No matter how the Mattie T. Blount High School Leopards perform on the football field this year, they’ve already won — in the eyes of God, at least.
That’s because the team doesn’t just have coaches and players in the locker room. The Alabama school, located in the Mobile-area community of Eight Mile, also has Pastor Wesley Davis in there. Thanks to his efforts and God’s grace, over 60 players on the squad have been baptized, and more are being led to the Lord.
Davis, the senior pastor at Nazaree Full Gospel Church in Mobile, is there as part of the congregation’s ministry to reach out to kids at risk, according to WPMI-TV.
“All you have to do is take the time and say, ‘How can we help?’ It doesn’t have to be on the grand scale. It can be something as small as showing up, walking in the hallway. It is a village that raises our kids,” he said.
Before practice on Thursday, Davis gave Blount players a biblical pep talk about being underdogs — which the 2-4 Leopards certainly were against the undefeated Theodore Bobcats.
“Judges Chapter 6 talks about this guy named Gideon. Gideon was a small farmer, but God called him to do something incredible,” the pastor told the team.
Gideon led the Israelites to victory over the Midianites and threw off their oppressive yoke, despite a massive numerical disadvantage in troops.
The stakes for the Blount Leopards were more modest — but this is high school football, not the battlefield.
“Big game this week. What happens if we win?” Davis asked the players, rhetorically.
“Playoffs!” the team responded, almost in unison.
“That’s right,” Davis noted.
However, the team’s biggest victory was won in August, when more than 60 of the players were baptized in the church, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Our Worship Experience this past Sunday was phenomenal,” the church said on social media.
“We are celebrating the 60+ football players of Blount High School that gave their lives to Christ yesterday. God is up to something BIG at 1695!”
According to Davis, the church’s involvement doesn’t end with the outreach to the football players. Nazaree also hosts Bible study on Wednesday nights and has youth Sunday school.
“When it carries over to the athletes it carries over to the students, so that works out good,” Davis said.
As for the student-athletes, here’s something you don’t see on the nightly local news all that often: Young men talking about the importance of turning their life over to God.
“I felt like I wanted to connect with the Lord on that level,” said sophomore Jaylen Alexander, a cornerback.
“It provides a coat of protection over me because I know God’s on my side,” he said.
“It made me feel free, like I can just live with God and live with him in my heart,” said Rydarrian Locke, senior left tackle.
And this isn’t the end of souls being won on the Leopards, either: Before Thursday’s practice, more members of the team committed to getting baptized at Nazaree on Sunday.
I wish I could report God called the Leopards to be Gideons on the field on Friday night. Alas, Christ Jesus’ eternal victory over sin on the cross at Calvary doesn’t translate to transient earthly victories on the gridiron. Blount lost by a score of 35-0.
However, the real message for the Leopards is found in the First Epistle of John: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.”
Let me assure these young men: When the things of this vale of tears pass away, 35-0 losses on the football field won’t matter one bit. What God put in your heart on the path to it — and from it — has made all the difference in this world, and the next.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.