Trading cleats for collar – College football player to tackle priesthood

By Gretchen R. Crowe
Arlington Catholic Herald (

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Arlington Catholic Herald) – During his college career, seminarian Ben Kessler has always been up on the latest priest jokes. That’s because the 6-foot-2-inch, 250-pound 21-year-old spent the last four fall semesters not only studying the gospels, but also studying playbook Xs and Os while starring as a defensive end for the football team at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

He attends St. John Vianney College Seminary on the university’s campus and also takes classes at the university. He is studying to be a priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wis.

Kessler was at Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria Feb. 4 to discuss the relationship between his two great loves, God and football, which he said many consider to be polar opposites.

“The stereotypical seminarian is seen maybe as a nerdy guy, real calm, real giving,” Kessler said, “whereas a football player is seen as ‘in your face’ – a dumb jock.”

But Kessler argued that the two professions have much in common. He said there was a “fraternal aspect” – men sharing a bond together – that rings true for both seminarians and football players, and that the two groups of men are both “changing the world.”

“Putting the two together creates a better person,” he said. (more…)