Trent Dilfer is leaving Lipscomb Academy better than he found it.
A lot better.
The way he went about building one of the top high school football programs in the nation can and should be a blueprint for other independent schools to follow.
Unfortunately they won’t.
Because it’s hard. Really hard.
The Mustangs had struggled mightily after making the jump to the all private school, Division II-AA level in Tennessee in the fall of 2017. They were a combined 3-19 overall in two seasons and 1-7 in region play. They had been outscored 533 to 284. Arch-rival CPA had throttled them 48-21 and 38-14.
42-10 overall record in four years. 16-2 in region play. Three state finals appearances. One championship (hopefully two after tomorrow). The Mustangs have outscored their opponents 2109-644 and have a 3-game win streak against CPA, beating them by scores of 38-0, 27-0 and 43-21. They are currently ranked in the top 15 in the nation by MaxPreps, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
How did it happen?
It started with Trent’s “Be Set Apart” vision.
To use an old Stephen Covey phrase, Trent began with the end in mind. He saw what was going to happen over the last four years before he even accepted the job and met with the team for the first time. He even talked very specifically about the “Be Set Apart” banner he wanted to hang in the indoor facility on the very first day he came to campus in January of 2019 to learn more about our coaching opportunity.
Credit the Lipscomb administration for embracing Trent’s vision and investing heavily to make all of this a reality. They were tired of being a door mat. They knew that athletics, specifically football, was the front porch of the school. They paid Trent and his assistant coaches and staff well. They invested in the best weight room equipment on the market. They got serious about financial aid.
Parents, grandparents, alumni and other donors got behind the vision in a major way. Trent’s wife Cass bought brand new Vicis helmets for the entire team. Nike Jumpman uniforms came next. A brand new turf field was added three years ago. A new HD video board with replay capability, big enough to have its own zip code, was added this year.
I remember the very first parent meeting we had in Acuff Chapel in 2019. One of Trent’s first promises to us was that our coaching staff would look a lot different than what we were accustomed to having. It would be large. It would have a wealth of experience. It would be diverse.
Luke Richesson came to be the strength and conditioning coach. He had previously served as the head strength coach for the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.
Trent’s next door neighbor in Texas, former Cleveland Browns all-Pro kicker Phil Dawson, came to be an associate head coach. Bruce Kittle (George’s dad and former Oklahoma line coach), Grant Williams (member of 2002 New England Patriots Super Bowl winning team) and Glenn Young, another Super Bowl winner with the Rams, joined the staff. Offensive play calling guru Trenton Kirklin came from Texas. Kevin Smith brought 11 years of experience coaching at the D-II Level as co-defensive coordinator.
Joey Roberts joined the LA family as Trent’s Chief of Staff. In my 26 year career I have never encountered a more servant-minded, others-focused, living, walking Christlike example as Joey Roberts! Wow! I was so incredibly thankful knowing he was sowing into my boys’ lives every single day.
All told there were 26 coaches and support staff. 26!
Six of them were female including a strength coach, yoga instructor and nutritionist.
There were no African-American coaches on staff the year before Trent came.
By the time he was done building his team there were 10.
One of his very first hires was Corry Stewart (now the head coach at Ezell-Harding). Corry was not only hired to be the co-defensive coordinator. He was also put in the critically important seat of director of admissions. He would be the primary contact for prospective families. Former Vanderbilt standout Jamie Graham started as a wide receivers coach and is now the offensive coordinator. Devin Arnold, now the head coach at Antioch, coached the JV squad.
In 2020, Sione Ta’ufo’ou left his head coaching job at a California high school to join the Lipscomb staff as defensive coordinator. Scott Malinoff was brought in as a recruiting coordinator.
The impact of changing the staff profile was immediate.
The year before Trent came there were 40 varsity football players. Only five were people of color.
Today there are 81 varsity football players. 31 of them are people of color.
Lipscomb Academy’s enrollment now sits at over 1,350 students. More than 20% of them are from diverse racial backgrounds. There is a waiting list to get in to most grades. Lipscomb Academy was recently selected as the no. 1 Christian high school in Nashville by Niche.
Another stellar hire Trent made when he came to Lipscomb was adding Patrick Carpenter as sports information director. I call Patrick “The Illustrious One.” He was doing things on social media for Lipscomb Academy Football that even big colleges weren’t doing. His graphics and video were next level. His weekly hype videos featuring voiceovers from Ray Lewis, Troy Aikman and Tom Brady were the stuff of legend. Patrick generated millions and millions of impressions for the program with his gifts. Oh and he plays a mean guitar too! Look him up!
Signing Day events with multiple tables are now the norm. Many of our student-athletes are getting full scholarship offers literally every day. They come from every school you can name including Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, Tennessee, UCLA, Ohio State and Clemson. They’ve got all the stars and the rankings.
As with any meteoric rise, Lipscomb Academy Football and Trent Dilfer have triggered their fair share of haters, social media trolls and liars. Most are on the outside. Some are on the inside.
No. We have not had 35 players move in from out of state.
No. We haven’t been illegally recruiting.
No. We aren’t giving any more financial aid than other schools give.
No. Trent wasn’t paid anywhere near $1.2 million a year.
When Super Bowl winning quarterback and former ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer took the head coaching job at a little Christian high school in Nashville it was newsworthy.
The day Trent took the job the news was scrolling across the bottom of ESPN. A high school freshman quarterback in Colorado named Luther Richesson saw it. He wondered what it would be like to play for a coach like Trent. Next thing you know his family packed up and moved from Colorado to Tennessee to find out. He would be LA’s starting quarterback for the next three years, leading the Mustangs to the 2021 state championship while Luke led the strength and conditioning efforts.
After watching a feature story on Trent and his family on The 700 Club, Koa Naotala’s father informed the family they would be moving from Virginia to Nashville for Koa’s senior year so Koa could play for a man like Trent.
Alex Broome transferred to Lipscomb Academy because he couldn’t get the advanced placement classes he wanted to take at his previous school. He went on to be Mr. Football last year and is in his freshman year at Boston College.
Three families moved to Lipscomb Academy during the pandemic from California and Chicago because of lockdowns and the threat to cancel their sons’ football seasons.
A handful of others came to Lipscomb because of their knowledge of Trent and Sione through their Elite 11 Quarterback Challenge.
The point is, when you have a massive online following, an unequaled network and the best hype machine on the planet it’s going to lead to opportunities. It doesn’t mean you’re cheating. Truth be known many of those families that came to Lipscomb Academy over the last four years toured just about every other private, independent football power program in the area.
“You’re a bunch of cheaters!”
“You’re fake Christians!”
“You’ve lost your way!”
“You look like an inner-city school!”
“All you’re about is self-service and glitz!”
Believe me. We’ve heard it all.
Most of it is rooted in jealousy, insecurity and downright, despicable racism. Others just don’t know how to lose.
Our guys have been called the n-word and “boy” on the field. They’ve been told to “Go back to Africa.”
It has just brought our “tribe” closer together. We love each other fiercely. We have each other’s backs.
You hate us?
In the words of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, “We do not care!”
My oldest son Houston was a senior captain on Trent’s first team in 2019. The year before he was an unanimous selection for the all-region team as a tight end. He had several college football offers. He played almost every snap on both sides of the ball. His senior year he was targeted for passes four times the entire year.
Houston sat on the bench a lot of the first half of the year before asking to move to defensive end. There were no postseason individual accolades at the end of the year for Houston.
What he did have was a winning record, unforgettable memories shared with Hunter and Cole McDowell, his best friend and fellow tight end, who transferred back to Lipscomb Academy for his senior year after moving to Texas. He made key contributions in two legendary postseason road wins. He reaped the harvest after a year of testing and triumph that would rival Bear Bryant’s Junction Boys’ experience at Texas A&M.
Houston wouldn’t trade it for anything and only laments the fact that he was only able to be part of Trent’s program for one year.
My youngest son Hunter is a senior linebacker on this year’s team. He is part of a very small fraternity of guys who got to play all four years for Trent at Lipscomb Academy. Emily and I have seen his confidence soar over the last four years. He has moved from an insecure, unsure follower to a bold leader. We give Sione as much credit for that as anyone. Sione loves Hunter and Hunter loves Sione. I can absolutely see them coaching together down the road.
Hunter is regularly given opportunities to speak in team devotionals. He and his teammates discuss really tough issues in what are referred to as “Kitchen Table Conversations.” He has learned to study, analyze and prepare in a way that has spilled over into the classroom.
His time in the weight room and on the field with this team has as much to do with him having the opportunity to play SEC baseball at Tennessee as anything. They have taken a highly competitive kid and turned him into a chiseled, highly motivated, almost barbaric assassin.
Emily, Houston, Hunter and I would all take a bullet for Trent Dilfer. He is more than a coach. He is our friend. He is our brother. He and Cass are our family.
Yes he is flawed. Yes he has made mistakes. Yes there are things he wishes he could do over again.
Last time I looked, Romans 3:23 still has that “all” word in it.
We are all significantly better for having crossed paths with him and being active participants in his “human development program masked as a high school football team.”
We are thrilled for his opportunity at UAB and expect the best is still to come!
Thank you for leaving Lipscomb and all of us better!
In the first 111 years of the NCAA, there were only five documented cases of student-athlete receiving a seventh year of eligibility.
The Trevecca Trojans take the field this Thursday at 3:30 p.m. against the Quincy University Hawks in the NCAA Division II Baseball National Tournament. The no. 23 ranked Trojans (32-10), champions of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, are the no. 2 seed in the Midwest Regional being held at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO.
The fact that the 7th year, 25-year-old (he’ll turn 26 in August), left-handed hitting John Anderson is still a viable option coming off the bench for Trevecca head coach Chase Sain is a miracle in and of itself.
The road John Anderson took and the hurdles he’s overcome is the real life Rocky Balboa, Roy Hobbs from The Natural, against all odds, never give up, inspirational story this beaten up world desperately needs right now.
John Anderson was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1995. He came by his love for the game of baseball honestly. John’s dad, Bill, was drafted out of junior college at the age of 19 by the Atlanta Braves. Bill chose to continue his career at Vanderbilt instead, playing for the Commodores in 1975 and 1976 before graduating and signing with the Cincinnati Reds. Bill played one minor league season with Tampa in the Florida State League before being released.
“When John William was little, we’d get a Wiffle Ball and one of those big, red bam-bam bats and I’d throw to him,” said Bill. “We would get in the front yard of my parents’ house and he would hit bombs over the trees into the neighbor’s yard.”
John played on his first team in the Crieve Hall Baseball League when he was 7. He played third base for the Indians. The next three years John’s love for the game grew as he played on recreational teams in the West Nashville Sports League with some of his classmates from Franklin Road Academy.
For the next three and a half years, between the ages of 10 and 14, John didn’t play baseball.
He physically couldn’t.
“I was 10 years old and in the 4th grade at FRA,” John remembered. “My back was killing me. It was hurting for probably four days. I wasn’t eating anything. I lost a ton of weight. I got really pale and super weak. My mom took me to the emergency room. The nurse thought I had the flu but I didn’t have any fever so they let me go.”
The symptoms remained.
John went back to the doctor. A blood test was ordered. Later that night, on January 24, 2006, John’s mom, Sabrina, got a call from the doctor’s office. She immediately loaded John in the car. On the way to the hospital she broke the news to John.
John had leukemia.
Acute lymphocytic leukemia to be exact (A.L.L.)
“I didn’t know what that meant,” said John. “I was 10 years old. I was trying not to think about it. I got to the emergency room and they isolated me. They put a mask on me and got me up to my hospital bed. I was trying to listen in to what the doctors were telling my mom but the nurse was trying to distract me. At one point I heard the doctor tell my mom I was going to lose my hair. That’s the moment I knew I had cancer. I started crying. I knew it was bad.”
John’s parents had divorced six years earlier. Communication between the doctors and Bill and Sabina was oftentimes disjointed in those early days after diagnosis.
“My landline kept ringing,” said Bill. “I was on a work call on my mobile phone. After the third time they called I finally walked over to the phone to see who it was on the caller ID. It was Vanderbilt Hospital. The doctor in a very matter of fact said, ‘I’m calling to let you know that we just admitted your son with leukemia.’ I thought I was going to black out right then. It was the most unbelievable feeling and moment of my life.”
Bill rushed to the hospital where the nurse met him and filled him in on the story. He almost blacked out. The nurse had to sit him down and put ice on his head. Bill’s demeanor changed as he entered John’s room to see his son for the first time.
“I had this overwhelming calm in my spirit,” said Bill. “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord. I had this calm that everything was going to be alright. I held John for a moment. It was amazing. I can’t even tell the story 15 years later without it affecting me like it does.”
The punishing waves of cancer were not only affecting John, Bill and Sabrina. They were incredibly cruel to John’s 8-year-old little sister, Alex.
“Alex came home with me that night,” Bill remembered. “We were getting ready to leave the house for school the next morning when Alex asked me, “Daddy, is John William going to die?”
For the next three and a half years, instead of swinging a baseball bat or fielding ground balls, John took chemotherapy.
Every. Single. Day.
The first stage consisted of two weeks of daily IV chemo. There were monthly bone marrow taps with gigantic needles that actually chipped off and tested the bone. There were weekly IV chemo treatments for three years and chemo pills John had to take every single day.
John lost his hair. His appearance dramatically changed. The steroids he was taking gave him caused him to have, in Bill’s words, “pumpkin head.”
“He would get elevated fever periodically,” said Bill. “Any kind of infection created a fever. When he got to 100.5 it as an automatic admission into the hospital. I would get up in the bed and lay with him. It was precious times for me.”
“When John started his treatment I just envisioned this horrific period of time he was going to be connected to tubes, machines, in the hospital all the time and gradually showing the effects,” said Bill. “it was anything but that. The doctors and nurses at Monroe Carell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt were incredibly efficient, kind, supportive and encouraging. John actually loved going to the hospital. He liked being able to press a button and have people do things for him.”
“I can’t think of one time, one time, that I ever saw him discouraged, down or questioning,” said Bill. “John told me many years later he did feel sick quite often but had learned to live with it.”
Two years into his treatment, John got a serious infection. Doctors at Monroe Carell moved John to the ICU.
“I rushed to hospital and go up to intensive care,” Bill said. “Sabrina met me in the hallway. She said his chances aren’t very good and they might have to put him on a vent. I just took the mental position that he wasn’t going to have to be on the vent.”
“John was a little bit delusional,” Bill continued. “He came out of the bathroom. He was hallucinating. He saw the little black specks in the white tiles on the floor as insects or ants. We got him in the bed. Then they came in and started taking blood. They were having a hard time finding a vein. He had been stuck so many times it was starting to get to him. He was hollering out. That was hard to watch.”
After a 10-day stay in the hospital, John improved and was released. The first thing he wanted to do was watch a Vanderbilt baseball game. Bill and John pulled their car to the parking lot behind the center field fence.
Vanderbilt slugger Pedro Alvarez stepped up to the plate (Alvarez would go on to play nine years in the Major Leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles). Pedro promptly hit a home run over the right field wall. Before Bill could warn John of the risk, a barefooted John slung open the car door and ran through the grass to get the ball.
After the game, Robert Harris, one of Bill’s former Vandy teammates, introduced John to his wife Kay. Kay had battled cancer herself. John showed Kay the home run ball.
“Would you like to get that signed by Pedro?” Kay asked. Minutes later John was face to face with Pedro Alvarez. He left with a signed home run ball.
John’s treatment regimen ended three and half years after it began. No more chemo. No more IV’s. No more spinal taps. He was in full remission.
The treatment had taken its toll on John’s body. He was 106 pounds dripping wet.
John started playing baseball again. His next meaningful action came as a member of the Hillsboro High School team. Hillsboro head coach Andrew Bello took his understanding of strength and physical development and helped take John from 120 lbs. to 175 lbs. John blossomed into a better than average player and by his junior year he was a fixture in the Hillsboro outfield, hitting in the heart of the order.
“Eight games into my junior year, I hit a triple,” said John. “I tried to do a pop up slide. When my butt hit the ground, I immediately thought something was wrong. Coach asked me if I was okay. I said yes even though I could barely walk. Our next batter hit a ground ball and luckily I was able to get home. I’m sure I looked like a grandpa.”
John exited the game and went to the doctor for tests. A MRI revealed four stress fractures in his back. For the next eight weeks John had to wear a back brace on the outside of his shirts. In addition to the embarrassment he felt having to wear the brace to school there would be no more baseball that year. He missed the rest of his junior year and most of the summer, the most important months for a baseball player aspiring to play in college.
Later that year John and two of his Hillsboro teammates, Tyler and Tyson Orr, were working out at the Hillsboro field. A black SUV drove up and a big guy got out.
“You guys baseball players?,” the imposing figure asked. “You play here at Hillsboro? Stay here for a minute. I’m going to come back.”
When the man returned he was carrying 6-8 dozen baseballs and three bats. He handed them to the three boys.
“My name’s Pedro,” the man said.
John went nuts and connected the dots for Pedro to the home run ball he had hit and signed for him several years before.
As his senior year at Hillsboro approached, John was determined to do whatever he needed to do to play college baseball. He knew he was way behind when it came to recruiting. He took batting practice every day. Bill had taught him to switch hit which would make him more marketable to college coaches.
John’s senior year didn’t start out the way he envisioned.
“John wasn’t having any success batting lefty,” said Coach Bello. “I went to him and said, ‘You’ve got to bat right handed dude’. I could tell he wasn’t happy about it. As my number 3 or 4 hitter he just couldn’t be striking out every time. I was counting on him to produce.”
“The next day John came up to me and said, ‘Coach I respect your decision. I want one more chance. Let me bat left handed. I won’t let you down’. You could see the determination in his eyes.”
“By God he went 4-for-4 that day.”
COLLEGE YEAR ONE
John graduated from Hillsboro in the spring of 2014. He had just one college offer from Dyersburg State Community College. He chose instead to enroll at Georgia Highlands College in Rome, Georgia.
“It was their second year of being a school,” said John. “I got there on the first day and there were probably 70 players there. I wasn’t ready for that kind of pressure. I thought I was big at the time. I was 6’2” 170 lbs. There were a bunch of guys there that were 6’3” and 6’4” 220-230 lbs. I was in awe of how big and strong and fast they were. While I didn’t embarrass myself there, I didn’t show out the way I should have and ended up being cut at the end of the fall. I was pretty devastated.”
John came home for the spring of 2015. He was a life guard at the YMCA, mainly because it gave him the ability to work out at the gym. He went to various baseball showcases in an attempt to impress college coaches.
“It was super awkward. I was by far the oldest one there,” said John. “I went to a showcase at Western Kentucky and the coach at Western offered me a walk on spot. I was thrilled. I committed but then something happened when they were trying to get me eligible. I needed 18 credit hours to be able to transfer. I only had 12.”
COLLEGE YEAR TWO
John ended up walking on at Cleveland State Community College in the fall of 2015. He led the team in home runs in the fall with four. He made some highlight reel catches and felt good about his chances to earn significant playing time in the spring.
One week before the start of the 2016 season, John tore his hamstring. He tried to play through it but just couldn’t physically compete. He ended up playing sparingly.
COLLEGE YEAR THREE
John’s second year at Cleveland State started out very promising. He started in right field and hit a double and home run in the first series of the year. As the year progressed, John lost his starting spot and got fewer and fewer chances to play. He played in a little less than half the games.
COLLEGE YEAR FOUR
After exhausting his junior college eligibility, John was looking for a new home in the fall of 2017. Desperate to continue his career anywhere, John sent a mass email to over 100 schools.
“From there I ended up with three schools that expressed some level of genuine interest,” said John. “Lipscomb, UAB and Trevecca. I was so set on going D-1. I was really ready to do that. I didn’t see going to a D-2 school as an option at all. I was just banking on when I got there I was going to ball out.”
The opportunities at UAB and Lipscomb didn’t materialize. John was left with one option – going to D-2 Trevecca.
“Coach Brad Coon was one of the coaches at Lipscomb University I was talking with that summer,” John recalled. “I remember him telling me, ‘Dude, I went to Trevecca and I played Triple-A baseball. There’s nothing wrong going to a small school if you’re going to have a chance to play.’
“Coach Ryan Schmalz who was the head coach at Trevecca at the time invited me to come for a visit. He showed me around campus. I fell in love with Trevecca right there.”
John had a terrific fall. He was one of the stronger guys on the team. He had gotten up to 195 lbs.
“I was killing it,” said John. “I had a lot of confidence. I was hitting every day. I had a really great spring.”
One week before the first game of Trevecca’s 2018 season, John was taking fly balls near the outfield wall. It was a weakness in his game. He was determined to get better.
It was January 24, 2018, exactly 12 years to the day since he had been diagnosed with leukemia.
“I fielded the last ball and then I said I want one more,” said John. “I jumped up to catch it. I don’t know if it was the jump or landing but I hit the ground hard. I could see my leg dangling. It was obviously, very severely broken.”
Coach Schmalz had one rule: Don’t embarrass the program. That included no cussing.
“When I landed I let out the loudest set of cuss words you’ve ever heard,” John recalled. “Everyone was dead quiet looking at me. They knew it was serious.”
As the doctors gathered around John’s bed they explained to him he had broken his tibia and splintered his fibula. It was the same kind of catastrophic injury that Gordon Haywood of the Boston Celtics and Washington QB Alex Smith suffered.
John would have to have a titanium rod inserted beginning at his knee cap and have it hammered down his leg until it covered the fibula. He had four screws inserted in his ankle.
“This is career ending for most people,” said one of the doctors.
“That’s NOT going to be the case here!” Coach Schmalz emphatically, immediately interjected.
“That injury wrecked my whole season,” said John. “That was probably the hardest year including all of the years I fought cancer. I felt like I was somewhere where I was about to make a difference on a team. I had a coach that believed in me. Then it was taken away from me.”
“Not only was baseball taken away from me,” John continued. “I couldn’t get my own food from the cafeteria. I couldn’t drive places. For probably that whole year I had such bad depression. I lost a ton of weight. I was 195 when I broke my leg. At end of year I was 170. I didn’t know how to handle it.”
COLLEGE YEAR FIVE
John continued to rehab in the fall of 2018. The spring of 2019 found him learning to embrace a new role.
“It was one of the first scrimmages of the year,” John remembered. “I was starting to see some progress. I had the worst jog you’ve ever seen. In one of my first at bats I swung at a ball above my head and hit it over the center fielder’s head. I ran to first and got a single. There was a parent in the stands who had no clue what I had been through yelling, ‘RUN IT OUT! RUN IT OUT!’ I had some friends on the girls soccer team go set him straight.”
“I got a ton of pinch hitting opportunities. If I had a role on the team, that was my role. I got in about half of the games that year. I was in a ton of games and had a ton of chances. Every time I got a hit I limped to first the best I could. Every time a guy would come in and run for me. The guys on the team would go crazy when I got to the dugout.”
Later that spring, John found his name in the starting lineup as the designated hitter in a conference game against Hillsdale College. He was nervous and questioning himself as to whether or not he would be able to make it around the bases.
Sensing John’s angst, Coach Sain, who was an assistant coach at the time, approached John with a simple observation.
“You don’t have to run hard if you hit it over the fence.”
In John’s first at bat he did just that.
“I was going around the bases beating my chest,” said John. “The Make-A-Wish kid just hit a home run! The catcher was staring at me. The next at bat I hit another home run. I did the same thing.”
“We came to the field that day and saw John’s name in the starting lineup,” said shortstop Trey Vanderpool who has been a teammate of John’s at both Cleveland State and Trevecca. “I smiled at him. It was John’s time. He put his head down and he knew that he was going to have a good game. He hit that first home run and it was like everything he’d been working toward was there in that moment.”
The movie script could very well have ended right there.
But there’s more.
COLLEGE YEAR SIX
“Coming into the spring of 2020, I was moving well again,” said John. “In the first three weeks I was either second or third on the team in RBI’s. I had probably 1/3 or 1/4 of the at bats that everyone else had. I didn’t care. I was pumped.”
John got a couple of starts at designated hitter. He was having some good games and was excited about the beginning of conference season.
“We were in Wilson, North Carolina getting ready to play,” said John. “It was a beautiful day. We were fully dressed in our uniforms in the lobby of the hotel. Hour by hour the game kept getting delayed. Finally we all walked outside. Coach Schmalz was on the bus looking at us. He had a blank look on his face. He wasn’t on the phone or anything.”
The game was canceled.
The season was canceled.
“It was such a tragic event,” John continued. “I didn’t know if I would get another year of eligibility back or not. I was riding back on the bus thinking I don’t even remember my last game. I didn’t remember giving it 110%. If I had known it was going to be my last game I would have tried harder. I was wishing for a second chance.”
Soon thereafter all of the 2020 spring sports student athletes were informed they would get a COVID year of eligibility back if they wanted it. John and his Trevecca teammate Dalton Mauldin began discussing whether or not they’d be coming back. Dalton, like John, would be 25 years old, and also incredibly, another 7th year senior.
“We weren’t going pro,” said John. “I could move but I couldn’t move great. I wondered if I was even going to have chances to play. I talked to Jay Bernard, one of our senior pitchers at Trevecca. He already had a terrific job lined up. He told us he was coming back because the guy who hired him said if you don’t go back you’re going to regret it forever. He said you can work the rest of your life but you can’t play baseball forever.”
COLLEGE YEAR SEVEN
“I was excited to come back to Trevecca for a seventh year,” said John. “The whole training aspect was tough due to the COVID restrictions. I couldn’t find places to hit. I couldn’t work out. It was hard to get work in over the summer. I came back in the fall and something was different with my body. My swing felt slower. My body felt old. I wasn’t as quick and fiery as I used to be. I had a tough fall. There was no consistency. We’d go two weeks and get shut down because of COVID. We couldn’t be with the whole team. We could only be with 3-4 people at a time. That got in my head.”
“I haven’t had a lot of chances,” John said as he surveyed his contributions in 2021. Entering the NCAA Tournament, John had 26 plate appearances on the season with two hits, including a triple, and six walks.
“I’m just excited to be here and embrace the chances I do have. In the fall and early spring, I fully believed my role was to be a pinch hitter or DH. I want to say it’s the same. I still am that guy. I stay ready for when I get that chance as that guy.”
“I still show up early and hit late. I work out. I’m always talking about getting better. I want to bring an energy that’s really high and a winning attitude.”
Why continue to come back?
Why put yourself through all of the rehab?
Why don’t you move on with your life?
“The biggest thing that drives John is he loves to be with his buddies,” said Bill. “His teammates, the camaraderie and fellowship of the locker room, he is so enamored with and loves so much. He wants to be around it all of the time. He loves the brotherhood.”
As one would expect, seven years of college has allowed John the opportunity to pile up the academic credentials. He’s already completed his bachelor’s degree in business marketing. He’s almost finished with his master’s degree in education with a discipline in English. He’ll do his student teaching in the spring of 2022.
John plans to pursue a career in teaching and coaching. He may have also inadvertently discovered a promising side hustle.
“During the COVID quarantine I was bored out of my mind,” said John. “Everything was closed. I wanted to find something creative to do. I called a couple of modeling agencies, got a portfolio put together and did a couple of jobs for them this fall. I had a couple of offers this spring. That interests me. If I could get into modeling or acting that would be a blast.”
If John were also the director of his Disney movie, he knows exactly how it would end.
“Winning the World Series would be a perfect ending. But if it ended right now I’ve had a great experience.”
One can only imagine the immeasurable, positive impact that a teacher and coach like John Anderson will have on students and teams for years to come. Given the countless, seemingly insurmountable hurdles he’s faced and cleared in his first 25 years, he probably won’t have to wait very long for his next team.
We learned earlier today about the gut wrenching, tragic, untimely death of 18-year-old Grant Solomon, the son of my friends Aaron Solomon and Angie Huffines. Grant died in a horrific one-car accident.
I’ve seen Grant play baseball several times over the years against my boys. He knew how to compete and he knew how to win. I remember watching him pitch against, and beat, our Lipscomb Academy varsity team as an 8th grader at Grace Christian Academy (Franklin, TN).
We played Grace Christian earlier this year in our second game of the year and what would prove to be our last due to the pandemic. Sensing it might be our last game, I asked three different photographers earlier that day to come shoot the game. I ended up with 577 photographs.
Tonight I opened up that folder to see if Grant might have appeared in any of those photos.
He was in just one.
That one photo spoke volumes.
There was Grant, playing second base, having said something to our senior shortstop and Vanderbilt Athletics baseball signee Jack O’Dowd that made Jack smile. Grant had the confidence to talk to Jack when a lot of other high school players would have been intimidated. Grant wasn’t. He was comfortable talking to Jack because he was a fellow member of a fraternity of high-performing warriors. Jack was his brother.
That’s what hit me immediately when I saw the photo.
Grant was unashamed to wear it on his face. He was unashamed to own his Lord.
While they are experiencing a pain very few of us will ever fully comprehend, the cross is the reason Aaron, Angie, Gracie, their extended family and all of Grant’s friends and teammates will grieve differently.
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Well done Grant. Unsurprising to all of us who watched you compete over the years, you went the distance.
What do you say when you have the opportunity to meet the second most powerful man in the world and you have less than a minute?
A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to consider and answer that most important question on extremely short notice.
I had been invited to drive one of the vehicles in Vice President Mike Pence’s motorcade during his visit to Nashville. I previously drove in President George W. Bush’s motorcade in 2008 when he came to Tennessee to tour the tornado damage. On that day we had no access to the President in the way of a meet-and-greet or photo op. He flew in to Lafayette on Marine One and flew right back out after the hour-long tour.
Our time with the Vice President was much different. We were with him from noon until 8 p.m. We made three stops that day after Air Force Two landed at the Berry Field Air National Guard base by the Nashville Airport. We first visited the Tyson Chicken plant in Springfield. Then we headed to the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s headquarters in Hendersonville where the Vice President made an appearance on Mike Huckabee’s television show. We finished the day at Willis Johnson’s beautiful farm on Moran Road (where Alan Jackson used to live) for a major fundraising event.
It was in Hendersonville, backstage at Governor Huckabee’s show, that I was invited to stand behind the curtain in a line of VIPs who all had an opportunity to greet Vice President Pence and get a photo taken with him. Senator Marsha Blackburn, Congressman Mark Green and Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers were among those ahead of me in line.
“Brent High,” announced one of the White House staffers as I made my way over to the Vice President.
“Thanks for helping out today,” said the Vice President as he reached out to shake my hand and we turned towards the camera. He knew I was a volunteer thanks to the pin on my lapel that had been provided by the Secret Service (I know. Cool, right?).
“Absolutely my pleasure,” I said.
“You know, in six years I’m going to be working in the front office of a new Major League Baseball team in Nashville and you’re going to be President,” I continued. “I’d like to go ahead and invite you to throw out the first pitch at our first game in the new stadium.”
At that point, the Vice President rotated his hand in mind, wrapping his thumb around my thumb for a kind of bro handshake. His smile broadened from ear to ear.
“You’ve got a deal!” said the Vice President.
May it be so….
If not, maybe it’s not too early to start thinking about a Pence-High ticket in 2024 and 2028.
PHOTO CREDIT: Official White House Photo – D. Myles Cullen
By now most of you have probably heard about the state of the Glencliff High School football program. In recent weeks they have struggled to have enough boys to play. At one point at the end of September it was even feared they might have to forfeit their last four games.
They haven’t quit.
Despite their incredibly small roster they’ve figured out a way to show up each and every week and compete.
I witnessed Glencliff’s first game, a 66-8 loss to our Lipscomb Academy Mustangs. Since then it hasn’t gotten any better. The Colts are 0-8 heading into tomorrow night’s game against Hunters Lane. They have been outscored 465-40.
Tomorrow night (Thursday, October 17) is Senior Night for the Colts as it will be their last home game of the season. Game time is 7 pm at Glencliff. Hunters Lane is 1-6 heading into the game.
It’s going to be an absolutely beautiful football weather evening (clear and temp in high 50’s at kickoff).
What can we do?
It’s as simple as that.
Show up and support these kids and coaches. Cheer for them like you cheer for your home team.
Years from now the boys from Glencliff will talk about the night the middle Tennessee community showed up and helped them believe.
I hope to see you and your family tomorrow night. Feel free to spread the word.
Where did my passion and appreciation of the intersection of faith and sports begin?
The answer might surprise you.
Almost all of my 23-year career has been spent at the intersection of faith and sports.
I’ve had the privilege of working with more than 75 professional baseball teams putting on “Faith Day” events that feature a full concert by a Christian music artist and testimonies from Christian players. I’ve literally been afforded the opportunity to go coast to coast using the vehicle of sports to spread the good news about Jesus.
I’ve worked with the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, L.A. Dodgers, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball. I’ve been in just about every minor league baseball stadium from Portland, Oregon to Hagerstown, Maryland and everywhere in between.
MercyMe, Casting Crowns, Third Day, Jars of Clay, Michael W. Smith, The Newsboys, Steven Curtis Chapman, Crowder, Audio Adrenaline and Jeremy Camp have all performed at our events.
Hall of Famer John Smoltz was the very first MLB player to give his testimony at one of our Faith Day events with the Braves. Over the years I’ve handed the microphone to other well-known athletes including Lance Berkman, Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright, Josh Hamilton, Charlie Blackmon, Dexter Fowler, Tim Hudson, Dave Dravecky, Mark Melancon, Jeff Francoeur and NFL Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz.
One year in Atlanta we had a last minute speaker cancellation. That allowed me the opportunity to give my personal testimony entitled “Making it to the Big Leagues” to more than 12,000 people at the Braves’ Turner Field.
Our Faith Day events were featured by The New York Times, USA Today, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Fox News, CNN and more than 200 newspapers on four continents.
Due to their popularity there have been thousands of copycat events all over the world in every major and minor sports league. Untold millions have had the opportunity to hear about Jesus at a sports venue as a result.
When I worked at Lipscomb University I had the blessing of helping shepherd more than 300 NCAA Division I student athletes and 40 coaches as associate athletic director for spiritual formation. I led four athletic mission trips to Honduras where we completed various construction projects. In 2014 I led a team of 22 Lipscomb baseball players and coaches to the Dominican Republic where we built a baseball field in the middle of a slum. We saw 53 of our student-athletes accept Christ and put Him on in baptism in an 18 month period.
I was one of the architects behind the Don Meyer Evening of Excellence at Lipscomb. We welcomed Tim Tebow before a standing room only crowd just five days before he was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos. Three years later we hosted the largest event in Lipscomb history as more than 15,000 people descended on the campus in a 24 hour period for three sold-out sessions with Phil, Kay and Uncle Si Robertson who were at the peak of their popularity thanks to A&E’s Duck Dynasty television series. The Gospel was shared boldly at both of those events with several giving their lives to Christ in baptism in the training room cold tub at the bottom of Allen Arena.
Possibly the most important fruit that came from being introduced to the intersection of faith and sports grew when I was a volunteer youth baseball coach. From the time Houston and Hunter were old enough to pick up a bat and ball I was their coach.
Our Crieve Hall Crusaders teams were best known for always asking the opposing teams to pray with us on the mound after the game. It didn’t matter how happy or devastated we were, we would always stop and give glory to God. The boys led the prayers each and every time. Some of the sweetest, most humbling, genuine prayers I know God has ever heard came in that dirt from those boys.
My favorite coaching moment of them all came in Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. We were playing in the 104-team Cooperstown Dreams Park tournament. All of the players and coaches lived together in dorm style buildings with bunk beds. Every night before we went to bed we had a “popcorn prayer” where one of the coaches started and ended the prayer and in between the boys could pray if they wanted. All 12 of them prayed every single night.
Some of the strongest bonds I have on this planet are with those boys that I’ve coached. The seeds we sowed into them over and over and over of Jesus first, others second and that baseball doesn’t define you seem to have taken hold.
Make no mistake. They’re some of the very best players on their respective high school teams now. We played to win too.
So back to the original question…
Where did my passion and appreciation of the intersection of faith and sports begin?
It was the front row in Mrs. Modling’s 8th grade Algebra class at McMurray Middle School in August of 1988.
There, seated to my immediate left, was a new kid who had transferred in from the Antioch area. His name was Todd Johnson.
It didn’t take us long to figure out we were both in love with the game of baseball. Todd was a second baseman. His dad, Elliot, was the head baseball coach at Trevecca Nazarene College in Nashville. Todd invited me to join him for his dad’s games and practices. Coach Johnson was quick to offer hitting and pitching instruction that helped my game tremendously.
Just a couple of weeks after first meeting Todd in algebra class, he invited me to join him on Friday morning in the gym for something called FCA. I’d never heard of it before.
F.C.A.- Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Early that Friday morning before school, Todd and I joined a couple dozen McMurray students in the pullout wooden bleachers at McMurray and listened intently as a former University of Tennessee football lineman named Steve Robinson shared a message of hope. I had never heard a message like that before. It was full of sports analogies and I loved it!
I went on to be a faithful member of the FCA huddle at Overton High School, attending early morning Bible studies with Coach Walsh my freshman year. One of the football players, Leland Price, was the president. He encouraged me as much as anyone. There were many memorable FCA meetings in the band room during club time.
One of my favorite FCA meetings at Overton included the short film entitled Without Reservation that painted the picture of what happened to a group of students that were killed in a car wreck. For weeks and months afterward, whenever someone did something they weren’t supposed to be doing the phrase from the film was blurted their way in a direct kind of accountability.
“Step to the left!”
I went to FCA camp in Black Mountain, North Carolina where I saw Green Bay Packers legend Reggie White bring an entire assembly hall of hundreds to repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Savior. One of the N.C. State tight ends, a guy named Neil, was my huddle leader for the week and he was extra cool.
The next summer I attended FCA leadership camp in Marshall, Indiana. It was the first time I’d ever been asked to share my faith with complete strangers as we walked the streets of Marshall, Indiana offering to pray with anyone who would open the door. I served as a huddle officer my senior year at Overton.
In 1998 I started the first FCA huddle in the history of Lipscomb University. It’s still going strong today.
In the early 2000’s I was heavily involved with FCA’s annual fundraising banquet and golf challenge. From 2003-2005 I served as a board member.
My buddy Todd Johnson is now in charge of a thriving FCA ministry in San Antonio, Texas. He previously served as the FCA campus minister at Ole Miss.
FCA has made an eternal difference in my life.
It’s still my great privilege and honor to introduce the ministry of FCA to those that have the same passion for that intersection of faith and sports. I can think of no more powerful, culturally relevant vehicle of delivering the Gospel to today’s youth in our schools than FCA.
Emily and I have joyfully given of our time, talent and treasure to FCA. We’d like to ask you to join us and consider supporting FCA with your treasure.
NOTE:Jeffery Simmons (6’4″ 301 lbs. DT, Mississippi State) was the first round pick of the Tennessee Titans in the NFL Draft on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Photo courtesy of 247Sports.com.
Dear Jeffery Simmons,
Welcome to Tennessee and the city of Nashville!
I’ve been a fan of the Tennessee Titans since they were the Tennessee Oilers and played in front of dozens of fans in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. I’ve been to my share of games there, Vanderbilt and their current home that has gone by the names Adelphia Coliseum, The Coliseum, LP Field and Nissan Stadium.
I must admit, before tonight’s NFL Draft coverage on ABC/ESPN I had no idea who you were. In the hour before you were picked I heard about how you were one of the most talented players in the draft and would have been a top 5 pick but you tore your ACL preparing for the NFL Combine. In the seconds before you were picked I heard the College Gameday crew speculating that the Titans might pick you. They seemed to be unanimous in their belief that you would be a steal with the 19th pick.
Sure enough, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called your name!
Instead of a cut away to the living room where you were celebrating with your family and friends, we as viewers were immediately introduced to your past – your dark, dirty, embarrassing past. There was no shot of you putting on a Titans cap. There was no “Simmons 1” jersey. There was no hug with Commissioner Goodell. There was no feel good, Tom Rinaldi interview with one of your family members.
Instead we listened to Rece Davis read a cold, piercing rap sheet from a teleprompter. We learned about the fight, your guilt and your status with the legal system.
Jeffery, you deserved better.
We as Tennesseans and Nashvillians deserved better.
Nashville, Tennessee has put together a draft experience that will never be equaled. The way ABC and ESPN handled what should have been a mountaintop moment in your life, for our city and our team is downright shameful.
By all accounts you’ve learned from your mistakes. You’ve been a model citizen at Mississippi State. You’ve been a leader both on and off the field.
Along with being Music City USA and the It City, Nashville has another nickname. It’s been referred to as the Buckle of the Bible Belt. There are over 2,000 churches within two hours of Nashville.
In those churches we read and learn from the same book. Two passages came to mind as I watched your draft moment earlier tonight:
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23
“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:2
Jeffery, welcome to our family. You’re now a Tennessean. You’re a Nashvillian. You’re a Titan!
Just like you, all of us have done things that are shameful. We’re just not talented enough to have our sins plastered all over national television.
Know that we’ve already forgiven you. Know that we’re not concerned with who you were or what you did. We’re interested in who you are and who you will be.
We’re excited about what you will do at Nissan Stadium and to our opponents in the AFC South. We’re equally interested in how God will use you to positively impact the young people in our state and our city.
We can’t wait to meet you. We will celebrate your arrival.
We’ll be praying for your speedy and complete recovery.
Today (April 20, 2019) is the 20-year anniversary of the horrific school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. I will never forget that day. I watched it all unfold on CNN at my house on Barrywood Drive in Nashville. I shed many tears that day. The shooting at Columbine changed me immediately. Loaded down with the burden that I needed to do more for our young people, I decided that afternoon to go into full-time youth ministry. Three months later I started as the youth minister at White House Church of Christ, just north of Nashville. That fall the Columbine story would impact me once again and prompt me to write the following piece I entitled God Used a Toothache.
Friday morning (September 17, 1999) I was reading the paper and noticed Darrell Scott (father of Rachel Scott, a student who was killed at Columbine High School) was coming to speak Sunday afternoon at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville.
I really wanted to go hear what Mr. Scott had to say but was a little apprehensive about announcing anything to my youth group about the event since it was going to be held at a Baptist church. I had a feeling someone would get offended if I promoted it. So, instead of any announcement in the main worship assembly, at the end of my Sunday school class I made mention of the event, told my high school kids I’d be going and invited anyone to ride with me who wanted to go. I expected to take two or three kids in my truck. Instead I ended up having to fire up the White House Church of Christ van as 11 of us made the short trek to Two Rivers. I wish I could have recorded the looks on the faces of everyone we passed in the parking lot at Two Rivers as our van, with all its Church of Christ lettering, motored to a resting place. Shock. Disbelief. Happiness. I’d be a rich man if I had a dime for every person I saw mouthing the words, “Church of Christ???” as we passed. I guess we broke traditional protocol, but we had a face-to-face meeting with God we would never have had if we hadn’t.
The service was unbelievable. Just five short months after the April 20 tragedy, Mr. Scott shared the “untold” stories from Columbine, the stories the liberal media may never tell, the stories he has dedicated every waking moment of the rest of his life to sharing. He talked at length about the 12 students, including his daughter Rachel, who left this world on April 20.
Of the 12 students who died, eight professed to be Christians.
As Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris (the two gunmen) came down the hill behind the school to begin their assault, their first target was Mark Taylor. At the very moment bullets pierced Mark’s body, he was witnessing to two of his friends about his relationship with Jesus Christ.
They next turned their guns on Rachel. Three weeks earlier Rachel had witnessed to Dylan and Eric and warned them about the violent video games to which they seemed to be addicted. Their first shot hit Rachel in the leg. A second plowed through her backpack into her midsection, knocking her to the ground. One of the gunmen walked over to where Rachel lay face down, still alive. He pulled her up by the hair of her head and asked, “Do you still believe in God?”
“You know that I do,” Rachel managed to reply.
Immediately after her reply a bullet entered her temple.
Mr. Scott shared the story of John Tomlin, another victim. John had been on mission trips to Mexico and was hungry to do more. During each school day he decided to do something small in hopes it might cause someone to think about spiritual things. He left his Bible open in the dash of his truck.
At 4 a.m. one morning after the tragedy, Mr. Scott looked around as he was beginning an interview with NBC’s Maria Shriver and noticed a circle of people around John’s truck, talking about the Bible in the dash.
Mr. Scott spoke of his son, Craig, who escaped death after looking down the barrel of a gun. He escaped because his friend crouched next to him in the library, Isaiah Shoels, was black and a more desirable target for the two gunmen who hurled numerous racial slurs and putdowns in his direction before killing him execution-style.
Cassie Bernall’s story has received more national attention. She too answered the gunmen’s question of “Do you believe in God?” in the affirmative, taking a bullet after her response. A national “She Said Yes” campaign has resulted from the statements she and Rachel made, looking down the barrel of a gun.
Rachel’s funeral was broadcast in its entirety on CNN. Millions of viewers tuned in, making it the highest-rated broadcast in network history. With millions of eyes tuned to the broadcast, Bruce Porter brought the message, asking “Who will take the torch?” referring to the torch Rachel, Cassie, John, Mark and others had dropped.
At that very moment a young man in Texas had a gun to his head, ready to take his own life. As he listened to Porter’s plea and thoughts that followed, he lowered the gun from his head, began to cry and prayed for forgiveness.
Not long ago he ran 1,000 miles from Little Rock, Arkansas to Washington, D.C. with a torch in his hand.
Needless to say, by the end of the service I had been on an emotional roller coaster. My shirt had a hefty salt deposit in it from the tears I had shed, but I left the service encouraged, excited and ready to share the “untold” stories with anyone I could.
We all climbed back in our van and headed back to White House. We were going to be just in time for Sunday night services. I kept thinking on the way back how much I would have loved to share with the congregation that night just a tiny bit of what we had experienced at Two Rivers that afternoon. I was a bit discouraged because I didn’t know how long it would be before I was in the pulpit again and had a chance to share.
As I walked in the door, two minutes before services were to begin, one of our elders pulled me aside and asked, “Has anyone said anything to you about speaking tonight?”
“No,” I said.
“Well Keith (our preacher) has a bad toothache. He’s not going to be able to speak. I guess we’ll just have a song service….”
“Please let me speak,” I butted in. “Something happened to me this afternoon I’ve got to share.”
“Okay, you’re on,” he said.
During the opening moments of the service I prayed fervently that God would use my words to help someone realize their need for Jesus.
As I began to share some of the stories previously mentioned in this email, I felt a peace and strength I have never felt before. It was not me talking up there. Even though I had zero preparation for this “sermon” my words seemed to flow like never before. Everything was coming together. In sports terms, I was “in the zone.”
I pleaded with the young people who had never committed their lives to Jesus to do so. I told them they didn’t have to know everything at first. That’s what being born again is all about. Starting new. I encouraged those who had given their lives to Jesus before and didn’t have him at the center of their lives to make it right.
As I stepped down from the pulpit with the words of Just As I Am resonating from the walls, I knew something special was about to happen.
A teenager came forward, then an 8-year old boy, then a mother, another teenager, and another, and on and on…
Three came to commit their lives to Jesus for the first time and be baptized. Several others came to recommit their lives to Jesus. They came largely because of the stories associated with 12 young people from a tiny town in Colorado.
It only occurred to me about an hour later there was something special about the number of people who had responded at church that night.
There were 12.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command Love each other.” – John 15:13-17
There is a great lesson about success and leadership from studying the way that bison and cows respond to storms.
In Colorado, where I grew up, we are world famous for the Rocky Mountains. What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is that the state is divided almost exactly in half. And to the eastern part of the state are the great Kansas plains. Because of that unique topographical landscape, we are one of the few places in the world where there are both bison and cows in such close proximity.
When storms come, they almost always brew from the west and roll out toward the east.
What cows do is very natural. Cows sense the storm coming from the west and so they start to try to run toward the east. The only problem with that is that if you know anything about cows you know they aren’t very fast.
So the storm catches up with the cows rather quickly. And without knowing any better the cows continue to try to outrun the storm. But instead of outrunning the storm they actually run right along with the storm. Maximizing the amount of pain and time and frustration they experience from that storm!
Isn’t that stupid?
Humans do the same thing all of the time. We spend so much of our lives constantly trying to avoid the inevitable challenges that come along with the difficult circumstances that our very own choices have led us to be in.
People who are in debt constantly try to find ways around paying their bills. People who are unhealthy make rationalizations for why they can’t do anything about it or why it doesn’t matter. People who are struggling in their marriage are often trying to avoid the difficult but meaningful conversations that need to be had to reconcile that relationship. Salespeople do everything to try and avoid making a sales call.
And the key insight that ultra-performers have made that not yet necessarily everyone else has is this: Ultra-performers realize that problems that are procrastinated on are only amplified.
Waiting always makes it worse.
What bison do on the other hand is very unique for the animal kingdom. Bison wait for the storm to cross right over the crest of the peak of the mountaintop and as the storm rolls over the ridge the bison turn and charge directly into the storm.
Instead of running east away from the storm they run west directly at the storm. By running at the storm they run straight through it. Minimizing the amount of pain and time and frustration they experience from that storm.
Notice how it’s the exact same storm. It’s such a great metaphor for all of us because all of us are dealing with the same types of storms.
We all have some relationship issue or health battle or financial struggle.
And we don’t always get to choose whether or not we have storms. The only choice we get to have is how we respond to those storms. And more specifically here, when we respond to those storms.
This bison mentality is very representative of the Take the Stairs mindset of ultra-performers and Multipliers.
They charge directly into problems because they realize that procrastination and indulgence are simply creditors that charge you interest.
Which direction are you heading?
Rory Vaden Co-founder of Brand Builders Group Reputation Strategy and Personal Branding New York Times bestselling author and Keynote Speaker For more information, visit roryvadenblog.com
Sometimes God shows up in the smallest of details. When you add them all up it begins to paint an incredible story that can only be explained with him.
As I write this update, all 27 of us have safely arrived at Mission Lazarus in Honduras. There are seven current baseball players (Ty Burstrom, Blake Fonfara, Jaesung Hwang, Chad Shannon, Aaron Spragg, Brandon Thomas and Jordan Zelhart) and one recent baseball alum (Gil Rehwinkel). There are five men’s golfers (Taylor Combs, Blanton Farmer, Nate Mueting, Ryan Terry and Dustin Wilder). There are two women’s golfers (Sabrina Ferreri and Sarah McFarlin). There are two cross country/track athletes (Katie Collier and Alexander McMeen). There is a men’s soccer player (Kyle Erickson). There are four other students (John Egger, Lacy Hartselle, Matt Johnson and Kaela Pennington) on the trip. We won’t refer to them as NARPs (non-athletic regular people). Samuel Montoya, a native of Honduras and a member of our Lipscomb event management staff, is here and going to be carrying a lot of the interpreting load for us this week. There are four old guys – Scott Spragg (Aaron’s dad), James Zelhart (Jordan’s dad), T.J. McCloud from Lipscomb missions and myself that round out the team.
Our team started the day split up in Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Tegucigalpa and Wichita. The fact that we’re all here together sitting around the fire in Jayacayan, Honduras is amazing in and of itself. So many things had to go right with flight schedules, connecting flights and the always arduous four-hour journey in four vehicles from Tegucigalpa to Mission Lazarus. We are indeed thankful.
It’s thrilling to already see fruit coming from this trip. For several of our trip members this is their first time outside the United States. For others it’s their first mission trip experience.
The first 45 minutes of the drive out of Tegucigalpa were largely silent. The sights, sounds and smells of Honduras bring you to a very still place in your soul. You are aware. You are empathetic. You are saddened. You are maddened. You are appreciative. You start asking a lot of questions that hopefully ultimately lead to personal growth and a changed world view that ultimately will lead to real change both here and at home.
All 10 of us from the inaugural trip last December (affectionately known as the A-Team) are back. Ryan Terry and Kyle Erickson were so changed by their experiences in Honduras this past year that they decided to spend the better part of this December including Christmas here. They have been here for three weeks working with Mission Lazarus and Jovenes en Camino doing a variety of construction and farming tasks.
Tomorrow we will attend a small Church of Christ congregation on an island just off the Pacific coast. Starting Monday we will be hard at work building a brick house for one of the local preachers and his family. Their old adobe house, like many here, was severely damaged by recent flooding. We’ve been told to expect lots of kids at the work site, just as was the case in August when the softball team served in San Marcos. They were overrun daily with dozens of children wanting to play.
Probably the most surreal yet encouraging thing that happened today happened as we were driving on the Pan-American Highway about an hour away from Mission Lazarus. Matt Johnson spotted a young boy walking on the right side of the road wearing a gray Lipscomb t-shirt with purple and gold lettering.
One shirt at a time. One brick at a time. One piece of candy at a time. One smile at a time. One story of the reason we have hope at a time.
Lord willing, the power and internet will stay up long enough each evening for me to send a daily recap. Check LipscombSports.com each day for the most recent update. We truly appreciate your prayers and encourage you to continue to lift the team and the people of Honduras up before our Lord.