PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Jason Avant raises his hands to the sky after every reception in celebration for much more than catching a ball.

Playing football for the Philadelphia Eagles doesn't define Avant. After everything he's endured, the 29-year-old wide receiver is not your ordinary professional athlete.

Avant was 12 when he started selling drugs. He went to elementary school drunk and high. As a teenager, he belonged to one of Chicago's notorious gangs called the "Gangsters Disciples." Dodging bullets and running from the police were common for him.

Yet somehow Avant escaped that life and avoided ending up dead or in jail like some of his friends. Now he's one of the most respected players in the NFL.

Avant would go to church with his grandmother on Sundays and return to the streets to sell drugs with his gang friends. However, words from the service would be ringing in his ears the whole time.

Nowadays, he walks around the locker room singing gospel music and always carries the Bible. He leads teammates in Bible study on Thursdays and mentors young players and veterans. He quotes scripture the way movie buffs recite lines to their favorite film.

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