As soon as he kicked the ball, Brown, a communications major from Oklahoma
and a member of Xtreme Chi Alpha, knew what the outcome of his 29-yard
attempt would be. When the ball sailed easily between the uprights the
crowd roared with satisfaction and Browns teammates piled on top
of him. A few seconds later, the newly crowned hero was carried off
the field on the shoulders of his teammates. Being a star on one of
Americas premier college football teams (Nebraska has won five
national championships) does have its perks. But, Brown says, it can
also be challenging, especially for Christians.
"As a football player, I feel like Im expected to be on
the party scene and be out every weekend," Brown says. "Its
tough to focus on a spiritual relationship with God when you have temptations
and pressures to go out and be among all your friends who are not spiritually
To stay spiritually fit, Brown relies on his faith and friends. "I
surround myself with other believers and I pray a lot," he says.
"I also avoid situations where Im going to be tempted. Ive
found its always easier to do the right thing when Im around
others who want to do the right thing."
Following Jesus has not always been Browns priority. Though raised
in what he describes as a strict Christian home, Brown drifted from
his spiritual moorings when he started college. At first he partied
with friends and took advantage of the acclaim and privilege football
brought him. But after getting into a well-publicized fight with another
student, Brown and others close to him say he made a sharp turn back
to his faith.
"It [the fight and the trouble that ensued] was an eye-opener
for me and what was going on in my life," he says regretfully.
As a result of the altercation Brown was suspended for Nebraskas
opener and charged with a misdemeanor. "For my first couple of
years of college the devil made my heart really hard to a lot of feelings
and emotions I once knew. Now Im really passionate about having
a one-on-one relationship with Christ."
To help Brown continue to strengthen his walk with God, Tom Barber,
pastor of Xtreme Chi Alpha, meets with him at least once a week. The
two have an accountability relationship. "God has really got a
hold of me, and Tom has played a major part in that," Brown says.
"I meet with Tom and another student once a week to discuss whats
going on in our lives and the struggles we have. We also hold each other
accountable for goals we have spiritually."
"For our athletes we wanted to do accountability groups because
college can be very tough on them with all of the temptations and their
status," says the 49-year-old Barber, who is also an adjunct professor
and doctoral student. "The accountability forces them to hang tough
Xtreme started in the summer of 1998 as a Sunday school class at Christs
Place, a local Assemblies of God church. At first only 10 people attended,
but in three years the Sunday school class moved to the university and
has grown into a ministry with more than 70 students and various weekly
meetings and activities. Besides the accountability meetings, small
groups of students gather for Bible studies and every Thursday night
the entire group gathers for a night of fellowship, worship, games and
During the Thursday night meetings, students worship and share their
testimonies before Barber shares a short message that is more akin to
a fireside chat than a Sunday morning sermon. The whole idea, Barber
says, is to be informal yet relevant.
"Its all based on relationships," says Barber. "Students
are not only seeking a relationship with the Lord, they are looking
for a relationship with others."
To facilitate that premise, food is served after service and games
such as Ping-Pong and pool are played.
As with other Chi Alpha groups, Barber leads his on expeditions. One
year members visited a church in revival. The next year they went on
a missions trip. During the year students also participate in weekend
retreats. Though such activities draw students, Barber says one of the
most effective ways to share Christs message of love and hope
is to simply be where the students are.
"If we are not on campus we are not going to win the lost,"
Barber says. "Being on campus during the week is crucial because
that is the time when the kids are going through tough times. Since
we are there we are able to minister to them and that builds credibility.
We cant be salt to this university if we are not on this campus."
This year is Browns senior year and he has set many goals. He
hopes his play on the field will impress National Football League scouts
enough so he will be drafted for the pros. But even more important is
his determination to now live a life that reflects his love and passion
"I am finding out who I really am right now," says Brown,
who could be speaking for thousands of college students across the United
States. "I think God has a wonderful plan for my life. But Im
just going to pray and let Him work it out for me."
Since he has been in college, Brown has discovered that life is more
than just a game. Now with a mentor at his side, Christian friends watching
his every move and a game plan for eternity, Brown is confident his
senior year will be his best year yet.