June 2, 2010
This past weekend, May 28-31 six football players, along with other U of I athletes, attended the annual FCA national conference. The conference is comprised of all student athletes from all across the country and this year was held in Hannibal, MO. This year Nathan Scheelhaase, Travon Bellamy, Justin Lattimore, Walter Aikens, Chandler Whitmer and myself were present at the retreat. While there, we formed a reconnection within our faith and also were taught how to worship the Lord through competition. The camp was not only focused totally on the reaffirmation in faith, but many other life lessons and experiences were discovered. Never giving up, focusing, and competing at your very best were a few lessons we learned while there.
People see big, muscular football players, or all athletes in general and don't expect them to be religious but we are. And the FCA conference is proof of that. There were so many schools there, athletes from California, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, and Louisiana to name a few and it was encouraging to see people that you can relate to from so many places. Athletes that share similar struggles both on and off the field all came together for a weekend and really connected. Friendships, links, and unions were made. The experience was amazing, and the six of us really strengthened the bond between us. We share a commonality within the six of us and also with the athletes who attended the conference. That commonality is a bond in belief, faith, and a shared goal on the playing field. We have a will to never give in to temptation or adversity, when things aren't going as you wanted during the game. Also to give 100 percent under all circumstances, become leaders for our teams, and always be men and women of God.
We also had lots and lots of fun! University of Illinois football team chaplain Marcellus Casey was the emcee for the extended weekend. Prior to the retreat Marcellus and I had a great relationship, we have met often, hung out together, but I saw a side of him that I did not know before. When I say that he (Marcellus) is unbelievably, head-spinning, roll-on-the-floor, eye-watering, pants-peeing FUNNY, I mean it! This man is hilarious and he is also very talented. He can act (although he's no Denzel) and he is pretty good. He is also an amazing Christian rapper. His lyrical content and flow had myself along with the rest of the congregation astounded. Jason Epperson, the chaplain and a pastor here in Champaign was the sermon leader. He also is a very pleasant and amusing man but an even better preacher. On Sunday, he gave a sermon that absolutely struck the hearts of the entire congregation - each and every person felt the Lord's presence at that time. It was a glorious moment that I will never forget.
The competitions were also a great time. There were 16 teams, and over the course of two days we all competed for the championship in a variety of activities. Although my team was knocked out in the first round by Justin Lattimore's team, I had an abundant amount of fun. Later, Travon Bellamy and Chandler Whitmer's team lost in the second round, Walter Aikens' squad made it to the semifinals but lost to Nate's domination of a team. Nate competed in the championship game, which was a mix of soccer and football. Nate was awesome in the championship game and although there was no vote, every athlete and staff unofficially proclaimed him the MVP. With Nate's 10+ saves at goalie and deep pass that lead to a score, my teammates and I stamped him with the nickname "Nate SUPERhouse."
I had such a great time that I wish I wasn't a senior so that I could attend next year (I might have to sneak in somehow). I definitely recommend any student athlete to attend, it doesn't matter if you are a beginning your journey in faith or you want to renew your connection with Christ, all are welcome. The world is a messed up place and needs leaders, and someone to admire, relate to, guide and be an example of what it means to live on a path of good and righteousness. We all desire and have a need to be lead or follow someone that we can believe in. Well, to my teammates, my family, fans, or anyone who believes in me in any kind of way; follow me, because He who I follow will never steer me wrong and always looks out for my best interest. For all of you I will do the same.