View from the Pew
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
After a recent practice, a few University of Hawaii football players form a huddle and pray.
UH players bring prayer into the open
As Colt Brennan lay unconscious after being knocked out in the Fresno State game Nov. 10, the cameras captured several of his fellow University of Hawaii Warriors dipping down on one knee.
After last Tuesday's practice, six young men knelt in a tight prayer circle oblivious for a few moments to the hubbub of fans seeking autographs, parents seeking sons and reporters seeking targets for the day's update or anecdote.
Sports reporters have noted that after every practice and before each game this season, a contingent of University of Hawaii football players can be found kneeling on the sidelines in prayer. Our Dave Reardon says it wasn't unheard of in the past, but there's a lot more of it going on this year.
Prayer on the playing field is probably as old as competitive sport, but it hasn't always been so completely OK out in the open. It's not a church-based school. It's a sport where aggressive is the preferred posture.
"I'm blessed to be with these guys," said cornerback C.J. Hawthorne, who's often prayer leader of a small group from the same nondenominational church that started the current prayer movement. "From the beginning we did pray together on a small scale. I think the Lord has brought us closer together. Now it is beginning to grow larger and larger. It is something we all do together."
The Rev. Frank Diehl said: "The big thing is that God is in their lives. He has given them the talent to play football. Their hope is to touch the lives of others the same way Jesus has touched theirs.
"I think the love they have for one another is easier to express in this context," said Diehl. He was there beside the parents, watching his six boys at practice.
The fact that the Tree of Life Christian Center guys feel confident enough to do the prayer thing in public has led some other team members to extend the circle. Sometimes. Like in the locker room before the game. No one scoffs at them if they do ... or they don't.
"I think it's contagious and it spreads," said free safety Desmond Thomas, whose practice helmet bears a "Got Jesus?" bumper sticker. "We express our faith and our love toward one another. I show my teammates the love. I use God as my platform to minister to others."
When Thomas first arrived at his faith decision, it came after his first college days in what he calls "a rebellious stage. From Saturday to Monday, I was just this new person. In the beginning I got kinda mixed reactions. I was still young in Christ and didn't know how to answer."
His relationship with God isn't just about football, Thomas said. "I apply it to my life and to my wife. It's the center of our family and our relationship, staying fired up for Jesus."
Safety Jake Patek said, "We get together and encourage one another, to be examples for other guys on the team and to show them we're not perfect. A lot of people say, 'You must be really spiritual,' and I'm not like that. I tell them, 'Hey, I used to be doing a lot of things I shouldn't be doing, and the Lord saved me by his grace.'"
Talking about prayer, it wasn't about asking God for a miracle win. It was about seeking to be all they could be, on the field and off. Let the contagion spread.