Whether it be because of player suicides or devastating concussions, many professional and collegiate football players have begun to ponder what life holds for them after football. Some players, such as former Georgia Bulldog Kelin Johnson, return to school as preparation for a career after football. For others, life after football means making up for lost time with loved ones.
Two members of the Georgia Bulldogs, freshman running back Todd Gurley and Kenarious Gates, showed Sunday morning that they too are thinking about life after football when they were baptized at Athens Church.
On a day that focused on being strong and courageous, Gurley, Gates, and 276 others took the plunge and were baptized. The sermon Sunday morning was titled “20 Seconds of Courage” and focused on the idea that faith is all about overcoming fears.
As football players for the University of Georgia, both athletes received the largest applause out of the 278 people that were baptized. Not present at the service but certainly worthy of applause is Georgia head coach Mark Richt.
Ever since he took the reins of the program twelve years ago, Richt has always made it his goal to make his players not just better football players but also better men. The head coach is a professed Christian and often uses his faith as a recruiting tool. His faith has also helped Richt gain the reputation as an “overall good guy” in a sport were things often get swept under the rug.
“I think it speaks volumes to the effect that Coach Richt has on these kids” said Ryan Gerlach, a regular at Athens Church who was present during the baptisms. “Not only does he prepare them for the NFL but he also prepares them for a life after football. He provides for them the tools they need to succeed, no matter what life throws at them.”
Over the past two years, Richt has suspended multiple players for not doing things the “Georgia way.” His philosophy, the Georgia way, is Richt’s way of holding players to high standards on the field as well as off it. Last year, Ken Malcome left the team briefly but the head coach challenged him to try to do things the Georgia way. Also, Richt dismissed highly-touted running back Isaiah Crowell from the roster after he was arrested. Though there were multiple reasons for his dismissal, they all lead back to not doing things the Georgia way.
If the University of Georgia were in any other region of the country, two players being baptized would most likely go unnoticed. However, being in the heart of the region affectionately called the “Bible Belt” makes the occurrence stand out a bit more. Gurley and Gates’ baptisms struck a chord in the hearts of the Georgia Bulldog faithful, a feat that will earn the players even more love from their fans.
The motto around UGA this year is “Commit to the G”. The team has asked its fans to show up on Saturdays and commit to the G by cheering on its players in silver britches. On Sunday, Gurley and Gates showed that they commit to the G as well, though a G of a different kind.
Chris Lionetti is a writer for Rant Sports with a focus on the SEC and Georgia Bulldogs.
Follow him on Twitter at: @ChrisLionetti