Before Jonesboro coach Tim Floyd’s team meets Eagle’s Landing next week in a region game, they will participate in a South Metro Atlanta chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization sponsor banquet on Monday with their upcoming opponent. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
McDONOUGH — By the time Eagle’s Landing and Jonesboro meet on the football field next Friday night, both teams will know that more is at stake than just gridiron supremacy.
Thanks to the South Metro Atlanta chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization, the two teams will have gotten to know each other on a deeper level.
A spiritual level.
At least that’s what FCA volunteer Chris Gott is hoping for.
Next Friday’s game will be the first annual FCA Gridiron Classic. It was feature the two Region 4-AAAA foes at Tara Stadium. But in the days leading up to kickoff, the two teams will have seen a lot of each other in things that Gott says go deeper than football, starting with Monday’s first annual FCA Gridiron Classic Banquet, hosted by First Baptist Church in Jonesboro.
Both teams and their coaches will be present, as well as about 300 others who have responded to the invitation-only event. Georgia Tech football team chaplain Derrick Moore will be the banquet’s guest speaker. Athletes will also provide testimonials of how the ministry has made a difference in their lives.
“We’re bringing in two opposing teams together, not just on next Friday on the field, but also Monday night prior to the game,” Gott said. “Both teams have current ministry taking place there. For us, the key word is impact. We are wanting to make an impact on these kids, these schools and the community.”
FCA is, according to its website, an interdenominational Christian sports ministry which has a mission to reach the world for Jesus Christ through athletes and coaches. The South Metro Atlanta chapter, headed by Mike Roby, has a presence in Henry and Clayton counties, as well as Butts, Spalding and Lamar counties.
All 11 Henry County schools host “huddle meetings,” which are gatherings of the athletes on the schools’ campuses that allow for athletes and coaches to take part in character lessons designed to add a virtual aspect to their journeys through high school athletics.
Gott said the idea of the banquet and the game was birthed out of watching how Chick-fil-A handles its activities leading up to the Chick-fil-A Bowl in college football.
The bowl game is played every year in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Gott said the interest was automatic when the idea was pitched to Eagle’s Landing coach Joe Teknipp and Jonesboro coach Tim Floyd.
“Both coaches attended the Chick-fil-A Bowl breakfast last year,” Gott said. “We took that model, brainstormed an idea to bring back to their teams, and both coaches said, ‘Absolutely.’”
For Floyd, the presence of FCA gave his team the something extra that the fifth year coach said he’d been looking for.
“We’ve had a couple of pretty good seasons here at Jonesboro and have had some players experience some success,” Floyd said. “But there was just something missing with us, and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. We were already teaching character to the guys and teaching about how to succeed in life, but still something was missing.
“When I went to the bowl breakfast last year, I felt like that was it. I wanted to at least give my guys an opportunity to explore a relationship with God, based on my own relationship with God.”
Which is why Gott said the event transcends football or even popularity and the chance of it growing into something larger than life.
“If it catches on, that’s great,” Gott said. “But the important take away is that our young athletes in public schools get so much bad publicity, and we want to build the players up and let them know that people care about them and the good they do.
“We want to change the image. Good things are happening in our public schools.”