There was an unusual high school football game played in Grapevine, Texas . The game was between Grapevine Faith Academy and the Gainesville State School . Faith is a Christian school and Gainesville State School is located within a maximum security correction facility.
The Gainesville State School had 14 players. They played every game on the road. They wear outdated, used shoulder pads and helmets. Their record was 0-8. They'd only scored twice. Their 14 players are teenagers who have been convicted of crimes ranging from drugs to assault to robbery. Most had families who had disowned them.
Faith Academy was 7-2. They had 70 players, 11 coaches, and the latest equipment...it was no contest.
Chris Hogan, the head coach at Faith Academy , knew the Gainesville team would most likely have no fans and it would be an easy win. Then it came to him, "What if half of our fans and half of our cheerleaders, for one night only, cheered for the other team?" Acting on it, he sent out an email to the faithful asking them to do just that. It read: "Here's the message I want you to send to each Gainsville team member: You're just as valuable as any other person on the planet."
Some folks were confused and thought he was nuts. One player said, "Coach, why are we doing this?" The message that this was more than football had not fully sunk in.
Hogan answered, "Imagine you don't have a home life, no one to love you, no one pulling for you. Imagine that everyone pretty much had given up on you. Now, imagine what it would feel like and mean to you for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."
The idea took root. On the night of the game, imagine the surprise of those 14 Gainsville State players when they took the field and there was a banner the cheerleaders had made for them to crash through. The visitors' stands were full. The cheerleaders were leading cheers for them. The fans were calling them by their names. Isaiah, the quarterback-middle linebacker for the Tornados, said, "I never in my life thought I would hear parents cheering to for us to tackle and hit their own kid. Most of the time, when we come out, people are afraid of us. You can see it in their eyes, but these people are yelling for us. They even knew our names."
Faith Academy won the game, and after the game the teams gathered at the 50-yard line to pray. That's when Isaiah, the teenage convict-quarterback surprised everybody and asked if he could pray. "Lord," he said, " I don’t know what just happened so I don't know how or who to say thank you to. I never knew there were so many people in the world that cared about us."
On the way back to the bus - under guard - each Gainsville State player was handed a burger, fries, a coke, candy, a Bible, and an encouraging letter from the players of Grapevine Faith Academy...letting what is on the inside reflect ON THE OUTSIDE!
...and so goes life BEHIND THE BENCH!