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Faith helps Husker Recruit Darlington

Nebraska football recruit and star quarterback for Apopka High School woke in a hospital last week with a possible season-ending concussion. He was airlifted to a hospital after being knocked out of a national televised football game. It was his second concussion in two months

He is the top-ranked prospect in the Sentinel’s 2014 Central Florida Super60 rankings and was named the 2012 All-Central Florida Offensive Player of the Year. In addition to Nebraska, he was also being recruited by Ohio State before recently choosing the Huskers.

I had the opportunity to meet his father a few months ago. I was with a group of FCA staff that were part of the annual “FCA Coaches Academy.” We had been invited to watch the Apopka High School spring practice and listen to Coach Rick Darlington talk about how his faith impacts his coaching. While I was impressed watching one of the top high school football programs in Florida scrimmage, I was more impressed by seeing the positive impact a Christian coach can have on a group of students. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has placed greater emphasis in recent years on the importance of doing ministry to and through the coach.

Coach Darlington said that his son will take time off to recover from the head injury, and there is no timetable for when he might return.

It didn’t surprise me to read that his son’s faith was helping him deal with the possible loss of his football career. “It was really scary, some of the things they were telling me with how long I was out and things like that,” Zack said. “So it was scary at first, but for me to be able to heal from that … God, he knows what’s going on, and I’ve got to have a little bit of comfort in knowing that. I was talking to my dad in the hospital, and I realized God has changed my role. I might not be the person that gets to be able to score the touchdown when it’s needed or make the big play. … Now it’s my turn to go out and coach my team and my brothers … that’s my role now.”

Even if Zach doesn’t play quarterback again, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini announced that he would honor his scholarship offer.  Zach hopes to be a coach-in-training even if he never takes a snap at Nebraska.

“I’m not an overly emotional person, but I’ve shed a lot of tears just thinking that he might not be on the field with us this year, his senior year,” said Rick. “I trust that God’s plan is bigger than our plan, and there is a reason this is happening. Obviously, he’s got some things to work on with Zack as a young man.“My wife brought something to me and said, ‘Zack is like a piece of gold that God wants to continue to polish and shine and work on until, when he looks at Zack, he sees his own reflection.’  Trials are going to make him stronger. I’d love to have him out there with a helmet on Friday night, but I’m just glad he is safe and healthy and I can still coach with him. I’m blessed.”

Discussion:
1. What stood out to you in this article?
2. What is the worst sport injury you have experienced? What did God teach you through that setback?
3. Why do you think Romans 8:28-29 is a favorite Bible verses for many athletes?
4.  Do you agree with this statement, “God is chiseling out your character through setbacks.”
5. Read Romans 5:3-5. What do these verses teach about handling setbacks?
6. Read 2 Corinthians 12:9. What does Paul mean by “My grace is sufficient for you…”?
Resources:
Watch Wes Neal the author of “The Handbook on Athletic Perfection” [1] and “Called to Compete: Doing Sports God’s Way” [2] teach on setbacks here.  [3]
Quotes from Rick and Zack Darlington from the Orlando Sentinel. Click here for the article. [4]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gordon Thiessen has served on staff with the Nebraska FCA since 1986. Currently, he is the Director of Training and Resources for the Nebraska FCA. He has also founded Cross Training Publishing (www.crosstrainingpublishing.com [5]). He co-authored Team Studies on Character [6], Called to Compete  [7]and edited The Athletes Topical Bible. [8] He is married to Terri and has four grown children. You can find out more information about the Nebraska FCA at www.nebraskafca.org. [9]

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