Saturday, June 29, 2002

Homegrown football star lives his witness




By Stephenie Steitzer ssteitzer@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Alexander
        Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander has helped several NFL players find God, he says.

        The Florence, Ky., native says he doesn't even have to tell players to “read the Bible and go to church or you're going to hell.”

        Mr. Alexander, 24, hopes he can do the same thing tonight when he testifies at the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Billy Graham Mission at Paul Brown Stadium.

        He says players who know he is religious start to warm up to him and eventually begin asking questions, like how he found God.

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Alexander prays with family and friends before he preached a sermon to youngsters at the Fellowship of Believers Church in February.
(Mike Simons photo)
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        “I just wait for them to come to me,” Mr. Alexander said.

        Mr. Alexander became an NFL sensation last season after stepping into the lineup in place of the injured Rickey Watters. He went on to rush for 1,318 yards to establish himself as one of the NFL's best backs and an invaluable cog in the Seattle offense.

        While he isn't exactly sure what he will say during the mission, he does plan to tell the crowd how his mother got him interested in Jesus Christ when he was 10 years old.

        “My mom, a strong woman of God, she was just really, really smooth about getting us excited about going to church,” he said.

        His mother, Carol Alexander, invited Mr. Alexander's friends over on Saturday nights to eat pizza and watch TV. Then, she would take them all to a Baptist Missionary church on Sunday mornings.

        “I just saw the excitement,” he said. “The dancing and crying and singing. I asked her what I have to do to be like that.”

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Alexander in action for the Seahawks last season.
Read up on his football career at NFL.com.

(Mike Simons photo)
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        Mr. Alexander, who is now non-denominational, joined the Baptist church and gave his life to God when he was 10. He continued going to church and building his spirituality during his time at Boone County High School. His faith grew when he was recruited to the University of Alabama.

        Mr. Alexander, the all-time leading rusher at the university, befriended fellow Christian athletes. They encouraged him to begin reading scripture and begin “impacting God's kingdom.”

        That was why he established the Shaun Alexander Family Foundation in Tuscaloosa, Ala., before he was drafted in 2000. The foundation is designed to provide scholarships and money through youth rallies, motivational camps and financial aid to charitable and evangelical organizations working with troubled youths.

        “I love explaining (God) to young kids,” Mr. Alexander said. “If you're a grown-up and you don't know the Lord, I pray for you.”

        He says he hopes high schoolers, 20-somethings and football fans will attend today's mission. Mr. Alexander says he is excited that the Rev. Mr. Graham is doing one of his last career missions so close to his hometown.

        “I think it is his offering that touches people's lives,” Mr. Alexander said.

        Mission spokesman Rick Segal said Mr. Alexander was invited to testify because he is a local man who is leading a Christian life.

        “We believe that one of the ways in which Dr. Graham's message is made real and approachable to people is for them to see and hear the way Jesus Christ has changed the lives of people who they admire,” Mr. Segal said.

       



Sunday crowd of 64,500 sets record
- Homegrown football star lives his witness
Budget shortfall would be covered
Coverage of Saturday's mission