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Back-to-School Bash enlightens county’s athletes

Former Auburn punter and national champion Steven Clark spoke to Butler County athletes Friday about the importance of a personal relationship with God at the annual Back to School Bash in Georgiana.

Former Auburn punter and national champion Steven Clark spoke to Butler County athletes Friday about the importance of a personal relationship with God at the annual Back to School Bash in Georgiana.

Butler County’s football players received a double-dose of guidance Friday during  the annual Back to School Bash at Hank Williams Pavillion in Georgiana.

In addition to the food, fun and fellowship, the Georgiana, Greenville and McKenzie football programs were treated to a pair of messages courtesy of Steven Clark, Auburn University punter as well as a national and SEC champion, and Southside Baptist Church pastor Herbert Brown.

The three-time Ray Guy Award nominee said that he grew up a “good ol’ suburban boy” in Kansas City, Mo., where his 6-foot-3 frame as a ninth-grader made athletic life relatively easy for him.

A strict mom meant academics was naturally a non-issue, but in that idyllic high school life lay a problem.

“I feel like the biggest shortcoming I had when I was in you guys’ shoes was I didn’t ever develop a relationship with Jesus Christ before I went to college,” Clark said. “I just figured ‘oh, I’ll do it later,’ and ‘reading the Bible… that’s a really big book,’ and it was intimidating for me.

“When I got to Auburn, I was struggling with school—college classes are no joke.  College football was hard, because the expectations were so much higher.  You’re no longer the best person on the team and you’ve got four people in front of you when you’re trying to play.  And so it’s tough if you don’t have that foundation going through this world and you don’t have that anchor to hold onto for your values and faith.”

But upon cracking open a Bible early in his college career, he began to discover not only God’s lessons, but also how he could apply those lessons to his own life.

Three central ideas were what flipped the proverbial light bulb on in his mind.

The first was control, or the lack thereof.

“There are different things that come up in life that come up academically or with family where things just get taken out of our hands, and I feel like that’s one of the ways God sort of helps us find him,” Clark said. “Once we realize how little control we have over our own lives, we finally give it to him, the one who’s in control.”

The second was death, as few other things can awaken a person to one’s life and purpose.  Clark recounted the recent passing of two college friends as well as the passing of an uncle who succumbed to cancer right on the heels of Auburn’s national championship win.

“Nothing wakes you up like when you see that—what am I living for?  What’s my purpose here?” Clark said. “The darkness of experiencing those things shines a light on what is really important.”

Lastly, Clark talked about how desires can lead those to stray from the path, and a phenomenon he deemed the Ecclesiastes Complex.

But acknowledging these three hurdles alone isn’t enough, and giving one’s life to God won’t suddenly make life easier.

“Even after you accept God, I’m not saying all of the bad stuff stops happening.  I thought it did,” Clark said. “The year I gave my life to Christ, we went 3-9, I had a 38-yard punting average, my grandpa got diagnosed with cancer.  It was like I couldn’t win for losing.  But it’s been entirely worth it.  Good or bad, it’s the best decision that I’ve ever made.  A lot of these hardships can put us on the right path where instead of hitting rock bottom, we get rocked up.

“You don’t get any bigger or stronger until you put some weight on the bar.  You can just lift the bar every single day, but are you going to get stronger?  No.  It’s the same thing with our faith.”

Pastor Herbert Brown of Southside Baptist Church also spoke on the subject of being in it to win it both on the field of football and life.

He similarly outlined three essentials necessary to winning:  making the decision to win, being determined and being disciplined.

“Winning begins in the mind,” Brown said.  “A lot of times you’ll have athletes that are really strong, but neither football nor life is all physical.

“It starts in believing that you can win.  If you don’t believe that you can win, you’ll hit the field on Friday night and guess what’s going to happen?  You’re going to lose, because you’re going to be defeated before you ever start.”

Brown also recounted the story of when he joined a football camp at a young age with a  few stipulations from his father—he wouldn’t quit, and he would play.

“He didn’t mean he was going to twist the coach’s arm to make something happen,” Brown added. “He meant that you’re not going to quit, and you’re going to give it your all.  You’re going to be determined to stay with it until the end.”

Brown closed the program with a simple request.

“A few moments ago I asked you to turn to a friend or a teammate and say ‘I believe in you,’ and here’s why,” Brown said.  “I’m about to ask you to believe in somebody else tonight, and his name is Jesus Christ.”