Travis Crim remembers kneeling in the middle of Legion Field just moments after the 1996 Iron Bowl had ended. Alabama had just squeaked by Auburn in the final seconds of that game, and the team rushed the field. Fans were going wild after waiting all year for this one day, this one moment, that promised bragging rights for the next 365 days.
There was an Auburn University player on Travis’ left and one of his teammates on his right. They held hands as they prayed together, thanking God for the opportunity to play a game they loved, for safety, for unity.
There isn’t a lot of unity when it comes to the Iron Bowl—unless you count a mutual dislike of Tennessee and LSU. It’s a rivalry that divides a state with the passion of the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Montagues and the Capulets, Hemingway and Faulkner—all at once. In a state nestled in the Bible Belt, it seems fans sometimes forget their faith on that one day in November.
In an attempt to keep the next generation from carrying on the hate, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Trideum are teaming up to host the Iron Bowl Prayer Breakfast on November 15 at Asbury UMC. Travis, along with former Auburn University punter Steven Clark, will be the keynote speakers as they talk about faith, football and that one time Steven ran into Nick Saban on the 50-yard-line and lived to tell about it.
Ken Burnett, the multi-area director of Northeast Alabama FCA, said the prayer breakfast is meant to strip away some of the preconceptions fans have about the other side.
“It’s just a cool platform that God has given us in this state to share the good news of Jesus Christ,” Ken said.
The 2015 Iron Bowl Prayer Breakfast was a hit with more than 300 teens showing up at 6 a.m. [not an easy feat for teenagers even when there is the promise of food] even though it was last minute. Ken had approached Trideum last fall to see if they might be interested in putting on a 2016 event. Instead, they jumped into action and held that first event three weeks later.
One of the teens who went to the 2015 prayer breakfast was Kelsey Lessmann. It was her first involvement with FCA, but far from her last. That morning sparked Kelsey to action, leading her to intern with FCA and spend her summers working with 1,100 kids at a FCA camps.
These ripples—seeing how stories play out in students’ lives—are what Ken loves.
“It’s amazing…to see what God did with just one person’s story, how she was used, and I mean big time used,” Ken said. “The reason she was there is because she wanted to use the platform of athletics to share the greatest message in the world, the good news of Christ.”
FCA is open to everyone—even non-athletes—but uses sports as a way to reach students by relating the different aspects of sports to different life stresses. That’s something Steven knows all too well. He had a rough transition into college, struggling during his freshmen year before realizing every day is a blessing. In true SEC form, that realization came to him in a sports metaphor.
“You get out on that field, and you have four quarters,” Steven said. “It’s a game of inches. All of the work culminates into moments…Then you realize that it’s an opportunity, and it’s a gift to go out there, just like it’s a gift to live. Eventually it’s going to end, just like your opportunities to go out on the field.”
After his rocky start, Steven got involved with FCA at Auburn and really started to understand what was important. He stopped going out. He spent one year reading the New Testament and the next year reading the Old Testament. While he once thought success was all he needed in life, he found out he was really seeking a relationship with Jesus.
“We need Jesus as much in life as we do in football, but we don’t realize it sometimes,” Steven said.
The breakfast at Asbury UMC is just one of six across North Alabama. If you can’t make it to Madison, check out the other locations. Each will have a former Alabama and Auburn player speaking. Individual tickets are $10 and proceeds go to fund FCA camp scholarships. Find out more at the FCA website or check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.