Romans 13:7 (ESV) Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
One, I don’t believe there’s another team oriented sport that even begins to rival the complexities of schemes and intricacies involved as in this game. I realize some view football as nothing more than a brutal game where players only seek to inflict as much pain as possible. Having played from junior high through college I can honestly say this is a false perception. Don’t misunderstand, I do love the big hits and the sense of combativeness that takes place during each play, but there’s so much more.
Two, as a purest of the sport, I love what lies behind each play. The strategies incorporated to carry out a single play make the game intriguing. Formations and motions used by the offense to confuse a defense and gain the upper hand take a great deal of skill and knowledge. A defense will often employ similar tactics using a mixture of fronts and coverages to confuse the offense. In many ways the game of football is like a game of chess except it’s played on a much larger surface.
Three, I appreciate the fundamentals that must be taught for a player to be successful. The slightest change in a blocking technique or a route run by a receiver can make a difference in winning or losing. In the game of football everything matters even down to the smallest details. It takes eleven players working together and carrying out their exact assignments to accomplish the team’s goal.
Four, what I love most about this game is not the game itself but the lessons taught and applied to other areas of life. Personally, I believe I had some of the best coaches a player could ever hope for in this game. During my playing days at Liberty I had two different offensive line coaches: Kendall Keith an All-American from the University of Georgia and Chuck Kelly who played at Louisiana Tech and professionally. I learned much about the “X’s” and “O’s” from both these men, but one of the greatest things I learned was that men who love Jesus never quit no matter the odds. Both of these men were physically imposing figures that demanded respect and gave the same in return. Each pushed my teammates and me daily to the point of mental and physical exhaustion, and looking back I can’t thank them enough for being tough on me when needed.
Yet, I believe the greatest coach I ever had the pleasure of playing for was a man by the name of Johnny Sasser. He was the head football coach for twenty-four years at East Wake High School which is located outside Raleigh, North Carolina. Sadly, he died of cancer in 1993 at the age of forty-eight leaving behind a wife and two sons. Coach Sasser had a profound effect upon my life in so many ways. Not only was he an innovator as a coach, but he was a motivator for life. He had a saying for every situation, and the motto that he’ll forever be remembered for is “Winners find a way.” Coach Sasser believed there was always an answer no matter what problem might lie before us. This is not to say that we would always like the answer.
Johnny Sasser was a man of great conviction and Christian faith which is what motivated him to teach young men how to live in this world. For him, football was a teaching tool to mold young men into better men. On Saturday mornings I always knew where to find him – in his office watching the game footage from the night before. I would often wander into the Fieldhouse to watch the game film with him. I was hoping to learn as much as I possibly could about the game I loved, but he would often direct the conversation back to my life and dreams. Not long after I graduated from college I hit a spiritual rough spot in my life and the only one I wanted to talk to was Coach Johnny Sasser. One Saturday morning in 1988 I walked into the Fieldhouse again, and there he was as if he was waiting for me – he never missed a beat. I sat down to watch the previous night’s game film, and all he wanted to talk about was me and my life. That day he once again helped me begin to see what should be important … God and family.
During these last few weeks I’ve had the great pleasure of helping coach a local middle school football team. Each day as I head out to practice I take a few minutes to pray for the other coaches and young men that I’ll be working with on the field. As I pray I not only ask for God’s protection upon these young men, but most of all, I ask for God’s blessing and leading with the hope that each player will see Christ in my life, (just like I saw in Coach Sasser’s life). I suspect prayer became a habit because it was instilled in me early on at Liberty. Each position coach on our team would gather his players and lead us in prayer before and after practice. Looking back, this routine also had a profound effect upon my life. For fifteen years or more now I’ve volunteered to help coach different teams and praying for players and coaches before hitting the field is a habit I don’t ever think will be broken.
So why do I share these things with you?
We hear so many negative things about our youth today with their lack of respect for authority and their dismissiveness towards God and the Church. The coaches I presently work with are fine men, and their work with young men obviously extends far beyond the football field. I’ve been so impressed with the things I’ve heard from our players and the genuine respect that is shown. I routinely hear the phrases “yes sir” and “no sir” as our players address the coaches and officials on the field. Yet, I think the greatest thing I’ve witnessed thus far took place before our first game a few weeks ago. Without any prompting, one of the young men turned to our head coach and asked, “Coach is it okay if we pray?” With a nod of the head, the young man gathered his team and led them in a prayer. For some this may seem like nothing more than a ritual, but for me it was a reminder that there are moms and dads, coaches and teachers along the way that have done something right.
Again, why do I share these things with you? Every so often we all need reminding someone can make a difference in the life of another by living out our Christian faith.
I praise God for the people who made a difference in my early life!
Teresa Hall West
Sharyn Siler Stevens
Bruce and Grace Hall
J. D. West
The Pastor and Deacon (whose names I can’t recall) from Friendship Baptist Church in Raleigh North Carolina who led me to Christ
1 Peter 2:9-12 (ESV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
This is a framed article at the top of this page is from the Raleigh News and Observer covering the life of Coach Johnny Sasser following his death in 1993. It hangs in my office as a constant reminder to be a "difference maker" in the lives of others.