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Football player turned minister visits A&M-Commerce

By Adam Troxtell
On March 3, 2011


The student organization Lions for Christ Campus Ministry welcomed preacher and former professional football player Willie Franklin to speak at the Traditions Room of the Sam Rayburn Student Center on March 2.

Franklin's presence on campus was the result of campus minister John Hayden's knowledge and relationship with the former NFL player.

"I've known him for years," Hayden said. "When I was a young kid in church camp back in 1982, that's when I first met Willie."

In 1971, Franklin joined the Baltimore Colts as a walk-on. Two years later, he converted to Christianity. He then joined the Los Angeles Rams in 1974, but decided to cut his professional career short to pursue a career in ministry.

"I couldn't see wasting all of this time running down the football field when I could be helping other people avoid some of the pitfalls I went though in life," he said.

He was 24 years old when he stopped playing football to attend Harding University, and Franklin said there was a reason he chose to change paths so early.

"People would not have been impressed had I been 80 years old and told them I played football and now I want them to give their life to Jesus," he said. "They'll say ‘well, I'll wait until I'm 80.' But, it was in my prime because that's what I see in scripture."

Since then, Franklin has worked in ministry at Dallas Christian University, Oklahoma University, and more recently the University of North Texas. He said he came to A&M-Commerce because he believes people, specifically students, enjoy hearing his story.

"It's irrational today to have the American dream of professional football and lots of money, yet give that up," he said. "So, a lot of the college kids today who are on the up ladder as far as getting their degrees and wanting to get out into the world, they want to know what would make a person do such a thing, to give up a life that was prosperous and start all over by telling people about Jesus. Jesus' sacrifice grabbed my attention because it's not something he had to do, it was something he was willing to do. I wanted to show the same type of focus is to sacrifice when I didn't have to."

Franklin's message on the night was geared toward college students looking for success in the real world.

"Do not neglect the eternal side of you, your spirit, your soul, as you are gaining an education and deciding on a career," Franklin said. "Do not neglect the spiritual you, because it needs feeding."

Junior accounting major and Vice President of Lions for Christ Brandi Everitt said she was happy to have a speaker like Franklin on campus and bringing students together.

"I think anytime we can share our faith and get to know each other on a more personal level, it's a wonderful thing," she said. "Also, to hear someone who's had a successful career in one of the careers that's not exactly easy, it's great to hear their faith and their walk with Christ."

Franklin said he enjoys speaking on college campuses because of the diversity of the crowds he usually sees.

"I've been in campus ministry for 38 years, so it's always a joy to get the young folk that come from all walks of life, races and genders, educations and incomes, and they can come together and work toward the same goals of discovering themselves," he said. "That's really what education causes us to do is we discover the talent in ourselves."

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