Faith can help athletes overcomePublished 12:01am Sunday, September 9, 2012
Two ACL tears and naysayers at every turn would have made many people just want to quit.
But Natchez High School starting right tackle Greg Jackson Jr. leaned on a higher power for support, and now his faith is paying dividends.
Jackson tore the ACL of his right knee his freshman season and tore it again his junior year, forcing him to miss much of his ninth-grade season and all of his 11th-grade season.
And then there were the naysayers. Listed as just 5-foot-10, 178 pounds, Jackson said he was told numerous times that he was too small to even play football, much less play the offensive line.
A family devotional time each morning allowed Jackson to find strength to fight through the trials that life threw his way.
“I just thank (God) every day about staying healthy, and I pray every day,” Jackson said. “I think that’s what has brought me this far.”
Faith and sports is a controversial issue, as people often wonder how fitting it is to discuss God when it comes to excelling on the field or court. New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow is probably the poster boy for this issue, as his outspokenness regarding his Christian faith has stirred much discussion about whether or not it’s appropriate to talk about.
I don’t doubt that some athletes are just giving God a passing mention when they thank him after winning. I also don’t think God particularly cares who wins and loses in sporting events.
But I have no qualms with someone sharing their faith if that’s truly who they are and what motivates them. Tebow, New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin have all shared their religious beliefs at one time or another, simply because that’s their personality.
With spoken faith comes the responsibility of honoring God in what you do, be it athletics or otherwise. For an athlete, that means giving 100 percent all the time, whether in practice or during games. It also means showing respect to your coaches and other teammates, as well as your opponents.
If you’re a student-athlete, making sure you take care of your academic responsibilities is another way to honor God. If you’re a professional, correctly stewarding the money you’re earning and using your influence for good is a standard.
Saint Paul said it best in Galatians: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
That is especially true in sports, as the work you put in will determine how far you go.
Jackson correctly sowed his time and energy into personal faith, family devotionals and hard work in practice. He didn’t let the injuries or the naysayers determine how his high school football career would end up.
Because of that, Jackson is now reaping the rewards of his labor. His example of working hard and not giving up is one other athletes should follow, regardless of what faith — or non-faith — to which they subscribe.
Michael Kerekes is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or email@example.com.