Ohio State kicker Devin Barclay (23) played for four different MLS teams in five seasons before his soccer career ended due to injuries at age 22.
By Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY
Chad Marshall, a defender with the Columbus Crew and the U.S. soccer team, was a world away from the Horseshoe when he saw his friend Devin Barclay celebrate a very different kind of Goooooooal! A field goal.
Marshall was in Bratislava, Slovakia, last Saturday with the U.S. soccer team when he watched online as Barclay, a former pro soccer player, kicked a 39-yard field goal in overtime against Iowa to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 13 years.
"I was so happy for him," Marshall said. "It didn't work out for him with soccer because of injuries, but it's a testament to his hard work that he didn't give up."
Barclay's journey from soccer prodigy to MLS cast-off to Buckeyes hero is one of the more unlikely stories of this college football season.
"It's a crazy path. There's so many different roads I had to take to get here," Barclay told MLSnet.com this week as Ohio State prepared to face Michigan on Saturday.
Barclay was 17 when he signed with MLS as a Project-40 player as part of the league's development program. He also represented the USA on three youth national teams. Playing for four MLS teams in five seasons, his career was derailed by injuries. He was waived by the Crew in 2005, and his soccer career was over at age 22.
"Sometimes you have to be in the right situation with people who believe in you," said Alfonso Mondelo, who coached Barclay with the Tampa Bay Mutiny and now is head of player personnel at MLS. "But when one door closed, another one opened."
Jim Schmidtke, who runs the Athletes in Action ministry for the Crew and Buckeyes, helped opened that door when he suggested that Barclay, who had never kicked field goals but had an especially strong leg, give football a try.
"He used to always crush the ball," Marshall said of Barclay's soccer days.
Barclay practiced at a local high school, enrolled at an OSU branch and, after gaining clearance from the compliance office, he walked on with the Buckeyes last year.
"He may have liked the fact that we were senior-citizen friendly. We had Ryan Pretorius (a 29-year-old former pro rugby player from South Africa and former Buckeyes kicker)," coach Jim Tressel said about Barclay, 26.
When Aaron Pettrey suffered a knee injury against New Mexico State three weeks ago, Barclay took over. The junior has been perfect with nine PATs and is 4-for-7 on field goals, with his longest — 39 yards — also the biggest.
"Nothing in soccer was ever like this," Barclay said afterward.
This story appeared on the USA Today website at: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/bigten/2009-11-19-barclay-ohio-state_N.htm
11/17/2009 10:13 AM
By Craig Merz / MLSnet.com Staff
Devin Barclay spent five years in MLS but now is Rose Bowl bound with OSU. (AP)
COLUMBUS -- Columbus Crew Stadium and Ohio Stadium, home of the Ohio State University Buckeyes, are a mere two miles apart, but for Devin Barclay it might as well be the distant between the Earth and the moon.
The last many soccer people saw of the former teenage whiz kid was in a Columbus Crew uniform, finishing his Major League Soccer career in 2005.
Done and gone at age 22. That's what many thought of Barclay after the last of four professional stops that began five years earlier as a teenager with the long-gone Tampa Bay Mutiny.
Fast forward to Saturday evening in Columbus when Barclay, a junior walk-on football player, is ready to kick a 39-yard field goal to not only beat Iowa but give the Buckeyes at least a share of the Big Ten title and their first trip the Rose Bowl since 1996.
Actually, fast is not the operative word. Call it a long and winding route from Major League Soccer to one of the most storied programs in the country.
"It's a crazy path. My parents were kind of laughing about it. There's so many different roads I had to take to get here," Barclay said Monday ahead of what's known in Columbus simply as "Michigan Week," as the Buckeyes prepare to face their bitter rivals in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Barclay nailed the kick through the middle of the uprights in the closed end of the stadium for a 27-24 overtime victory. As he did when he scored a goal in soccer, Barclay took off running from his teammates but was quickly engulfed by them and a swarm of fans.
This being Columbus and him now a hero, Barclay's life changed quickly even if he wasn't aware of it. The video of his kick was posted on his Wikipedia page an hour after the game and had received thousands of hits. A Google search of his name revealed more than 2.5 million results today.
The reach of Ohio State football goes beyond the borders.
"I got a text from Chad Marshall saying congratulations," Barclay said of the Crew and U.S. defender. "He was watching the game in Slovakia (after the U.S. national team's friendly there earlier in the day). He was a really good friend of mine when I played here and I heard from (former Crew forward) Dante Washington and a lot of people I was close with when I was here that I had lost contact with over the years. It's really cool to hear from those guys."
The typical reaction?
"A lot of my soccer friends are still in shock that I made that transition because usually it happens a lot earlier like in high school. I just did it a little bit later," Barclay said.
So, how did the 26-year-old Annapolis, Md., native wind up as the top kicker for a top-10 team? Happenstance as much as anything.
Barclay was 17 when he signed with MLS as a Project-40 player as part of the league's development program. He was assigned to Tampa Bay but did not count against the roster or salary cap and was given funds to be used for a college education.
He had three goals and two assists in 23 games (12 starts) for the Mutiny in 2001. He had his own place to live and thought he would be enjoying the Florida sunshine for years. However, the league disbanded the team and he was acquired by San Jose in the dispersal draft.
His career never took off partly because of a series of injuries that robbed him of experience and the desire to continue in the sport he had played since he was a boy.
Barclay played just 321 minutes in 2002, was dealt to D.C. United the next season but missed much of the year after injuring his left foot in April. He appeared in three matches (no points) before undergoing surgery in August. He also had surgery on his shoulder in December.
The Crew traded for him in 2004 but he played only three games with one start before suffering a stress fracture in his right foot late in the season. The next season was even worse. Barclay separated his shoulder during a reserve match in the first month of the season and played just 19 minutes.
That was it as far as soccer.
"I had been in four different places in five years. I had a lot of injuries that set me back. It had been five years and the Project-40 contract was up," Barclay said. "I knew Columbus wasn't going to extend my stay here. I thought it made more sense to go to college at that point."
After being waived by the Crew, he decided to attend a branch of Ohio State in nearby Delaware, Ohio.
"I had to relearn everything because I had been out of school so long," he said. "Then I had to take the ACTs and go through that then go through the branch campus to get a GPA. I had to spend a quarter at the Delaware center."
Overcoming obstacles was nothing new. He was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder at age 7 and was put on the drug Ritalin -- a stimulant medication that helped him sit still in class. He took it but didn't feel right and eight years later decided he had enough.
"I had been on Ritalin my whole life and I just ended up getting off Ritalin and realizing I had to do the work," Barclay said. "Pretty plain and simple when I was in high school I didn't do the work I should have (when on Ritalin). I started doing the readings and wasn't taking shortcuts."
He got his high school diploma after being home-schooled by his mother, Liz, and never considered furthering his education until his soccer playing days were over.
While still with the Crew he was a dating a girl whose younger brother, Garrett Hummel, played high school football in Shelby, Ohio.
Hummel piqued Barclay's interest in placekicking and the pair used to jump the fence at the high school to practice. The biggest adjustment is getting quick height on a football after so many years after directing the ball low and hard on set pieces.
"It's a change of a dream when I made the transition from soccer to football," Barclay said. "It's a different type of kicking. It's something I like to do. Within the first week of kicking field goals I was like, 'I love this. This is fun and I think I can be good at it.' That's how the dream changed."
Barclay also got help from Jim Schmidtke, who runs the Athletes in Action ministry for the Crew and OSU football. He put Barclay in touch with several former Ohio State kickers and produced a video of Barclay's work to be shown the coaching staff.
"Jim played a very pivotal role in the sense that he helped me believe it was possible then got me in touch with the compliance guys to get that started," Barclay said.
"Devin has really done a lot of hard work to get to where he is today. It's pretty remarkable to see where he's come from and what he's done," Schmidtke said.
OSU head coach Jim Tressel eventually took notice of Barclay and gave him a spot on the team, albeit as the third-string kicker.
"He may have liked the fact that we were senior citizen friendly," Tressel said. "We had Ryan Pretorius before him."
Barclay last season was behind Pretorius, a 29-year-old former pro rugby player from South Africa, and Aaron Pettrey. As a junior this year, Barclay moved up to No. 2 behind the senior Pettrey but didn't expect to see any game action.
However, Pettrey tore a ligament in his right knee against New Mexico State on Oct. 31 and is out for the season. Barclay finished out the game and made all three extra points. He missed field goals from 47 and 36 yards with a successful 29-yarder in between.
To date, he has made all nine extra points and converted 4 of 7 field goals. The winner against Iowa was his longest. He has also kicked off 16 times.
"He's handled it pretty well," wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. "He's one of the older guys on the team so he's going to take a mature approach to it."
Barclay is not the same person physically or emotionally as soccer fans might remember him.
"I still had the build of a soccer player when I came here then I put on a little weight -- about 30 to 40 pounds," he said. "It's a totally different type of conditioning. The real difficult part about it was learning to lift the weights and do all the strength and conditioning."
He's two classes away from a degree in sports and leisure management (exercise science track) but will take post-graduate classes to be eligible next season.
His father, David, a Division III soccer All-American at Kenyon (Ohio) College, is more excited about seeing his son graduate than kicking a winning field goal.
"When I signed a contract to play soccer I'm pretty sure me and my dad thought there was a no chance I would ever get to college. That's the thing he's most proud about," Barclay said.
One thing hasn't changed for Barclay, though.
"I don't play soccer anymore but I love it," he said, citing Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona as his favorite teams. "I watch all the time. I watch Fox Soccer Channel at night and Sky Sports News and all those British highlights."
Craig Merz is a contributor to MLSnet.com.
Here is the link to the original story: MLS alum kicks into Buckeyes history
“How’s your day going?” “Fine.” “How are you doing?” “Good.”
Superficial conversations like this clutter and fill our lives daily. It is rare to find people who will admit the truth and not sugar-coat reality. Whether someone had a terrible day, an unbearable week, a grueling month or year, rarely will anyone admit the need for help and confess their personal trials and struggles. Now I understand the importance of not openly relinquishing information that may be used against you; and I acknowledge the wisdom that not everyone needs to know. But I am suggesting that when an individual struggles with issue “X”—whatever the issue is—and fails to confess his/her secrets, then he/she is only further isolating and hurting himself/herself. We are not alone in our struggles.
I commend Andre Agassi for writing his memoir “Open,” and admitting to his personal struggles and addictions. Although I may question his motives for revealing his shortcomings, I can appreciate his willingness to be honest and candid.
Proverbs 27:17 tells us that, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” And in the book of Romans we are urged to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” No man or woman is an island. We all truly need each other. You never know what your neighbor has gone through, or what life circumstances the guy at the gym has had to endure, or the challenges the girl at school faces every day. By ignoring reality, far too often we isolate ourselves from the very people that could be of assistance.
So the next time someone asks you, “How was your day?”—do something different and tell the truth!
The Athletes in Action staff members kept busy in Seattle on Saturday, with the Classic Coaches Clinic and AIA Volunteer Training taking place in the morning, and a special presentation to former U. of Washington head coach Marv Harshman in the evening.
The highlight Saturday was the presentation to Harshman. The halftime tribute included a special video, which featured Harshman’s accomplishments at UW and his influence on the basketball community. Harshman was presented with a special picture collage by AIA’s Dave Lower and the Senior Associate AD for the Huskies, Stephanie Rempe. The crowd was on their feet throughout the presentation, giving Harshman a standing ovation at its conclusion.
Saturday morning about 15 coaches attended the AIA Classic Coaches Clinic to hear each head coach from the participating tournament teams speak on various topics. Robby Cowgill, former Washington State Cougar basketball player and current AIA staff member at Washington State, emceed the clinic. In addition to the clinic, Cowgill and AIA basketball staff member Mike Sigfrids led pre-game chapels for the Belmont basketball team throughout the tournament.
Also happening just a few minutes down the road from the University of Washington at Bethany Community Church, the AIA Volunteer Training offered a great opportunity for those in the community to learn more about how they can volunteer their time with Athletes in Action. A common misconception about AIA is that the organization only needs athletes to join as team members or coaches, when in fact some of the biggest needs are actually in areas such as photography, writing, SportLinc mentorship and international team leadership. To learn more about how you can become involved with Athletes in Action visit http://volunteers.athletesinaction.org/.
Saturday night results (11/14):
Wright State beat Portland State 75-70.
University of Washington beat Belmont 96-78
Day 2: Athletes in Action Classic
As the starters for the first game of the Athletes in Action Classic were announced on Friday night each one ran through his line of teammates, high-fiving and jumping around, then proceeded to center court to toss a pair of socks in a Socks for Seattle donation bin. This process repeated for the second game of the night as well, a fun reminder for fans to take part in the sock drive throughout the weekend.
It was encouraging to see all of the tournament teams participating in the sock drive. Both Belmont and Wright State are over 2,000 miles from Seattle, but they still managed to bring a few bags of socks to the tournament. With the example that the teams set, AIA is hoping to see the number of sock donations from fans increase as the tournament progresses.
On Friday night the number of sock donations was actually a little higher than expected, but with the increased awareness from the promotions at Friday’s games, Athletes in Action is expecting to see even more packages come in on Saturday and Sunday.
Here’s Life Inner City will be distributing the socks to those in need in the Seattle/Tacoma area after the tournament has concluded.
Friday night Results (11/13):
Belmont beat Portland State 74-67.
University of Washington beat Wright State 74-69.
An update on the first day of the AIA Basketball Classic
The AIA Classic breakfast proved to be a success on Thursday morning (11/12/09), as more than 50 men and women gathered to listen to University of Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar and former Husky and NFL quarterback Tom Flick share about the importance of leadership and the role that faith plays in their lives.
“We are moving away from the information age and into the inspiration age,” Flick said. He went on to explain that we may not remember who the last 10 Heisman Trophy winners were, or who the top 10 richest men in the world are, but we can easily name our five best friends, or two people who have made a difference in our lives. He expressed the importance of leadership and challenged everyone to not check their voicemail when they left, but instead call a few important people in their lives and tell them that they love them.
Romar followed Flick, sharing about the journey from his childhood in Compton, California, to his basketball experiences in high school, community college, at University of Washington, in the pros, with AIA, and eventually in his various coaching positions. He talked about how the Lord used his seven years with Athletes in Action to prepare him to go out into the coaching world as a strong believer. Coach Romar also explained the spiritual growth in his life, how he went from thinking that his chance to go to heaven was all about doing good deeds and “scoring points with the Lord,” to the realization that it was all about the Lord’s forgiveness and putting complete trust in His plan.
Overall, the breakfast was a great way to kickoff the weekend. Games start today (11/13/09), with Portland State and Belmont playing at 4:30 p.m. PST, and the University of Washington and Wright State playing at 7 p.m. PST.
Other Events this weekend:
AIA Volunteer Training: Saturday 11/14, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., to sign up or learn more go to: http://volunteers.athletesinaction.org/.
AIA Basketball Coaches Clinic: Saturday 11/14, 9:30-11:30 a.m., learn more or sign up go to: http://www.aiabasketball.org/.
Socks for Seattle: AIA is collecting packages of new socks at the tournament to give to the less fortunate in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Read more here: http://www.athletesinaction.org/news/post/Athletes-in-Action-Basketball-Classic-is-Bringing-Socks-to-Seattle.aspx
Can’t make it to the tournament, but still want to donate to Socks for Seattle? Please use the following link to donate online: https://give.ccci.org/give/View/2852984_1504
By Bruce Darnall
Every time Gabe Gross, outfielder of the Tampa Bay Rays, approaches home plate for his turn at bat in Tropicana Field, the music played as “Gabe’s Song” is the Christian song “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman. To Gabe, it has a clear Christian message, and it is a chance to share the importance of his Christian faith. As his mother, Betty, a former elementary teacher, stated, “Gabe has a real passion for sports, but he also has a real passion for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” As Gabe puts it: “When I hear the song, it takes me to the part of the song where he sings how the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, and still he sings blessed be the name of the Lord. I pray for that attitude in all circumstances whether the Lord gives or takes away, in my heart I can honor Him and praise Him.”
Gabe grew up in a home where values and faith were very important. Lee and Betty Gross of Dothan, Alabama, raised their two sons, Bo and Gabe, in the Southern Baptist Church tradition; and at every stop the Gross’ made, they found a church home to help nurture the boys in their faith.
Gabe, at a very early age, became a sponge wanting to absorb Bible stories and verses and to learn the message of Jesus and the way to heaven. Gabe’s mother tells the story when in second grade and living in Panama City, Florida, there was a free reading time at school and kids could bring books from home. Gabe took his Bible. He took some flack for that, but he just rolled with it. The family moved back to Dothan, Alabama, and at Sunday school the teacher asked kids if anyone wanted to say a prayer. Gabe was the only one willing. “I remember the time,” she continues, “after spending a lot of time talking about why Jesus came to earth to be the savior of the world, Gabe said, ‘it was lucky Jesus came, now we don’t have to go out to find lambs to kill.’ Wow, what comes from the mind of a child. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and now we don’t need another one.”
Gabe continued to read and ask questions. At night Gabe’s mother would come in for his bedtime prayer, and they would spend time talking about God’s plan of salvation and what needs to be done to be “saved” and receive eternal life.
At nine years old Gabe felt he was ready to make a commitment of faith. The Gross family was living in Lynn Haven, Florida, and attending the First Baptist Church. Rev. Dennis Pledger was pastor and a sports lover who Gabe seemed to gravitate to. One Sunday during the Sunday altar call, Gabe got up and went forward to make his commitment of faith. Pastor Pledger took Gabe to his office after the service to talk and to make sure Gabe understood the commitment. “I want to be a follower of Christ and I want to be saved,” Gabe told him. “We prayed and I accepted Christ as my Savior.”
Gabe explains, “People ask how much a nine-year-old can understand of the plan of salvation. A nine-year-old does not understand all the issues; but one can understand that to be saved one has to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus was on this earth, died on the cross for me, and rose from the dead.” One of Gabe’s favorite verses is John 14:16, “Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
Gabe has been in sports all of his life; he was always outside playing baseball or shooting hoops. He was always competing against his brother, Bo, who was three years older and played varsity football at Texas Christian University. It certainly helped Gabe by playing against good competition as well as learning from it. Organized football did not come into his life until his seventh grade, although Little League started earlier. His father, Lee, played center four years at Auburn University and was the sixth pick in the second round of the NFL draft. He went on to play professional football, three years (1976-78) for the New Orleans Saints and one year (1979) with the Baltimore Colts before his knees took him out of the game.
At Northview High School in Dothan, Gabe excelled in sports, especially football (three years), baseball (three years), and basketball (two years). Gabe was placed on the All-Regional (Super 12) team once each in football and baseball. He was on honor roll and he was captain of his Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle his senior year.
After an excellent high school career, Gabe was recruited by Auburn University. Coach Terry Bowden wanted Gabe to play football and Coach Hal Baird wanted him for baseball. Gabe attended summer baseball camps at Auburn and was acquainted with Coach Baird. Both coaches approved the two sport effort with football offering the scholarship. As a true freshman in football, Gabe came into the third game of the year for the injured starting quarterback to finish out the game against eventual national champion Tennessee. He went on to start six games for Auburn in 1998 where he passed for 1,222 yards and threw for seven touchdowns.
In the spring Gabe had a great season in baseball, earning freshman All-American honors. As a freshman Gabe batted .366 with seven home runs. As a sophomore, he batted .430 with 13 home runs and was awarded All SEC and All-American. His junior year, Gabe finished with a .330 average, 15 home runs and All SEC. He made second team All-Academic his junior year.
Lee shares, “I will always remember the spring of 1999 of his freshman year. Football had its spring practice game and Gabe had a great game where he was the game MVP. As soon as the game was over, he went across the street, put on his baseball uniform, and started and played for the Tigers’ baseball team. Gabe got the game winning hit to beat Ole Miss. That day was pretty special.”
That spring of his freshman year during baseball, new football coach Tommy Tuberville and Gabe met to discuss his involvement with baseball and his chances of playing football in the fall. Tuberville indicated Gabe needed to concentrate on football. Coach Baird told Gabe that pro scouts were asking him if Gabe was going to play baseball or football.
By the third football game his sophomore year, Coach Tuberville was looking to go in a different direction. Gabe saw the writing on the wall. With fall baseball just beginning, Gabe chose to drop football and take the baseball scholarship and concentrate on baseball. “Gabe absolutely loved both football and baseball, and it was a very tough decision for Gabe to make,” Lee says. “But he had to choose one sport and go with it. He chose baseball, and I feel he made a good choice.”
Lance Cormier, a Rays’ teammate and fellow Christian, says, “As a player, Gabe was an All-American type player for Auburn and I was a pitcher for the University of Alabama, arch rivals in the SEC conference. Gabe was one of their best players who could really do everything, so it was always a great challenge and a battle in those games the three years we played each other.”
While at Auburn, Gabe continued to grow in his spiritual life. As a freshman, he attended meetings sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). By his junior year there were so many Christian baseball coaches and baseball players they ended up having their own fellowship and Bible studies. By then, Coach Baird retired and was replace by Coach Steve Renfro; plus, the pitching coach was Coach Mark Fuller. Coaches Renfro and Fuller were very strong believers whose lives reflected their love for Jesus. Gabe also spent time talking and sharing with Athletes in Action director Dave Reid.
Gabe, a business management major, had three really good years of baseball at Auburn. He was hopeful that it would take him to the next level. In June of 2001, after his junior year at Auburn, Gabe was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round. He spent his first one and a half months in the Florida State League, a high Single A baseball, with Dunedin Blue Jays; then, the last couple of weeks he was with the Knoxville (Tennessee) Smokies at Double A ball.
The off season after his first professional season Gabe went back to Auburn to continue to work on his game. During the winter Gabe was introduced to Kelly Gesch , a sophomore co-ed at Auburn, through some mutual friends. “I was attracted to Gabe because of his character and he was a man of God,” Kelly says. “As time went along, I sensed he would be perfect to be the leader of our household one day.”
Kelly, who played a little softball and soccer in high school, says she was “really oblivious to it all. I had no clue when it came to big-time sports, especially football or baseball, or even to Gabe’s involvement at Auburn. I only knew him after he was in the minors leagues,” she says. “I had considered trying out to be a Tigerette hostess for Auburn football, and I wanted to talk to someone who knew Auburn football. My mother told me I had the perfect person in Gabe, that he played football at Auburn.”
Actually, attending Auburn was not supposed to be. Her family went to Florida State University (FSU), and she just assumed she would too. After a visit, she wasn’t sure if FSU was the one. Her father, now a retired colonel in the Air Force, had visited the Auburn campus and was impressed. Following his suggestion to visit, Kelly fell in love with Auburn.
Gabe and Kelly dated for a year and became engaged. After a ten-month engagement, Kelly graduated with a marketing degree in December, 2003, and they were married on January 10, 2004.
Gabe spent 2002 season at Double A Knoxville which gave Kelly a chance to visit Gabe. The 2003 season the Blue Jays moved their Double A team to New Haven, Connecticut, where he played for the Ravens until they moved him up to the Triple A Syracuse Sky Chiefs. The fall of 2003 was pretty special when he was on the Olympic qualifying team which included the likes of Minnesota Twins MVP Joe Mauer and others who made it to the big leagues. Gabe says, “It was quite an honor to represent the USA. I felt quite proud; and, when they played the national anthem, it was a thrilling moment.”
For the start of 2004 and for most of the season, Gabe was at Syracuse, but he was called up to Toronto on August 6. His major league debut was on August 7 against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. With Kelly, Kelly’s parents Wolfgang and Joan Gesch, and his parents in the stands, Gabe recorded his first major league hit in his first major league at bat with an infield single. Two days later, Gabe hit his first major league home run against the Yankees with a two-run homer on a 5-4 win for Toronto. “My parents planned to fly home so I only left tickets for Kelly and her parents,” Gabe says. “When my parents got to the airport, Dad asked the airline if they had a later flight which they did. Unbeknownst to me, they got a seat in the outfield not far from me. Later in the game, I hit my first major league home run, and Kelly, Kelly’s parents, and my parents were all there. That was really special.” On September 5 against Oakland, Gabe hit his first grand slam home run and had a career best five RBIs.
Gabe spent most of the 2005 season back at Triple A Syracuse where he batted .297 with 6 HRs and 46 RBIs in 102 games. He was named the Blue Jays minor league star of the month twice, in July and August. He played in 20 games in Toronto during four separate stints with the Blue Jays. The 2005 off-season found Gabe being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.
With the Brewers in 2006, Gabe played in 117 games with a .274 average, 9 HRs, and 38 RBIs. It was with the Brewers where he found several “like minded” teammates. He and Brian Shouse connected because of their Christian faith. Brian, now a teammate with the Rays, states, “Gabe has been a great friend that started back in Milwaukee. He is a fine baseball player, but he also is a strong believer in Jesus Christ. He has helped me to grow in my faith as well as building my confidence to speak and share my faith. We have a lot in common and it has been fun being together as teammates again.” That year Gabe recorded his first hit as a Brewer with a pinch-hit two-run home run which makes him only the fifth player in Brewer history to homer in his first at-bat with the team.
The 2007 season saw Gabe on the Major League roster for the Brewers. He was sent to Nashville before being brought back up to Milwaukee. Gabe hit his first two-homer game against the Phillies and he hit his second grand slam. While at Nashville he batted .355.
Gabe started the 2008 season with the Brewers but was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays on April 23. He batted .242 and played in 127 games, playing most of them in right field but seeing time in all three outfield positions. He hit a career-high 13 HRs with three walk-off RBIs, tying him with Fred McGriff for the club record for a single season. One of them was an 11th inning single off Yankee closer Mariano Rivera for Gabe’s first career game-ending hit.
Gabe found fellowship with Christians in the Rays clubhouse, however, it has been his teammates who have found Gabe to be a strong Christian influence. “Gabe is one of the most solid Christians I have been around,” Lance Cormier says. “He knows the Scriptures. We have a core group of guys who have Bible study together, and Gabe and Ben Zobrist are the ones that guys go to because they are strong in [their knowledge of] the Word. Gabe is strong in his beliefs and does not waiver in any way.”
Ben Zobrist adds, “Gabe has been a huge help for me in my walk with the Lord. He has been a faithful man of God, an honest man and a man of integrity. I look up to him on how strong he holds the truth up. When we get together in Bible study, I value his opinions, and I talk to him as much as possible on spiritual matters.”
The 2008 season was a dream season with the Rays winning the American League Championship and going to the World Series. “The World Series was quite an experience. The media frenzy and pressure was at a different level. I got in one game and drove in two runs against Jamie Moyer in a loss against the Phillies. But I was proud of the accomplishments the team achieved last year.”
The 2009 season had its ups and downs. In the middle of the season Gabe played fairly steady, and he felt he contributed to the team even though the team faced injuries. As the injured teammates recovered, there was less opportunity. However, there was one very special event that happened this year and that was the birth of Allie. Cormier says, “It was really neat seeing Gabe go through this transition in life. When Allie came and he became a father, Gabe was so full of joy and happiness. He cares so much for his family.”
Gabe sees sports, especially baseball, as his ministry. His mother says, “To Gabe, God has given him ability to play sports, and he uses sports as a ministry to witness for the Lord. He still feels this way. It is a way to reach people for Christ and to model a lifestyle that is often not seen. The song that is played when he goes to bat is a strong Christian song. He is a follower of Jesus Christ who happens to play professional baseball.”
In the off season, Gabe, Kelly, and Allie reside in Auburn, Alabama, and they are members of Opelika Baptist Church. Gabe takes time to speak to church groups, FCA functions, youth groups and conferences. He agreed to be a speaker for a TV ad against tobacco use. “When I was with Toronto, I had the song ‘I Can Only Imagine’ by Mercy Me, where he sings that he can only imagine what it’s like going to heaven and to meet Christ face to face and he says clearly the name of Jesus,” Gabe says. “When I was in Milwaukee, I started using ‘I Can Only Imagine,’ then I brought in ‘Blessed Be Your Name.’ When I came to the Rays, I used just ‘Blessed Be Your Name.’”
Gabe says another favorite Bible verse of his is Proverbs 3:5-6: “’Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.’ I try to be aware through baseball and all of life who I am representing. The song ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ was chosen because it is a statement of who I represent. I represent my wife and daughter, our families, Auburn, and the state of Alabama which I love, but most of all I represent the Lord Jesus Christ. The song magnifies God, and it states in the song ‘Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.’”
Bruce Darnall is a freelance writer from Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Merely one season ago, the Tennessee Titans were atop the NFL, sporting a respectful 13-3 record. Fast forward nine months, and they can barely score a touchdown, let alone get a win. What a difference a year makes. With no ill-intention, the Titans serve merely as an example; numerous other teams have and could be the goat in this situation. Athletes and coaches alike—within the professional ranks—are merely a commodity. They are one loss or injury away from being traded, released, or discarded as a “wash.” Many dismiss this as merely business.
Athletes are paid outrageous amounts of money, so shouldn’t they be held to an elite performance expectation? I’m not going to argue this position either way, but I will suggest that many of our amateur sports are being treated with the same scrutiny. Whether it is the increased emphasis on winning, on extrinsic rewards (i.e. college scholarships, potential lucrative contracts, media exposure, etc.) or the increase of bureaucratization, an activity originally intended for recreation is no longer treated and viewed as such.
Now, being a former college athlete myself, I understand the dedication, hard work, and character it takes to ready yourself for competition. As a believer, I firmly grasp the spiritual parallel that the Bible offers in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” I’m not discounting the need to be ready “in and out of season,” both in a spiritual context as well as a sporting realm, but I am questioning individuals’ motivation in enduring the physical regime that sport specification requires. Is it solely for the love of the game? I cannot answer this question for everyone.
In a day where athletes are specializing in single sports to gain an edge on their competitors, and local high school coaches receive threats from fans when their teams don’t beat their rivals, I fear that the art of “having fun” through sport participation has lost its luster. Maybe when parents quit vicariously living through their children to achieve accolades that they never were awarded, or maybe when youth coaches realize that their ability to coach their child’s teams to undefeated seasons will not result in NFL coaching position offers—maybe, just maybe then—our kids won’t experience “burnout” from having fun.
Seattle, WA—November 2, 2009- With the winter months approaching and the economy still struggling, many families cannot afford winter clothing essentials. Beyond the usual requests for warm coats, hats and gloves, one essential that many in the Seattle-Tacoma area will be missing this winter are new, thick-soled socks.
To address this need Athletes in Action is partnering with Here’s Life Inner City to launch the Socks for Seattle campaign. The sock drive will take place November 13-15 during the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic at the University of Washington.
The Athletes in Action Basketball Classic will kick off the 2009-2010 season for four Division-1 teams. Belmont, Portland State and Wright State will join tournament host, University of Washington, in a round-robin format with two games played on all three days (Nov. 13-15). All participating teams are being asked to donate socks to the campaign.
Fans will be invited to bring packages of new, thick-soled socks (children & adult sizes) to any of the tournament’s six games throughout the weekend. Collection bins will be placed inside the entrances of Hec Edmundson Pavilion where fans can drop off donations.
Here’s Life Inner City will distribute the socks to children & adults in the Seattle-Tacoma area after the tournament.
“Leveraging this tournament to help the families of the Seattle-Tacoma through Here’s Life Inner City is a great privilege and much anticipated partnership.” says Mark Householder, President of Athletes in Action.
Athletes in Action is anticipating great success in using this platform as tournament host to help the local community.
Since 1983, Here's Life Inner City’s wide-ranging efforts have provided the poor with food and other basic necessities, life skills, career development and youth development programs. For more information on HLIC visit www.hlic.org.
Founded in 1966, Athletes in Action is a global pioneer, innovator and servant leader in sport ministry. Athletes in Action currently has a presence in 75 countries, on nearly 100 U.S college campuses, and 35 U.S professional sports teams. For more information on Athletes in Action visit www.athletesinaction.org.
Athletes in Action
In a rare opportunity, the MSU football team has tapped a sophomore to lead the Spartans in battle
By Matt Bishop (Last updated: 10/15/09 10:43pm)
Don Cousins came to campus a few weeks ago to hear his son, Kirk, speak to the members of Campus Crusade for Christ. MSU’s sophomore quarterback held up the team’s playbook for the team’s well-documented rivalry game — the annual tilt with Michigan.
“He said, ‘This is what the coaches have put together for the Michigan game and if we execute what’s in this book, the belief is we can beat Michigan,’” Don recalled his son telling the group.
Then Kirk went on to tell of one playbook that never leaves his backpack.
“He held up the Bible and said, ‘This is the playbook for life,’” Don said. “For me, as a dad, that little analogy right there summarized what my wife and I have been trying to be about with our kids since they were born.”
Raised as a devout Christian by his parents, Kirk Cousins took the values and convictions he learned growing up in Chicago and Holland, Mich., and applied them to his life — as a son, student, friend and football player.
And although Cousins has five starts at quarterback for the Spartans this season and likely many more in his future, he won’t allow football to define him.
Faith and family come first for one of MSU’s most mature 21-year-olds.
One of three children, Kirk Cousins has been immersed in faith his entire life. He calls his father — who is in the ministry, speaks around the country and authors books that sell in Christian bookstores — “the major leader” in his life.
Cousins views his faith as a relationship with God — not making it a religion or about rituals, but a relationship.
“I want to talk to him, I want to be in prayer with him, I want to be giving him my requests and my worries and my stresses and the pressures I face,” he said. “I want to give that over to him because he says, ‘Cast your burdens on me because I care for you.’ So he cares for me.”
Before Cousins came to MSU in summer 2007, he was fresh off a two-week Bible study in Israel, a trip he said “really got me focused on what was most important right before I came here.”
Raised in a Christian home and going to Holland Christian High School, coming to MSU would be an enlightening experience.
“When I came to Michigan State, obviously it’s a worldly place; things are very different,” Cousins said. “People don’t talk the way I’m used to hearing people talk back in Holland. People don’t act the way I’m used to people acting back in Holland on Friday nights and Saturday nights, so I knew pretty quickly that if I wanted to honor the Lord, it was going to be more of a challenge here than it was back at home. I was going to be more swimming upstream, going against the grain. I just checked myself right away. I said, ‘Am I going to be a man and step up?’”
But it was a conversation with his father that really set the tone for him.
“He said, ‘Kirk, we’ve raised you for 18 years now and we’re letting you go. We have to figure out if you’re going to be a man on your own or are you going to stoop to people’s lower expectations or are you going to take the high road?’ and I decided that’s not going to be me,” Cousins said. “I’m going to be somebody who takes the high road. That’s what I did.”
But being away from home weighed on Cousins early. He said he was homesick, scared and alone, despite his family being only 90 minutes away. He couldn’t even imagine what his teammates from across the country — or students who came from across the world — were going through.
“I’m not a big person who likes change,” he said. “But I just kept reminding myself that the Lord led me here and he’s got a plan for my life and I’m going to trust him and trust that if I continue to honor him, he’s going to have a plan and I can see now, two years later looking back, how the more I just stayed the course and just continued to honor him and not get sidetracked, he’s continued to provide and honor me.”
And that was important for Cousins to reaffirm his beliefs, considering what many students indulge in — partying, drinking, swearing — and the pressures of a major university’s social scene.
“There’s nothing wrong with going out, there’s nothing wrong with having a couple of beers,” he said. “Sometimes I may give people the wrong impression that that is wrong and I don’t want to do that because there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Cousins said he’s busy to the point that when he gets a chance to sit and watch TV, that’s all he wants to do. After games, you can find him watching whatever football games are on at the time. He also is active in Athletes in Action and hosted a Bible study group for the team this summer, which 10 to 15 players regularly attended, he said.
Marching to his own beat
Don Cousins said he and his wife, MaryAnn, felt joy when Kirk was named a team captain in August — just the second sophomore captain in program history.
“Kirk has always been a young man who set the bar, so to speak,” Don said. “He’s always been someone who’s marched to the beat of his own drum, as my wife likes to put it. He’s an independent thinker and he has a strength of character that has allowed him really, over the course of much of his life, to make decisions for himself.”
Don recalled a time Kirk was in high school and was invited to see a PG-13 movie with some friends. From a young age, Don said they always instilled the message, “When you make good decisions, good things happen, and when you make bad decisions, bad things happen,” a simplified version of a proverb Don is fond of.
Don said Kirk researched the movie and it contained some questionable material, but Don let Kirk make the decision on his own, asking him, “Would going to that movie be a good decision or a bad decision?”
Sure enough, Kirk called Don back a few minutes later and said he decided to pass on the movie.
“When something is unfolding that is not keeping with his own values and convictions, he has no problem with standing up and saying, ‘I’m going to take a pass on that,’” Don said.
Cousins always has been ahead of the curve, always been a leader. Whether it’s putting an arm around a teammate who fumbled or hanging out with members of the Spartan Marching Band on Sparty Watch, Cousins believes in doing the right thing.
“I want to have great success here as a student, as a football player and then as a leader on this campus,” Cousins said. “I want to be a person who has some influence here on people, and students in general. I want to be a person that, when I leave, people say, ‘He had a positive impact on this university.’”
Builder of people
Cousins isn’t afraid to speak his mind in the locker room.
His speeches to the team aren’t superficial — they have meaning, senior receiver Blair White said. Senior defensive end Trevor Anderson called them “powerful.”
When Cousins was a senior point guard for the Holland Christian boy’s basketball team, a freshman was brought up to varsity and likely would take a lot of playing time from two of Cousins’ friends.
“I looked down to the end of the court and I see Kirk standing around the free-throw line and he has his arm around this freshman kid,” Don Cousins said, fighting back tears. “He’s got his arm around this freshman kid and Kirk was clearly the leader of the team. … For Kirk to put his arm around that kid before the game began was sending a message to that kid, as well as to his teammates, but specifically to that kid, that words can’t explain. That’s Kirk.”
Running backs coach Dan Enos, who recruited Cousins to MSU while quarterbacks coach under John L. Smith, says the team really responds to Cousins’ leadership.
“He’s a guy that when he makes a mistake, he owns up to it,” Enos said. “He never tries to point fingers at anybody else and actually probably puts too much blame on himself sometimes that he shouldn’t, but that’s what great leaders do.”
Cousins said he leads by being positive and encouraging people, but he sometimes will get frustrated and have to “get in a guy’s face a little bit.”
“But I try to be somebody who builds into people and really invests in them,” he said.
Cousins said a lot of leaders in America care about themselves more than others, and that’s not the way to do things.
“What leadership is, is going down and bringing people up,” Cousins said. “It’s not, ‘Look at me, I’m up here, come up to my level.’ It’s going down to their level and bringing them up and taking them to where they couldn’t have gotten.”
Anderson said he’s watched Cousins blossom into the leader he is and, as a sophomore, Cousins has earned the right to say the things he does.
“He’s not trying to overlead,” Anderson said. “He’s not letting people get in his head and tell him, ‘Oh, you’ve got to do this and you’ve got to do that.’ He’s going out there and being able to play at the same time and knowing when to say something and when to shut up.”
Don Cousins said Kirk understands what leadership is about — it’s not all about being the hardest worker or the most diligent.
“My son understands leadership is about caring for his teammates as people,” Don Cousins said. “He has lived that out in such a way that when they elected him as a captain, they saw that in him.”
Enos said he “absolutely” would call Cousins a natural-born leader.
“I think that’s a great way to put it,” he said. “Some people can be great leaders and not be great players and some people can be great players and not be great leaders. We think he has the potential to do both.”
Last October, Detroit sports personality and columnist Rob Parker said in a segment on WDIV-TV in Detroit that Cousins was involved in an off-campus fight that sent hockey defenseman A.J. Sturges to the hospital.
Cousins was with his family in their hotel room at the time. For anyone who knew Cousins, they likely knew the report was incorrect.
Cousins said the situation didn’t bother him much because he knew he wasn’t there. Instead, his thoughts on the situation shifted to an unlikely source.
“Who I really felt bad for was the guy who wrote the story, because I thought he was the one who was going to take the hit on this,” Cousins said.
Said Don Cousins: “I’ve got to admit, that wasn’t the way I was looking at it.”
MSU head coach Mark Dantonio came out at his weekly press conference two days later and defended Cousins.
“What’s not fair to do is what Rob Parker … from The Detroit News, who went on TV the other day, WDIV-TV Sunday night in Detroit and made a reference to Kirk Cousins being at the heart of this whole matter, which is totally inaccurate and I take offense to that, his family takes offense to that and he was with his family all night Saturday night and I think that borders on slander and if you’re going to say something, you better get it right,” Dantonio said.
“So, here’s a young man who does everything right and he’s thrown under the bus by somebody who has no credibility in my mind.”
Don Cousins said Dantonio’s aggressive defense of his son “meant a great deal” and the truth only affirmed who Kirk was.
Parker and the station later apologized to Cousins, his family and the university.
“Coach Dantonio has always done that, he’s always defended our players and especially players who are trying to do the right thing all the time,” Kirk Cousins said.
“We have a saying around here that, basically, what we say is, ‘do the right thing all the time, period.’ No matter what situation I’m in, I’m going to try to do the right thing all the time. I think Coach D was just trying to defend a player who he trusted.”
Through everything he does, Cousins is quick to point out he’s not perfect.
When Cousins makes the rare off-color remark, his teammates are there to let him hear about it.
“Every now and then, a swear word will come out but they’ll look at me and they’ll catch me and say, ‘Kirk, you can’t do that. Not you.’ And they almost coach me more than I coach myself making sure that I don’t go down the wrong road,” he said.
“I just tell them, ‘Hey, that’s Jesus Christ inside of me. That’s not me. I’m a sinner. I’m a horrible person, but Jesus Christ inside is special and he can be special inside you, too, if you let him.’”
He says the team has been “great” about not ridiculing him for his strong faith and what he’s trying to do.
And even if football doesn’t work out for Cousins, he still has a bright future ahead of him.
On a premedical track, Cousins said it’s his dream to play football as long as he can, but he’s not counting on it.
He plans to put everything he has into football and school at MSU and “let the chips fall where they may.”
He said he’d eventually like to go to medical school to become a doctor.
“It’s truly rewarding to be here as a student and it’s a real blessing to be here at this university and the support that we receive from the student body, the marching band and all that,” he said.
“There’s just such loyal fans here. It’s just great to be a part of. I’m just living a dream, really, and hopefully there’s better things in the future to come.”
Originally Published: 10/15/09 9:49pm on: http://www.statenews.com/index.php/article/2009/10/leader_of_men