studies.  I began attending my high school’s Friday morning FCA program.  It began a process that helped me grow in faith until this point.  I started to say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and a Glory Be before going to bed every night.  I continued to attend Mass on Sundays, I just started to pay a little more attention.  This practice continued on into, and through, my senior year.

One key moment came for me on the first day of football practice my senior year of high school.  Let me give some backstory before continuing.  Yes I came back to play football.  No, I was not getting hit.  I started punting.  My dream had shifted from just playing football in college and the NFL, to punting in college and going to the NFL.  I had a problem of caring so much about what people thought about me.  I went from being the star player in my class to a punter who wasn’t very good…but I gave everything I could to be the best at what I did.  So rewind to the night before my last first practice of a high school season (all for all I knew at that point, maybe even my football career).  It was Sunday at about 6:30pm and Life Teen Mass had just gotten out, and I was praying about some stuff.  I was really nervous about the coming season, and I just wanted to do a good job, to be enough. I asked God that when I punt at practice tomorrow I would do a good job.  So, the next day comes, and I am punting really well, compared to what I usually do, and everyone was complimenting me. I felt great.  At that moment, I really felt like God was real to me. I felt that He had my back, and that I was doing what He wanted me to do.  After that, I really never looked back because as Peter mentioned, where else or to whom else would I go if I knew God was it.  So from that moment on football and my spiritual life had a close relationship.

Grant 3

Once I graduated, I dove head first into football and started to train heavily as I planned to try out for the Georgia Tech Football team in the coming fall.  I enrolled for the late semester of the summer so I could get used to the workload before the fall semester happened.  During this time my brother helped me get acclimated at the Georgia Tech Catholic Center (CC) by going to weekly events and Mass.  He even introduced me to the idea of daily Mass, which I didn’t know existed.  I feel, looking back, that this exposure to the Catholic Center so early into my college experience really helped me keep growing in my faith. 

When the fall semester began, they had tryouts for football that first week.  I did not make the team and I was pretty devastated.  However, I knew I was good enough to play so I decided to keep working on my craft, and I planned on trying out again when the spring tryout came around.  This extra time I had, from not being on the team, helped me to get a good foothold on my academics, as well as continue to get more involved at the CC.  I started doing weekly holy hours and attending daily Mass more frequently.  Along with receiving the sacraments on a more frequent basis, I started to really take fighting sin seriously and began to work on my life.  This was greatly aided by being surrounded by great Catholics who lived out the faith the way it was meant to be lived as well as a great priest in Father Kevin Peak.  These, combined, really lit the fire in my heart to fall in love with the Catholic Church and her teachings as well as the lifestyle it brings.  The friendships I formed that first semester, are some of my greatest friendships that I have currently.  They are not based off of use to anything material, but rather the brotherhood (mainly) that comes with being a true Christian and struggling together to fight sin and come together as the Church.  We all stay in touch now, even though most have graduated, and we are always praying for each other as well as check in on each other and lift each other up when things aren’t going well.  I see now, as I write this, the great blessing that God gave in my first year at Tech, with building these relationships.  Friends that I can lean on for help and role models I can imitate to help grow in my own faith.

Going into my second year at GT, I had decided that this would be my last time trying out for the football team. I can remember it so clearly.  All of the walk-ons were sitting in a room after the tryouts, waiting for the coaches to return with their final decision. They came into the room and announced that they are taking myself and the other punter onto the team.  I was pretty blown away.  My dreams were coming true.  I was now a Division 1 college football player.  I couldn’t believe it.  My brother was a trainer for the football team, and I remember walking into the training room a few minutes after getting the news.  It was a special moment because of how happy he was for me and proud he seemed to be for me.  He knows the whole struggle I had with my injury and how much I had put into this.  It was just amazing.  It began a journey that words can only attempt to grasp.  That year we went to the Orange Bowl and won.  We ended up ranked in the top 10, and we beat UGA in overtime in Athens.  During that game, the famous Kick and a Pick happened.  The friends and memories I made in that first year could be sufficient for a lifetime.    

During my first season on the team, I set out to try and bring those who had fallen away back to Mass and to the Church.  Harrison, now one of my best and closest friends, was one of those Catholics. He started to ask me questions about different Catholic things such as Mass, Confession, Mary, etc.  At first it was only a few a day, and then it got up to basically any down time we had he would be firing away.  At some point he committed to coming to daily Mass after a short practice and from then on he has become one of most devout Catholics that I know.  He is like a second brother to me.  The reason I bring this up is because of the impact it had on my faith and my discernment.  Answering his questions helped me learn my faith and also helped me grow. Watching him grow, has to be one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed.  His relationships with family and friends have transformed and become so fruitful for the Kingdom.  It has truly been a blessing.  I realized that I want to be a part of this even more in many people’s lives. 

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Sometime midway through the fall semester, Father Josh and Father Gaurav offered a silent retreat at Covercrest for anyone who was interested in attending from the GT CC.  I decided, since there was an away game that weekend and I wasn’t on the travel squad, that I would attend.  It was an eye opening experience, and it got the ball rolling on me thinking about my vocation.  I really felt a strong sense that, as I described it, I was calling out to God but was never getting a response.  As if He heard but just was turning away.  It was very disheartening, and I remember I would get so frustrated in prayer.  I approached Father Josh during this retreat and really laid out the whole picture and his response was: I need to start to figure out where God is calling me to go.  So the discernment began.  After that, I would meet with Father Josh regularly and I would be praying about this all of the time.  Slowly, since then, I have come to realize where He wants me to go.  By my third year at Tech I would be strongly leaning towards seminary.

This past year, my 4th year at Tech, has been a blast.  It has been a tough year though as I really struggled with leaving this place.  The hardest thing for me is that I have one more year of eligibility left for football and it seems as though everything is coming together for me to have a great year and to enjoy being a senior while likely starting as the holder and competing for the starting punter spot. I would letter, do all of the senior celebrations, be a team leader, get my own locker, and the list goes on.  I could do an accelerated MBA program, or work and take some classes and graduate in the fall.  There are many positive things that I could do in the next year, but I have decided to leave and enter the seminary this fall.

I am excited to begin this journey, even though I am unsure of where it will take me.  This semester, especially, I have really tried to trust in God’s will and to know that I am not sure where it will end.  Life with Christ is an extraordinary journey and if not Him, to who else would I go and follow. Pray for me as I begin this journey.

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There are 23 comments so far

  • Kimberly biggs
    12 months ago · Reply

    What a wonderful story! I’m so excited for our faith to have such another great priest to lead Gid’s people!

    May the God continue to bless you with inspiration, grace and love!

    Good luck to the “punting priest!!”;)

  • Tom
    12 months ago · Reply

    As a former classmate of Fr Gaurav’s, I applaud you, and even though I left seminary, I have never regretted those three years, which have made me the man I am today. God bless you and I will be praying for you.

  • Tom
    12 months ago · Reply

    God bless you! Thank you for seeking Him out, listening to His call and saying yes to His plan for your life. You sound like a great young man who is driven to do his best. Many prayers for you.

  • Mary K. Stewart, OCDS
    12 months ago · Reply

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspiring journey! I’ll keep you in my daily prayers.
    Mary K. Stewart, OCDS ( Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites). Our community apostolate is praying for Seminarians.

  • Marg Jennings
    12 months ago · Reply

    You are extraordinary. I loved your story and the journey of your devotion.
    My prayers will be for you as you grow in faith and begin this road to fulfilling your vocation.

  • N Reyes
    12 months ago · Reply

    May the Lord bless you abundantly with the fruits of the Holy Spirit and may your journey in serving the Lord continue to light the fire within in accordance with His Will. Amen??

  • Grant Aasen
    12 months ago · Reply

    Sorry I haven’t commented earlier. It has been a long weekend with graduating and moving back for the summer. Thank you all for your kind words and especially for your prayers. They are greatly appreciated and much needed. It is very humbling that people are reacting so positively to this story. My only hope for this story, was that God would use it to inspire others and show how He has worked in my life. Thank you for your support and prayers again.

    • Fr. Bill Baer
      12 months ago · Reply

      Grant, my name is Fr. Bill Baer, and I am a 1979 graduate (Architecture) of Georgia Tech, and a Priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. I could not be more proud of you and all that you have done to be a witness to your Catholic faith. When I was at Tech in the late 70s, Fr. Mario DiLella was the longtime Priest at the Catholic Center, which at the time was a little shoebox of a house in the shadows of the huge Baptist Student Union. Fr. DiLella was quite a scholar and loved the fact that some students brought notebooks to Mass to record his homilies. Grant, I served for 11 years as the Rector of Saint John Vianney Seminary here in St. Paul, which was the largest college seminary in the United States. I promise to pray for you as you take this very important and heroic step. I said to the 600 seminarians with whom I worked, “You are not necessarily called to the Priesthood, but every one of you is called to be a Catholic father, and a father does three things: he protects, he provides, he establishes the next generation for life.” Grant, may you be a true spiritual father. God bless.

      • Grant Aasen
        11 months ago · Reply

        Fr. Bill Baer,
        Thank you so much for that advice. I will remember these words as I enter the Seminary. It is special to meet a fellow GT grad. I have heard great things about Fr. Mario. Thank you for the prayers. They are much needed.

  • Sarah Ritcey
    12 months ago · Reply

    Grant, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story of God’s love and your faith journey. God bless you and your generous faith filled family. Your witness of love for Our Lord and desire to follow where he leads is truly light in a dark world. Will keep you in prayer.
    Sarah Ritcey OCDS (Order of Carmelites Discalced Secular )

  • Jane
    12 months ago · Reply

    This article is so wonderful and I’m so thankful that God tugged at your heart like he did. I am so thankful, also, for the miracle that He provided you and that you are so healthy and are such an inspiration to other young people! WOW!!! Just amazing. You are what the world needs and our Church is so blessed to have young men like you in it! God Bless you all the days of your life. I will be praying for you and your vocation!

  • Deacon Peter
    12 months ago · Reply

    Hi Grant,
    I just ran into this story from Aleteia. I am about to be ordained a priest, so I just wanted to give you some encouraging words. This is very exciting and your story is very inspiring; it shows the mercy and the greatness of God! Seminary is worth it, keep a journal of some of your thoughts now. That could be very helpful as you go along and hit some bumps in the road in seminary. Be assured of my prayers and please pray for me too! Deacon Peter

  • Jennifer Sikora
    12 months ago · Reply

    Thank you for saying “yes” to God! May your time of discernment be one of total abandonment to the Holy Spirit! The world needs faithful, holy priests and you seem like a perfect candidate! I recommend you try to attend a silent, Ignatian retreat given by the priests of Miles Christi in these next few months. Our family will continue to pray for you!

    God bless! Keep us posted!

    Mrs. Jennifer Sikora

  • 12 months ago · Reply

    May The Lord God lead more good, holy, moral men and women to consecrated life for The Glory of God!……Amen and amen!

  • Rhett Tejada
    12 months ago · Reply

    Dear Grant,
    I thank the Lord for touching your heart in a very special way. Many are called but only few are chosen to be in-persona Christi. May the Lord shine His Light upon you! May God bless you, your parents and family and all the people God has surrounded you! Blessings!

  • Yolanda
    12 months ago · Reply

    I pray for you. Thank you for sharing your wonderful and inspiring journey. God bless you

  • Anna Beck
    12 months ago · Reply

    What a wonderful Story of faith. So Happy for you Grant, for your journey with the Lord. Wherever it takes you your

    life will be blessed.

  • Farher nick
    12 months ago · Reply

    Great vocation story Grant and will surely inspire others to listen and to discern their own calling. Keeping you in my prayers.

  • Jean
    12 months ago · Reply

    Hello Grant,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s truly inspiring. I’ll keep you in my prayers and I hope that you update us as to how you are doing. Maybe you can write some kind of journal for those of us who would like to keep up with your progress. It’s so good to hear about good young men interested in the priesthood. God Bless you and keep you. In Jesu et Maria, Jean

  • Denise m. Tonry
    12 months ago · Reply

    With everything going on in the world, “hope” is what I feel after reading such an inspirational story like this.

  • Shirley Mott
    12 months ago · Reply

    Congratulations Grant. Praying for you. God is great.
    Thanks for sharing your story.
    Shirl Mott-Olympia WA

  • Ralph
    12 months ago · Reply

    Thanks for sharing, your progression in the Faith is inspiring. God Bless and best at Seminary.

  • Grant Aasen
    11 months ago · Reply

    There are so many things I would like to say to everyone individually. Most of all, thank you for all for the encouragement and kind words. As I prepare for this next step, these comments mean so much to me. I am so thankful for all of your prayers. I will pray for you all as well. Thank you again. I will try and keep everyone posted on how I am doing.

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