Category Archives: Christianity in Athletics

Lamar Jackson shows biblical principal ‘last shall be first’

ravens quarterback lamar jacksonThe Ravens quarterback is not out to win. He’s out to destroy his opponents, to bury them under so many points, both passed and rushed. His mindset is insanely competitive.

He’s been compared to Mike Vick, but he passes more, and he’s been hailed as a prototype revolutionizing football for future generations of QBs, who ought to be both athletic like a running back and precise passers. The 22-year-old, who outgunned both Tom Brady and Russell Wilson in double digits this season, is charging madly into the NFL’s MVP.

On top of all that, Lamar Jackson is a Christian, who credited his faith when he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2016 at the University of Louisville.

passing and running lamar jackson“First and foremost, before I go further along in my speech, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Lamar said. “Without Him, none of us would be here right now.”

Lamar Jackson lost his dad in an automobile accident when he was eight. From then on, his single mother raised Lamar and his siblings in poverty in Pompano Beach, Florida. He credits Mom with doing her best to fill the role of Mom and Dad.

And the role of football coach.

lamar jackson heisman speechFelicia Jones was a passionate athlete herself and pushed her son into football. Even at eight, he outran and outpassed all the other kids in Pop Warner football. Felicia watched intently from the sidelines and then took little Lamar home to give him more drills, either ones she saw or ones she made up. She even tackled him roughly so that he would intensify his game to beat bigger people.

“People don’t believe me,” Jackson said on ESPN. “She was an athlete. She used to play basketball. She saw what we were able to do, and she’d go back there and play football with us. She was just making us tougher because she’s older, so she’s bringing power that we’re not used to feeling. We didn’t take it like anything different.”

In addition to intense workouts, she drilled Lamar with a code of moral principles called The Super 8: God, prayer, faith, family, education, sacrifice, character and discipline.

By the time Lamar got to college he was a football machine, chewing up opponents and spitting them out. In his opening game during his sophomore year, he established the school record scoring eight touchdowns, all in the first half. He went on to become the youngest ever recipient of the Heisman trophy at age 19.

But when it came time for the NFL draft in 2018, 28 teams overlooked him in their picks. He was the last pick of the first round.

But the snub only inspired him. Lamar and his mom, who acted as his agent, remembered and repeated Matt. 20:16: “The last will be first, and the first last,” according to CBS Sports. He wasn’t a first in NFL draft; he came in last. Now on the football field, he determined to finish first. Read the rest Lamar Jackson Christian

Lamar Odom gets saved

lamar odom basketball starHe lived fast and punished his body with riotous living. Four years ago, NBA Legend Lamar Odom nearly lost his life to a drug overdose in Las Vegas. Last month, he finally surrendered his heart and life to Jesus Christ in Atlanta.

“I had to show Jesus my appreciation for keeping me alive!” he told People magazine. “Nowadays I’m doing the best I can in walking with the Lord. Thanks to Pastor Vernon @drravernon, I got saved at @thewordchurch this weekend.”

lamar odom and khoe kardashianLamar was named Parade’s national player of the year out of high school in 1997. After playing one season at the University of Rhode Island, he signed for the LA Clippers and was named the NBA rookie of the year. He formed part of the LA Lakers’ league winning teams in 2009 and 2010.

But the South Jamaica Queens native followed his father, a heroin user, into addiction. While on the Clippers he was busted twice by the NBA’s anti drug rules and later he faked urine tests with the help of friends and fake body parts, he admitted.

Lamar, who no longer plays basketball, met and married Khloe Kardashian in 2009 but says he cheated on her innumerable times, and eventually the reality show star divorced him in October 2015.

“I had broken my vows with Khloé so many times it’s just impossible for me to remember them all,” he told US Weekly. “I don’t know why Khloé stayed with me.”

Lamar was a consummate team player on the court, but off the court, his life was a mess. After catching a DUI in 2013, Lamar overdosed two years later after crossing cocaine, cognac and cannabis at a Las Vegas brothel called the Love Ranch.

This was his lifestyle, when days blended into nights surrounded by beautiful women and “a mound of drugs.”

On October 13, 2015, his world came crashing down when his body finally rebelled against the excesses. “I lay on the floor in my room at the Ranch, dying,” he said later. “My body was convulsing. The women who kept me company screamed and called 911.”

Lamar was rushed to the Sunrise Hospital where he lingered between life and death.

“My heart stopped twice. I had twelve seizures and six strokes,” he said. “My lungs collapsed and my kidneys ruptured. I was on life support. Everyone I’d ever loved was looking at me through bleary eyes.”

He woke up the next day confused and disoriented. He tried to pull out the tubes from his body. He tried to speak and panicked because he couldn’t.

“That was the scariest part. And not being able to walk,” he says. “I’m a big athlete you know?” Read the rest: Lamar Odom Christian

It’s over

pummeler 8 man football in santa monica

They call them the twins: Hosea Ashcraft (my son, at left) and David Hutchinson.

They may have wanted the story of the Athenians against the Persians or Charles Martel against the Arabs, but Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s battle — despite a dazzling display of force and finesse — was that of Col. Custer.

“We laid the boom on the other team,” boasted head coach Zach Scribner. “But it was the classic David vs. Goliath. When they were looking at the schedule, probably the other team was happy to play us because we were 2 and 6. But I can guarantee that walking off the field they wished they could have played anybody else because nobody is as physical as us. Nine guys against 40. If we just had a few more guys, we would have been able to beat them. At the end of the game, they were all limping.”

LCA got its playoff spot unexpectedly. The Saints had lost most of their games, but those losses were against high-ranking division 1 teams. In their own division 2, they were 2-2. The surprise playoff call-up also meant they were matched against a top bracket team.

Pat cannon TD Lighthouse Christian Academy football santa monica“We knew what we were up against,” Coach Zach said.

Lancaster Baptist School had both an offense and a defense. Most Lighthouse players played every single down. Given the uneven match-up, the result was nothing to be ashamed of: 27-68.

It wasn’t realistic to believe the impossible dream. Still the Saints played brash ball. Hosea Ashcraft — who has been the team’s enforcer all season — was again at his antics of laying hard hits on key players, sowing misgivings and intimidation in their hearts.

“I felt like I hit the Great Wall of China,” said the battering ram, who was taken out of play in the third quarter because a face guard penetrated and hit his bridge of nose, drawing blood and momentarily impairing his vision. Read the rest: Santa Monica private school sports program.

Sk8erpat now is famous in football too

sk8erpatHe could have mangled his fingers, broken his toes, fractured his ribs… any number of ER trauma from high school football.

Pat Cannon — known on Instagram is Sk8erpat with 19K followers worldwide — wants to go pro skateboarding, so what was he doing playing football for the Lighthouse Christian Academy?

On Saturday, the senior scored a touchdown, handed off and passed for touchdowns as quarterback to help the Saints win 34-30 against Cal Lutheran Wildomar in LCA’s season closer.

He gambled with jeopardizing his true passion for somebody else’s.

“I just wanted to help my teammates out. I wanted to help my school,” Pat said. “It was worth it. It was one of the best decisions of my life.”

Lighthouse christian academy football santa monica private schoolThe Saints’ high hopes for its 2019 season were dashed in the first game of the season.

That’s because Levi Photenhauer, a slick runner with unflagging tenacity, went down with a torn ACL. It was as if LCA had lost its queen early in a game of chess.

The Saints still had Seniors Marcus Scribner and Hosea Ashcraft to marshal the defense and ramrod the offense. But their core horsepower was cut by one-third. LCA only won two games all season.

Out of the crater of the first game, coaches asked soldiers to rise up and (attempt to) fill the gap.

Josie Bowen was a notable revelation. The sophomore was a beast on kickoff returns and tackling. He scored a TD Saturday that was called back because of an illegal block.

Sophomore Steven Lahood, who grew like Gulliver over the summer, rose to the challenge and became an offensive threat and a stolid defensive player. He blocked a key pass in the final moments of the game to assure LCA’s victory.

Rob Scribner, an unobtrusive freshman, exploited his unmenacing frame, to surprise with touchdown catches. David Hutchinson, a newbie to football, became a solid lineman and tackler. Brandon Farah learned how to do in real life what previously he had done only on video games, and Luke Mammana performed pinpoint kicks under pressure.

“We didn’t have all the pieces on defense, so we had to decide where we were going to bend,” said Assistant Coach Josh Scribner, father to Marcus and Rob. “Marcus is our backer or end, but we decided to put him deep so there was never a breakout. Our game plan was give them a 5-yard play, give them a 7-yard play, give them a 3-yard play. But we never give up the 60-yard breakout blow.

“For their touchdowns, they had to drive it all the way down, and time went off the clock, and we scored fast. Bam, bam, bam,” Josh said. “We’d get up, and maybe they’d make a mistake, and we’d get the ball back, and that’s when the game was played. I think the key to the game was we had a lot of people that we’re involved. Everybody made great plays.”

In the first five minutes, Lighthouse scored two touchdowns. Rob intercepted a pass, and immediately Marcus caught the pass on LCA’s first play to burn defenders and run for a touchdown. Then LCA came in for hard hits on kickoff, provoking a fumble, which Brandon recovered. On the first play, a pass to Hosea brought another TD. Read the rest of sk8erpat on football.

 

One kid didn’t cry

dejection football loss lighthouse christian academy santa monicaPretty much everybody of the Lighthouse Saints was crying, or fighting back tears, after their football loss Saturday — everybody except David Hutchinson.

The 14-20 heartbreak loss against La Verne Calvary Chapel, a similarly small school, left Lighthouse Christian Academy dejected.

But David remained buoyant, perhaps because he has experienced worse losses, namely that of his parents, who went MIA. He’s now adopted by his grandparents. He wasn’t doing well in a previous school before coming to Lighthouse.

“Even when we lose, football is fun because it brings us all together like brothers,” the sophomore said after the game. “We played our hardest. It’s made me stronger and closer with all the boys. We know we’ve got each other’s backs no matter what. We have a love for each other.

“At this school, the teachers actually care. In other schools, the teachers don’t care. They’re just doing it for the money. And the students are the best. They’re like a family. It really touches you when the teachers actually care.”

Cue the warm fuzzies.

So not everybody went home dejected. It’s important to keep perspective: the battles won off the field or more important than those lost on the field. Read the rest of winning souls, not football games.

Bad blood among brothers — a football rivalry between Christian schools in LA

bad blood among brothersThere hasn’t been so much bad blood between Christian brothers since the Baptists accused the Pentecostals of being of the devil about 100 years ago.

The last time Lighthouse Christian Academy beat their perennial archrivals Hillcrest Christian in 8-man football was 2014.

That year, Ricky Rand cheekily snatched the ball out of the cocked arm of the quarterback, who was ready to throw, and ran for a touchdown. That snarky steal typified a game of gleeful humiliation.

Hillcrest never forgave Lighthouse and each year since then has exacted new revenge. Both teams are called “the Saints” but appear to think each other “the Satanists.”

On Saturday, Lighthouse lost 25-56, and at the final whistle Hillcrest ran into its corner and gloated and howled while Lighthouse glowered and hurled insults. Coaches stood midfield to make sure words didn’t come to blows.

“Let’s go! Let’s play one more game right now!” Hosea Ashcraft yelled across the field.

They weren’t just hollow words.

Lighthouse tends to compensate its inexperience and lack of execution with pure stamina and hard hits that bring results in the third and fourth quarter. They wear teams down. Even if they don’t win, they send opponents home with some real stingers — and a measure of respect.

In what amounted to the last significant play of the game, Josie Bowen rocked Hillcrest quarterback from his blind side, foiling a conversion attempt.

Hosea hit a kid so hard that he knocked the ball free late in the third quarter for a turnover that the blood-sniffing Saints thought marked their turnaround point.

The crash and kill strategy wore down mighty Milken Community School on Sept 20 and earned the praise of opposing coach of Downy Calvary Chapel Christian School on Sept. 8. He called tiny Lighthouse, with enrollment 45, to the military last stand of the 300.

Read the rest of football rivalry among Christian schools.

Administration 101: A+ Volleybal: meh

Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica volleyball team 2019For administration class, A+. Actual volleyball, a C, at best.

Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica won four out of nine games this season in varsity volleyball. Girls from all different levels banded together and put forth their best effort. On Wednesday, the Saints limped out of its season against Westmark School of Encino.

“We all got in our heads,” says Sarah Montez, sophomore. Our emotions got to us. When somebody wouldn’t do good, we would think, Oh, well, she’s not going to get anymore. We got frustrated with each other. That was our worst game we’ve ever done.”

But while LCA’s volleyball has fallen off from the years when the slashed their way into playoffs, other skills associated with participating on team soared.

Namely, Sarah Montez became an entrepreneur.

When she found out that LCA wasn’t going to even have a team due to lack of interest among the girls, she spearheaded a move to assemble a team.

“Sarah and her parents were a major driving force in wanting to make sure there was a team this year,” says LCA Principal Josh Young.

Sarah, with the help of her parents and her close friend Laken Wilson, communicated with all the school’s girls and encouraged, cajoled, persuaded, spammed by text until enough players relented from the low self confidence and agreed to integrate on the squad.

Then, having mastered the business strategies of forming “a staff” and motivating them to their optimal performance, Sarah forayed into a search for a CEO. (There was no coach, which is a volunteer position.)

She held brainstorming session with interested parties. She formed a search committee to identify and recruit a ideal candidate. (She got her parents involved.)

They used software to scoure LinkedIn. Just kidding. They thought of who might pitch in from the Lighthouse Church, LCA’s oversight organization.

They zeroed in on Felipe Rodriguez for all his merits: He had time. He liked working with the youth. He was an expert at sports and teams.

There was only one drawback: Felipe didn’t know a thing about volleyball.

But options were few, and Felipe had the will to serve — even if he didn’t know how to serve (a volleyball).

Felipe contacted his good friend and fellow youth worker, Xiovana Moraida, who assists her husband, Lucas Moraida, as youth leaders in the Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica.

X — as she prefers to be called — agreed immediately to be head coach while Felipe was assistant. X had played volleyball in high school and played soccer in college, so she knew about competition and team dynamics. Read the rest: Learning business schools at a small school in Santa Monica.

‘Man of God’ headband gets linebacker Demario Davis busted

5cdc60d960975.imageHe used to get in trouble by dishonoring God. Now Demario Davis gets into trouble by honoring him.

The New Orleans Saints linebacker was busted by the NFL with a $7,000 fine for wearing a headband that says, “Man of God,” in a Sept 22 game against the Seattle Seahawks for violating the NFL’s no-personal propaganda policy. The NFL has since reversed the decision on appeal.

“I was a guy headed in the wrong direction fast and God radically changed me,” he told The Increase. “I get to play this wonderful game of football and I’m blessed to do it but my life is so much more than that in God. That’s what I really want people to know about me.”

Growing up without a father figure, Demario looked up to the older, tough guys who were drug dealers and career criminals in his neighborhood.

“They were my heroes,” he proclaimed on a YouTube video. “I wanted to show them that I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t afraid to be a bad boy. I just wanted to impress them.”

At 14, he was already using marijuana, alcohol and sex. When he tried to steal a wallet from another kid at school, he got expelled.

“Demario, what have you done?” his mother implored on the phone. “You have messed up your life.”

The quavering voice and deeply troubled emotion from mom shook him.

Still he persisted in sin. He and some friends were breaking into cars and Demario punched a window out. The shattering glass gashed his arm severely. He is still scarred today from the wound. Had the cut slit his wrist, he might have died, he says.

That night he heard an audible voice from God: That’s strike number two. The first strike was you getting kicked out of school. The second strike is you almost killed yourself tonight.

“That scared me to the point that the rest of my junior and senior year, I cleaned up my act.” Read the rest of Christian Demario Davis Man of God headband.

Who was #9? LCA football

Lighthouse lossSaints fans spent the whole game Saturday against Meadows School waiting for Lighthouse’s now-typical late game rally.

They thought they saw it when a totally unrecognizable player intercepted a long pass late the second quarter. Who is number 9? fans asked.

The 5’3″, 130-pounder was easily the shortest and smallest player on the field. Saturday’s was his first game because, new to the school, Johnny Flores was ruled out of the first month of games.

Unfortunately, Johnny’s brilliant pick didn’t spark an LCA comeback.

Nor did Marcus Scribner‘s block of a field goal attempt.

Nor did a TD run by the senior Marcus in the third quarter.

Nothing could reboot LCA.

The prince’s kiss didn’t wake the sleeping princess. The glass slipper never find Cinderella’s foot. The frog croaked unheard and unfound in the stream. There was no fairy tale ending.

Lighthouse limped to 7-68 loss to Meadows School, which traveled from Las Vegas because there reportedly aren’t many 8-man private school teams in Sin City so they have to pick up games wherever they can and usually travel far.

Lighthouse Christian Academy looked like the car that keeps stalling out on the road.

Missing was their bulldogish determination to bring the game to bigger players and humble bigger schools. The Saints didn’t run with typical speed or break their opponents with scary hits. They fumbled and ran into each other. There weren’t too many bright spots.

“We made a lot of mistakes. We lacked a lot of heart and effort,” surmised Head Coach Zach Scribner grimly. “We got a lot of work to do. If we don’t want to feel like this, we’ve got to make practice a priority. At practice we’ve got to give 110% so that when we’re in the game, we know what it’s like.”

Read the rest about breakout star in Santa Monica football

Growing confidence leads to win at Santa Monica Christian school in volleyball

santa monica private school girls volleyballOverconfidence preceded lack of confidence.

We would start most games cocky. Then when we started to make mistakes or face tougher-than-expected competition, the false confidence gave way to self-defeatism.

We would jinx ourselves.

But on Tuesday, Lighthouse Christian Academy decided to start the game different: with humility and determination.

As is the case with most sports, the psychological game wins the game.

We won against Hillcrest Christian School of Thousand Oaks in three sets, confirming dominance started in a pre-season face-off.

In the first game, a big hit against our confidence was a ref’s call. We saw the ball as clearly landing in, but the line ref said it was out. Even an opponent volunteered to the ref that the call was wrong, that it was in.

But the head ref ruled it out.

It blasted our momentum. Read the rest of Psychological game wins the game – Santa Monica Christian school.

The X-Factor in Santa Monica Saints volleyball

X Factor on LCA volleyball teamXiovana Moraida doesn’t even want to call herself a volleyball coach. Her sport was soccer, and she was really good at that. She was team captain of Santa Monica College’s women’s soccer team in 2014. But she was pressed into it.

“I knew that if I didn’t step up and coach that there wouldn’t be a girl’s volleyball team,” says Xiovana, who goes by the easier-to-pronounce “X.”

Nevertheless, Xiovana has become the X factor behind Lighthouse Christian Academy’s resurgence into varsity volleyball after the sport was dropped out of the Saints’ offerings a few years ago.

On Monday, the Santa Monica Saints beat San Fernando Valley Academy from Northridge in five sets 25-19, 13-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13. LCA now has two wins and three losses.

Xiovana was born in Lodi but was raised in Lockeford, California.

santa monica volleyball christian high schoolStarting at the ripe old age of 5 years old, she played and loved soccer.

In 2013, Xiovana came to live in Santa Monica to live with her aunt for soccer while attending SMC. She was the captain of the SMC soccer team in her sophomore year (as well as being the captain of her high school soccer team). 

As Xiovana stayed in LA after college, she met her now husband Lucas Moraida. Lucas was from Arizona and was attending the Lighthouse Church. As her and Lucas began to talk more, X became a Christian and got more involved in the church. Read the rest of X-Factor in Santa Monica volleyball.

Now she’s motivated

lighthouse christian academy santa monica girls volleyball 2019As part of last year’s soccer team, Cece Hang’andu refused to run on the pitch.

There was one moment in which Coach yelled from the sideline: “Cece, run!”

She turned and looked at the sideline with something of a glare. Some people say they can read palms. But that day, Coach could read her face: “I’m not running. I’m going to continue to walk.”

Today, Cecelia, a junior at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, is part of the Saints girls volleyball team. Now that she is contributing in this sport, she comments about her lackluster participation in last year’s soccer.

“Running? Heck no. Too much cardio,” she complained to this reporter. “It was too much effort. Too much, too much, too much. They weren’t depending on me. Anyway, the boys were going to get the ball and were going to win. They didn’t need me.”

Cece is not completely wrong in her assessment. Lighthouse soccer last year did not depend on her. She was given the opportunity to participate, thrown on the pitch from time to time. But there were motors driving last year’s successful soccer team, and she was not one. So she walked.

But now Cece has to be a motor on the volleyball team.

“They needed seven players to have a team, and I wanted to be there to help them out,” she says. “They needed me.”

After winning the first set Wednesday, the Saints ultimately fell to Westmark School of Encino 27-25, 16-25, 23-25, 24-26. LCA now has one win and three losses.

It almost didn’t have a team — at the beginning of the year.

Lighthouse is a small school. With limited resources, they’re always trying to squeeze just one more drop out of the grape. First they needed enough players. Cece stepped up. Then they needed a coach.

Lighthouse is not alone among small private schools. As a matter of fact, another team dropped out of the league because of lack of players. This provided LCA a chance to participate in league play (it originally wasn’t going to figure in the league because it didn’t foresee enough players).

Because she stepped up, Cece is discovering a motivation she previously lacked. Read the rest of finding motivation.

Newest greatest of NBA Kwahi Leonard keen on Jesus, not so much on money

la-1558749090-vbbgqjllec-snap-imageNot Steph Curry, not LeBron, not KD.

The hottest commodity in basketball right now is Toronto Raptors star Kwahi Leonard who honors Jesus and has single-handedly carried his team to unpredicted wins, first in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers to enter the Eastern Conference, then again last night to upset the Warriors in Game 1 of the finals.

“Last year was a very down year for me (he was injured); I was going through a lot,” says Kwahi, whose buzzer beater to beat the 76ers in Game 7 is now legend. “And you know, God is good! I prayed every day and ended up getting healthy, now I’m able to play basketball. You could just see what He does for you.”

Kwahi is dropping jaws both on offense and on defense. He averaged 35-point games against Philadelphia. He locked down Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks to reverse a 0-2 game deficit to secure the Eastern Conference.

SPURS__V__PORTLAND_10_TR“Leonard is killing dudes in isolation (like Harden), pounding and rocking the basketball (like Harden) before blowing past defenders or hitting step-back threes (like Harden),” Jesse Washington crows on The Undefeated.

Up until last night, the idea that the Golden State Warriors would sweep the finals — again — was thought to be as pre-determined as the Book of Revelations. It was sure to be boring, and only diehard fans and somnambulists who like eye-glazing as they observe the inevitable even bothered to tune in.

But Leonard and the on-fire Raptors suddenly woke up the soporific middle American who only turns on the game if there actually is going to be a game. Now, the final is promising to be interesting.

5bfd789c285e17dc0f8aa679a3d1f82fThe talent-rich Warriors knew they had to double-team and even triple-team Kawhi to win. Stymie the star and blitz to victory. It’s been their not-so-secret strategy, and it has worked against James Harden and Damian Lillard.

It didn’t work last night.

The Marvel’s Avengers of the NBA got blindsided by the no-names of the Raptors. Harassed at every turn, Leonard passed the ball to his teammates, who materialized superstar performance. Pascal Siakim, notorious for poor shooting, transformed suddenly into a marksman, hooping 32 points to lead his team to a 118-109 thrashing.

Will the Golden State league hegemony be broken? Read the rest of Kawhi Leonard Christian.

First he got mugged, then…

mark munoz ufc fighterIn the cage, Mark Munoz is known as the Filipino Wrecking Machine who bested Tim Boetsch after Munoz recovered from a foot injury and depression-induced obesity. Outside, Mark Munoz is the nicest guy in the UFC and a Christian whose life changed when he turned to God.

“You look back on what happened and all the events that happen in your life, and I see God’s hand on it all,” Mark says in a This Is Me video. “And now I can give people hope.”

Mark’s introduction to professional fighting came by way of getting mugged in the 8th grade. Five kids shoe-lace-tackled him from behind, beat and kicked him and stripped him of his Jordans. He walked home barefoot and, ashamed, faked sickness for as long as he could to not go back to school.

“What happened to your J’s,” a friend taunted.

Mark didn’t want to recount his humiliation on the street. But eventually word got out. That’s when a friend, wanting him to learn how to stand up to bullies and young thugs, invited him to train in wrestling, but Mark wanted no part of it.

mark munoz chris weidman“Nah man,” he retorted. “You guys wear tight leotards and touch each other in funny places, man. I’m good.”

His buddy wasn’t going to be denied so quickly. “I bet you I can take you down in 10 seconds,” he challenged.

“Yeah right,” Mark responded. “I’m 150 pounds, and you’re barely 100 pounds. There’s no way you’re going to take me down.”

Mark broke into a fighting stance.

With two seconds, his friend darted in, picked him up and slammed him on his back.

“I’m like, if wrestling gives you superpowers, I want it,” Mark surmised.

What started in the eighth grade carried through to his senior year in high school. Mark became state champion twice, placed second at junior nationals and second at junior worlds, he says. He earned a full-ride scholarship to Oklahoma State University. He was on the national team twice and tried out for the Olympic team.

“But God had different plans,” he says.

He returned to California to study at UC Davis and met Urijah Favor, who introduced him to MMA. At first, Mark wanted no part of professional fighting; he was coaching and had a wife with four kids while getting his master’s degree.

Filipino Wrecking Machine“And probably my wife won’t allow me to do it either,” he told Urijah.

Just like the wrestling friend in eighth grade, Urijah wasn’t going to be denied so quickly.

Mark wound up going to a UFC practice. The “Who’s Who of UFC” at the time were all there. Spontaneously, he got in the ring to spar with Randy Couture, a legend in UFC and former Army sergeant with training in Greco-Roman wrestling.

Mark didn’t know what the MMA techniques were and was trying to learn and incorporate them in the ring.

“I end up snapping Randy Couture’s head back a little bit, and Urijah smacked into my chest and said, ‘See bro, I told you homie, you can do this,’” Mark remembers. Read the rest: Mark Munoz Christian UFC fighter.

Raised in Appalachian family fighting culture, he found peace with God

usa_today_10392817.0Once, Cody almost sliced off his brother’s finger with a knife. On another occasion, his brother punched his ear so hard, it swelled and became a “cauliflower ear.” Another time, they took their squabble outside city limits where they wailed on each other for 45 minutes. This is how Cody Garbrandt became an MMA champion.

But he almost lost a battle with depression until the same brother intervened.

“I almost hung myself,” Cody says on an I am Second video. “He busted down the door and came in and saved my life. He gave me the biggest hug and sat there with me and cried with me. He said everything was going to be all right. That day was a changing point for me in my life. That brought us even closer, you know, attending church together.”

cody-garbrandtCody grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Ohio in small towns where people are as proud of their hometowns as they are poor in the economically depressed areas of Uhrichsville and Denison.

Fighting is a way of life there — especially for the Garbrandt family.

“From both sides of my family, we were fighters.” Cody says. “We had a last name to uphold. Oh you’re from Garbrandt clan or the Mease clan. You don’t mess with those guys.”

He watched his uncle fight, while his grandfather, drunk in the stands, fought with a spectator.

With his brother Zach Garbrandt

“We’d just be sitting there watching it,” he remembers. “That was normal for us.”

Since fighting was “normal,” Cody and his brother Zach made grappling a normal part of sibling rivalries.

“Out of the womb, I was fighting over the bottle,” Cody jokes. “Zach was my fierce competitor. My brother was always bigger, stronger, faster, meaner than me growing up, so that’s why I was always quick to fight: I had something to prove.

“Me and Zach, we fought so many times in our lives. We had some pretty violent fights.”

Once when Zach provoked him to punch him, Cody grabbed a knife in the sink and slashed him, nearly cutting off his middle finger.

0_1218_SPO_LDN-L-UFC-GARBRANT-HG13“I remember he looked at me, wrapped his finger in a paper towel, punched the stove and shattered the whole glass stove and went back to bed,” Cody remembers.

In their last fight, Cody was 17; Zach, 18.

“We ended up fighting over a Subway sandwich,” he recalls.

After Grandma intervened to stop, the brothers jumped in their cars and drove to “the pump house.”

“That’s where we would take out-of-towners to fight,” he says. “We would take them out of city limits where cops wouldn’t go.”

The fight lasted 45 minutes.

“It was always a knock-out, drag-out fight with Zach,” he says. The fights were so fierce it was possible someone might die.

“My knuckles were all cut up, my lip was bloodied, my teeth were all busted up,” he says. “I hit with a right-handed, overhand right. He had the stanky legs like he was walking in potholes. He looked at me with this crazed look, like, ‘Alright, awesome. Cody finally hit me with a nice shot that hurt me.” Read the rest: Cody Garbrandt’s toughest fight.

He always won until his he lost his wife

zGkHc3DQ_400x400Chicago Bears star Tommie Harris was the best at everything, but he’d never been tested — until his wife died unexpectedly 41 days into their marriage.

“I was #1 getting drafted, #1 going to Oklahoma University, so I never was tested,” Harris recounts on a Grace For Purpose video. “I knew God in a good place. I didn’t know Him in a place when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to go.”

The Texas native was playing for the San Diego Chargers at the time. On a visit from his fiancé, Tommie decided to move the wedding date forward and go to the courthouse right then and there on New Year’s. They already had two kids together.

tommie harris and wifeThe church ceremony would come a few months later, and to fit the white dress better, Ashley wanted a breast reduction. It was a simple procedure, but she never woke up. A brain aneurysm tragically snuffed her life out on the operating table in 2012.

“I had something like $25 million in the bank when I lost Ashley, and not one dollar had been able to help her,” Tommie laments. “If it could have, I would have given every last cent to save my wife.” Read the rest of Tommie Harris’ loss.

Tua Tagovailoa honors Jesus with eye black

tua crimson tide christianWhen the collegiate national championship game is played Monday, the two quarterbacks competing against each other on the gridiron will both be Christians.

Trevor Lawrence at Clemson and Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama are outspoken believers who put their faith before football.

tua points to godLawrence boasts a 67% passing accuracy this season, while Tua enjoyed 70% pinpoint precision.

Tua, whose full Somoan name is Tuanigamanuolepola, made Hawaiian waves (he’s from Hawaii, so of course…) when he posted a picture of himself with eye black painted in the form of the cross under his eyes against Tennessee University.

“Jesus pride!!! Go Tua…and all others who stand for Christ,” one person commented on Facebook. “I appreciate the fact that he isn’t at all shy about his faith. Way to go Tua!”

tua tagovailoaTua selected the Crimson Tide of Alabama University despite intense competition for the quarterback position because Christianity is a big part of the locker room. The previous year, Jalen Hurts won the SEC offensive player of the year as the Crimson QB.

“A lot of people are rooted in the Word over here just like back home,” Tagovailoa noted on BamaInsider. “The Southern hospitality is almost the same as the love and the kindness that they show back at home.

with his parents diana and galu“You have to go places to compete, so why not come to the best place?” he added. “You want to play with the best, I guess. That’s kind of my thing. Anywhere you go, you’re going to have to compete.”

Tua was given a chance to play during some blowout games during his freshman season. But in the championship game when Hurts was losing at the first half, Tua was given the nod to lead his team to a comeback 26-23 victory against Georgia last season. Read the rest of the story of Tua Christian

With bow and arrow gesture, Brandin Cooks celebrates TD and glorifies God

brandon cooks archerNicknamed the “Archer,” Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks celebrates touchdowns by mimicking a bow and arrow shot as a reference to the Bible.

“It’s just another way to be able to glorify God rather than just pointing to the sky,” Cooks says in Sports Spectrum. “Just bringing a unique way, so my hope is when fans see me, they see God in me. That’s the biggest part of it all. If anything, I’m shooting it at God. It’s my way of thanking him and bringing a little twist to it.”

Cooks alludes to Psalms 144:6: “Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.”

brandon cooks christian ramsA devout Christian, Cooks shoots plenty of scriptural arrows through social media.

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Whatever you do walk with boldness, and know you are fully equipped,” he tweeted recently.

Cooks was born on Sept. 25, 1993 in Stockton, California, and lived there with his father, Worth Cooks, and mother, Andrea Cooks. His father died of a heart attack when he was only 6-years-old so Wayne and his three brothers were raised by their mother.

brandon cooks statsHe began to show promise in football playing for Stockton’s Lincoln High School. He grabbed 141 receptions for 2,508 yards and 28 touchdowns, which ranked him the 26th-best wide receiver and the 240th overall prospect in his class, according to the Recruiting Network.

Cooks then attended Oregon State University, where he caught 226 receptions for 3,272 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a senior, he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 2014. In Cooks’ first career game, he made seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.

This made him the youngest player, at 20, to catch a touchdown pass in the NFL since Reidel Anthony in 1997. As he closed his first season, Cooks had 53 receptions gaining 550 yards and three touchdowns before injuring his thumb in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In 2015 Cooks began the season as the #1 wide receiver for the Saints. In the Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles he received over 100 yards in one game for the first time in his career. His five receptions totaled 107 yards and a touchdown. Read the rest of Brandin Cooks Christian.

Clemson’s QB is Christian. So is ‘Bama’s.

christian quarter backs national championshipClemson freshman sensation quarterback Trevor Lawrence made clear that he doesn’t care as much about football as he does about Jesus.

“Eerily similar” to Deshaun Watson, Lawrence made heads turn as he threw for 2,933 total yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 65.5 completion percentage, leading his team to the national championship game on Jan. 7th.

“Football is important to me, obviously, but it’s not my life; it’s not like the biggest thing in my life, I would say my faith is,” the 6’5” 215-pound precision passer said in a postgame interview. “That just comes from knowing who I am outside of (football). No matter how big the situation is, it’s not going to define me. I put my identity in what Christ says and who He thinks I am and who He says I am.

trevor lawrence christian“So really, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think about me or how good they think I play or whatever.”

Clemson University is happy to have the calm, cool and collected QB marshaling their missiles.

“When he first got here, you could always tell. He just had a presence about him. His talent, it’s fun to watch.” says senior offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt on The State website. “I always sensed it in practice.” Read he rest of Trevor Lawrence Christian.

Revival in public schools through Christians in athletics

Football Linemen UCLA 2018 Fellowship of Christian AthletesWhenever Christians complain about declining attendance in established churches, Josh Brodt pipes up about the thousands of kids who accept Jesus every year. Revival is happening in our public schools, he says.

“We’ve seen quite a revival taking place in the San Fernando Valley,” says Josh, 34. “Students are hungry for something real, something more than what the world offers. It’s clear to me that students need genuine faith in something more than themselves, and they’re searching for that.

“It’s been phenomenal to see.”

FCA San Fernando Valley Revival ChristianityJosh works for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which coordinates with students to bring professional and college athletes to talk to high school sports teams. He personally meets with coaches and students at 15 high schools.

Last academic year, FCA workers in the San Fernando Valley, a part of Los Angeles that holds about half its population, saw 459 kids get saved, and they gave away 2,000 Bibles. The year prior, 900 students accepted Jesus, he says.

“A lot of students feel like outsiders, like they don’t have a place to belong, a place to call their own.” Josh says. “FCA is a place where people can belong, a spiritual community where students can feel comfortable.”

“On campuses people are desperate for God, they’re desperate for Jesus,” he adds. “A lot of them are recognizing that, and they’re making decisions towards that end.”

Revival high school athleticsMedia and sociological reports harp on declining memberships in established protestant churches and the growth of “nones,” people who report to Census and other surveys as having no religion.

But these depressing numbers don’t tell the whole story. While “established” churches may be declining and closing, those same surveys don’t catch the number of new churches opening simply because they don’t register them.

And while the number of “nones” grows significantly, the hopelessness of a meaningless and moral-less worldview make for a ripe harvest field. Read more about revival in public schools.