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Curry: Share the love of Jesus — Old school coach praises young Christian athletes

College and professional coaching legend Bill Curry stood on the stage at Easthaven Baptist Church at Thursday night’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet and asked everyone in the worship center to look at their hands.

The wide room filled with the soft clinks of forks and knives gently touching plates as the guests put down their utensils. Half-raised hands went up from table to table and they sat, like fortune tellers or Old Testament seers, staring into their palms and waiting on the coach’s instructions.

“Look at the lines and creases and understand when you look, if we had the capacity to see the 7 billion sets of fingerprints on the Earth tonight, we’d find there’s not another like yours,” Curry said.

That was how Curry began his message to the approximately 300 student-athletes, coaches and parents who attended the second annual FCA banquet, and he used that opening point to build a half-hour message of hope and triumph — spiced with good-ol-boy stories from the old days of the National Football League — designed to inspire young competitors to share the love of Christ.

The old coach challenged students to find their “magnanimitas,” a Latin word meaning “greatness of spirit” he first saw chiseled in stone on the campus of Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He assured the crowd no one else on earth had their same magnanimitas, and it was up to them to share it.

“God made you unique — there’s nobody else like you,” Curry said, explaining his message before he went on-stage. “He expects each of us to find our gift, develop it and give it to a cause greater than ourselves.”

Curry’s address weaved back and forth from Sunday sermon to story-telling, and his rich accounts of his early days in the NFL with the championship Green Bay Packers set the audience to laughter. After graduating from Georgia Tech University, iconic coach Vince Lombardi chose him with the last pick of the 1965 NFL draft.

“Coach Lombardi said, ‘It’s 2 in the morning, we’ve drafted 19 players, I’m going to bed — do something humorous with the 20th pick,’” Curry said.

Curry said it was hard for a Georgia boy to adjust to Lombardi, a hard-driving, cussing Catholic.

“I went to quarterback Bart Starr and said, ‘Hey Bart, somebody said coach Lombardi goes to church every day. Is that so?’” Curry remembered. “Bart told me, ‘You’ll realize when you’ve been working for this guy for three weeks, he needs to go to church every day.’”

But Curry said working for such a hard man taught him much about the role of Christianity in sports. He said Lombardi would cut racists from the team “so fast they wouldn’t remember your name,” and he began to respect the unifying effect of football.

“You can’t step in the huddle and be a racist anymore,” he said. “People sit together in those stands on Friday nights who never sit together during the week. And when somebody scores, we’re all happy, we love each other. When someone’s son scores a touchdown, we hug them up — we don’t stop and check the pigmentation of their skin. And the children learn to love each other. That’s the good stuff.”

Brookhaven High School senior Andrew Knott said Curry’s speech was “pretty dang good.”

“His advice and lessons, his experience — you can definitely tell he’s living his life for Christ,” he said. “Everything you do, you want to do for God. If it’s not for God, it’s not worth doing.”

Bogue Chitto junior Damarcus Godbolt said he respected Curry’s advice for prioritizing life as an athlete — first comes Christ, then comes family and, finally, team.

“Coach Curry is a godly man, and I’m glad he was here to speak to us,” Godbolt said.

Brookhaven Academy junior Jana Case called the coach’s speech “inspirational.”

“Each one of us are unique, and we have to make the most out of our lives,” she said.

Enterprise senior Grayson Bennett said Curry’s lessons are something he can use to help others.

“Like Jesus said — go out and share with others,” he said.

FCA board chairman Stan Foster said Curry was a gracious speaker with an inspirational message.

“Our goal was that God be glorified, and we hope that was the outcome,” he said.