Monday, November 14, 2016

An Athlete's Truth - Collier Winters (Part 1)

To all who will read this,

     My name is Collier Winters.  First, I want to first say thank you to Justin Drabot who has taken on this vision to inspire and encourage athletes who are trying to be disciples of Jesus and bring glory to God.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to share my story here - the different ways that God has worked in my life and a few of the things that God has “coached” me in as a Christian over the past 7+ years (four of them as a serious athlete).  I will be writing a three-part series for the blog and I am praying that my words will be used to inspire, convict, challenge, encourage and coach other fellow athletes in the truth of God and his word.  I hope that, at points, what I share will challenge your thinking and, in the end, I hope that it will help you to bring more glory to God in whatever you do.

Part 1: My Journey to God

     I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Ever since I was old enough to have dreams, my dream was to play in the NFL.  My sports idols were people like Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Brett Favre.  I wanted to be just like them!  I played many other sports growing up, but football was always my biggest passion.  By the time I got to high school, it was also very clear that football was my best sport.  I continued to play basketball and run track in the off-season, but football was my focus and I wanted to become the absolute best quarterback (my position) possible.
     Throughout these years growing up, church and God were part of my life.  I grew up going to church with my family (as did almost every other kid in Oklahoma!) and I believed in God as far back as I can remember.  However, God was only PART of my life.  I never really read my Bible, and even though I usually tried to do the “right” thing, I never had any clue what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. So, God was around… but, I never really knew him (and I certainly wasn’t living my life to bring glory to HIM).
     When I graduated high school, I had accomplished one of my major goals - I received a scholarship to play Division 1 football!  In fact, I had received several D-1 scholarship offers.  I ended up choosing Harvard University over other schools like Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, and Colorado State.  My first year at Harvard I was able to get a little playing time (I came in every now and then as the “wildcat” quarterback), and I had a great year!  Being a college quarterback had a lot of perks…  and with it, a lot of temptations.  I tried to go to church during my freshman year, but quickly found out that the only people who go to church in Cambridge, MA are people over the age of 60 - at least that’s what it seemed like.  Hardly any of my teammates or classmates when to church on Sunday morning, so I quickly found myself deciding to sleep in instead of dragging myself to a boring church service.  For about a year and a half I hardly went to church and was barely doing anything with my faith at all.  I was living a pretty typical college lifestyle - I went to parties, had a girlfriend, and was pretty much just living for myself.
     When sophomore year came around, I got hurt right at the beginning of football season.  I tore my labrum in my hip and had to have surgery.  I took a medical redshirt year that year and watched the whole season from the sidelines (that was certainly tough to do).  The spring of my sophomore year is when things began to change for me.  We were in spring practice and I was in line to be the starting quarterback the next year as a redshirt sophomore.  My teammate Josue Ortiz, who had been studying the Bible over the past few months, invited me out to church.  He actually got baptized at this service!      After the service ended, the campus minister, Glenn Petruzzi, asked me if I wanted to study the Bible.  Knowing that I probably should do this and not wanting to say no… I said sure.  Over the next 4-5 weeks of studying the Bible with Glenn, I came to learn what it meant to seek after God, to repent of my sins, to be committed to his body, to deny myself, and to truly follow Jesus.  Some of these things I knew (but wasn’t following), but other things I had never read or been taught before!  I realized that my mindset and my entire lifestyle had to change if I was going to become a disciple.
In no way was this easy for me… but, two things helped me to make the decision to be baptized and become a disciple: 1) I firmly believed that the Bible was THE word of God (therefore, I had only two options - follow it or not) and 2) I came to deeply know and understand how much God loves me (as shown by him sending his son to die for me), and this loved demanded a response from me. These two things made the decision very easy… but, the actual changing of my mind and my lifestyle was still hard.
This is what I hope talk about in Part 2...

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the upcoming weeks!

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