In the previous installments of this series, I described how I was blessed to be part of football programs, in both high school and college, that ascended from the depths of despair to championship seasons during my final years on each of those teams.
I don’t know how my experience in football would have affected me differently if I had played only on losing teams—where losses were predictable, or even excused. I can’t say what I would have learned from that, or even if I would have continued making the sacrifices to play this very demanding sport—especially all the way through college.
What I do know is how profoundly the opportunities that I had in football prepared me for life and ministry—all in the providence of God. As I get older and look back with the added perspective that time brings, I see all of that so much more clearly.
In each context, I was privileged to be part of teams that endured many losses early on—but under coaches who simply would not accept losing as a habit.
Read Part 1.
Throughout the eight years of my high school and college football career, football was the focus for six days a week.
My high school field had no lights. But even if it had, private school football in Wisconsin back in those days was a staple of Saturday afternoons—not Friday nights. Away games could easily take up most of Saturday, and yet, come Monday afternoon—less than 48 hours after the game ended—we were back out under the sun (or rain) in full pads.
Maranatha’s field, likewise, had no lights, and every game during my college career was on a Saturday afternoon, with the exception of one non-conference Monday night game.
Road trips in college were very interesting. We would often leave before the end of the school day on Friday and return in the middle of the night after the game on Saturday—just a few hours before Sunday morning church. I remember that sickening feeling you felt waking up as the bus turned onto the campus, up past the old entrance sign at MBBC, knowing that Coach Price required us to go straight to the locker room to sort out and hang up our own equipment. I think the latest I got to bed in my dorm was 4 a.m.
In high school, we opened practice in early August with two-a-days, and my two varsity seasons both ended in November. So, my senior season took up more than three months.
With Memorial Day now past, it’s time to think about … football! At least that’s the way that I approached it when I was in college.
God gave me the wonderful opportunity to play football for eight years in two Christian schools—four at Winnebago Lutheran Academy in Fond du Lac, Wis., and four at Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wis.
The lessons that I learned on the football field are innumerable, such that I cannot imagine my life without them—and they continue to impact me on a daily basis.
In my summers in college, Memorial Day was the unofficial beginning of my football season. That stretch between coming home from school and Memorial Day was sort of a bonus—time to rest and relax. But once Memorial Day was over, I knew that summer would be flying by. The weeks would disappear quickly, and I needed to prepare because, soon enough, I would be back out under the hot sun in full pads.
Memorial Day still evokes those feelings for me, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share a series of articles on some of the lessons I learned playing football that apply to the Christian life in general, and to Christian ministry in particular.
"Just 34% of Americans believed that trans-identified athletes should be allowed to play on sports teams that correspond to their gender identity. Support was highest among self-described liberals (63%), Democrats (55%), women (43%) and college graduates (40%)." - C.Post
"Allen, a Maranatha alumnus, is in his 5th year at the helm of the IU Football program. Allen is the 2020 American Football Coaches Association National Coach of the Year.... Additionally, he received the 2020 Grant Teaff Coach of the Year from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes." - MBU
"The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced the approval of Bob Jones University as a provisional member in Division III. The NCAA Division III Membership Committee approved BJU’s application and the Bruins athletics department will enter the first year of provisional status beginning September 1." - BJU Today