No. 922


Did I ever tell you about my football-playing days when I was in high school? We did well until the last game of the season when the decision was made to let the coach go. He had a 5-5 record. He lost five at home and he lost five on the road. In all seriousness, I would like to tell you about the most unusual football game I have ever heard about in my life. The most significant thing that came from this was not so much about the game itself, but the inescapable messages it sent to everyone who has ever heard about it. This experience came to me in an e-mail from Ned Wilford. The game was played in 2008 and was reported by Rick Reilly of ESPN Television.
The game took place in Grapevine, Texas, and was between Grapevine Faith Academy and Gainesville State School. Faith is a Christian school and Gainesville State School is located within a maximum correction facility. Gainesville State School had 14 players. They played every game on the road. Their record was 0-8 (I know the feeling.) Up to this point they had only scored twice. Their 14 players were teenagers who had been convicted of crimes ranging from drugs to assault to robbery. Most had families who had disowned them. They wore outdated, used shoulder pads and helmets. Faith Academy was 7-2. They had 70 players, 11 coaches and the latest equipment.
Kris Hogan, the head coach of Faith Academy, knew the Gainesville team would have no fans and it would be no contest, so he thought, “What if half our fans and half our cheerleaders, for one night only, cheered for the other team?” He sent out an e-mail to the faithful asking them to do just that.
“Here is the message I want you to send,” Hogan wrote, “You are just as valuable as any other person on the planet.” Some folks were confused and thought he was nuts. One player said, “Coach why are we doing this?” Hogan said, “Imagine you don’t have a home life, no one to love you, no one pulling for you; imagine that everyone pretty much had given up on you. Now imagine what it would feel like and mean to you for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”
The idea took root. On the night of the game, imagine the surprise of those 14 players when they took the field and there was a banner the cheerleaders had made for them to crash through. The visitor’s stands were full. The cheerleaders were leading cheers for them. The fans were calling them by their names. Isaiah, the quarterback/middle linebacker, said, “I never in my life thought I would hear parents cheering to tackle and hit their kid. Most of the time when we come out, people are afraid of us. You can see it in their eyes, but these people are yelling for us. They knew our names.”
Faith won the game, and after the game the teams gathered at the 50-yard line to pray. That’s when Isaiah, the teenage convict-quarterback, surprised everybody and asked if he could pray. He said, “Lord, I don’t know what just happened so I don’t know how or who to say thank you to, but I never knew there were so many people in the world that cared about us.” On the way back to the bus, under guard, each one of the players was handed a burger, fries, candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from one of the players from Faith Academy.
To be sure, there is a lot I could add here, space permitting, but if you were not touched by these acts of Godly kindness, nothing I could say would make a difference. I just wonder how many of these young men would be in prison if they had received this kind of love when they were in their formative years. When possible, let’s give it to them. Always remember, God is love.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)