Growing up, my parents, brother and I went to church every Sunday. Maybe it goes without saying but, as a kid, I wasn’t going to church for myself; I was going to church because that’s just what we did on Sundays. I didn’t know any different.
From an early age, I always knew about God and Jesus. I suppose by taking my brother and I to church each week, my parents made sure of that. But, despite great church attendance, I didn’t know what it meant to be a Christian or have a relationship with God. I guess you could say I was going through the motions.
Thankfully, the Lord was working on me early. Every time I stepped foot in the church, whether it was for Sunday School or something else, I knew there was a reason for me to be there. I was convicted; I knew something was missing. Yet, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. That is, until ninth or tenth grade, when all of a sudden something clicked.
I remember it clearly. One particular Sunday, which happened to be a youth day, the pastor said, “There will come a day and a time when your parents won’t be able to vouch for you kids, and you’re going to have to stop playing church and come to know Jesus for yourself.”
When he said that, I was like, “Whoa, I think he’s talking directly to me.”
I felt like the only one in the room. Today, I know that it was the Lord was tugging on my heart because, then and there, I decided I really needed to see what living my life for Christ looked like. It wasn’t until later, though, that I truly understood what it meant to live sold out for God.
Around that time, I was finishing up my high school football career in Mobile, Alabama. It was a busy time for my family and I, as we carefully weighed each of the scholarships offers I received from football programs across the country. In the end, my heart was set on the University of Alabama, where my brother played. There was just one problem: I had to walk on. But, it didn’t bother me.
When I first stepped on campus, I was still trying to figure out what my life looked like completely surrendered to the Lord. The first week, the team chaplain, a family friend who played a large role in my brother and I’s recruitment, set up a meeting with me. During our first meeting, he shared the Gospel with me. You know, who is God? Who is man? Who is Christ? And, what’s our response? That’s the moment I truly gave my life to Christ.
Immediately, he began to challenge me. Not long after our first meeting, he appointed me to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and Athletes in Action (AIA) leadership teams on campus, making me the first ever freshman leader. I was honored, but to be honest, the thought of leading others so early in my walk with the Lord terrified me. Besides, I have never been a huge talker if I didn’t have to be. So naturally, every part of me wanted to decline his offer. Yet, something in my spirit told me to say yes, and I’m so glad I did.
Despite my initial insecurities, I began to experience growth in so many different areas of my life. In a way, I consider that time to be the launching point of my walk with Christ. I quickly learned that taking steps in my walk, before I felt like I was ready, helped me develop much needed confidence. Our chaplain must have noticed because he began encouraging me to start a small group for our football team. I still felt unqualified, like I didn’t know enough about Jesus or the Bible, but the previous leader had graduated and I knew someone had to step up. So, I accepted.
Through his constant challenges, I have grown so much. A few years have gone by and I’m still leading the team small group. Through it all, I’ve realized that in order to speak into and influence others, I need to learn and know the word for myself. For example, if a teammate comes to me with questions about the Lord, I need to go back and dig into the word, and then find a way to relay that to them. As a result, I’m learning something and so are they.
The Next Step
Today, I’m preparing to play my last college football game and it’s another big one. But, this time around, my perspective has changed. Since attending Ultimate Training Camp last summer, which was life changing, I’ve realized that sports is just a platform for me to point people to Jesus.
Sometimes, we like to put sports on a pedestal. I think going to camp provided me with the insight that it’s through Jesus that everything can be accomplished. You know, we can put sports ahead of Jesus, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Ultimately, I think he wants the reason we play, and how we play, to be for Him because of what He did for us on the cross. That’s what motivates me the most.
I believe we, as athletes, can influence others by showing them the reason we do what we do, the reason we play the way we play, and study the way we study, is because we want to give 100 percent because Jesus gave 100 percent for us. That’s ultimately what I want to do: I want to influence. I want people to see Jesus in and through me, and ultimately, direct them to the King.
God bless and Roll Tide,