TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP)–Drew Weatherford was the stereotypical arrogant quarterback of his Land ‘O Lakes high school football team. Although professing to be a Christian, Weatherford was not living for Christ when a knee injury as a sophomore sidelined him — and God got his attention.
“God humbled me extremely” when the injury forced Weatherford to re-evaluate everything in his life, he recounted in an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness following a team practice in early August.
“I worked so hard at sports and I never really gave God the glory by the way I was living my life and the way I was playing the game. By God humbling me, it really made me for the first time in my life stop and reflect on the way I had been living my life, on the decisions I had been making, on what I looked like. I was proclaiming to be a Christian and not living it out at all.”
Weatherford, now the starting quarterback at Florida State University, saw God’s hand in the injury as he began attending a church pastored by his childhood football coach, Craig Altman. Without being able to play football, Weatherford accepted the invitation of Altman’s son and daughter to nondenominational Grace Family Church’s “180” youth group -– sparking his own 180-degree turn.
Marking it as his true Christian conversion experience, Weatherford said, “I completely did a 180 and my life changed rapidly. I became on fire for God.”
Weatherford’s spiritual turnaround was so obvious that other football players started attending the church — and a revival broke out on the team.
Another knee injury on the first day of his junior football season almost sidelined Weatherford again. But after a prayer with his mother in which she felt a “peace” about him playing in spite of a doctor’s contrary recommendation, a “miracle” in the second half “popped” his knee back into place. The season turned into a special one for Weatherford and his team as they went 10-0 in the regular season and played into the third round of the state playoffs.
And the season put Weatherford on the radar of Florida State where he had dreamed of playing since he was a “little kid,” Weatherford said, adding, “I always wanted to play for Coach Bowden.”
After being red-shirted his first year in Tallahassee, Weatherford told the Witness the college experience was at first a “rude awakening” for his Christian walk.
“Being a Florida State football player, there’s a lot more temptations that I had to deal with. Truthfully, I struggled for a while. I had to battle back, and God showed His grace to me several times,” Weatherford said.
After a spiritual rededication, he recounted, “I really grew a lot as a Christian in the last two years,” crediting part of the renewed Christian focus on a Bible study led by Dean Inserra, which has led to the creation of a new church in Tallahassee geared to reaching college students.
Pastored by Inserra, Weatherford has faithfully helped begin the Southern Baptist church plant from the beginning. Called The Well (www.nomorethirst.org), the church started preliminary meetings in May and officially launched Aug. 19, meeting Sunday evenings at Godby High School in Tallahassee.
Inserra told the Witness, “Drew will be the first to tell you that he struggles with temptations that other college students do. However, this is a kid who truly loves the Lord and desires to know Christ in a deeper way.”
Weatherford is recognized everywhere he goes in Tallahassee and is regularly stopped by well-wishers seeking autographs, Inserra said.
“As a lifelong FSU fan, Drew is living his dream,” his pastor said, adding, “I think the important thing people need to realize is that Drew is a 21-year-old kid who is trying to live his life for Christ while having the entire hopes and dreams of a city on his back…. He needs grace and encouragement from other Christians, especially students.”
The junior quarterback has started 23 of 26 games for the Seminoles over the last two seasons, but after his first season of success, including leading the team to the ACC Championship, Weatherford was benched at times last season and had to compete this summer to keep his starting job in the wake of a shake-up of the offensive coaching staff.
Although he has worked for this opportunity since he was 8 years old and “it’s tough” when he’s pulled for poor performance, Weatherford said: “The Bible is full of so many encouraging things that talk about how to persevere and how perseverance builds character. I’ve learned more through my difficult times of playing football than I have through the successes.”
Weatherford said having a Christian head coach in Bobby Bowden also has been a major influence in his Christian walk.
Bowden is “definitely the spiritual leader of this program. And to know that he believes in the same things I believe in and has the same morals and values that I have just make it so much easier for me to live them out as well,” Weatherford said.
Weatherford also admires Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy and his Christian testimony, especially in the wake of his son’s tragic suicide several years ago. Weatherford met Dungy when he coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I love him…. His testimony is amazing,” Weatherford said, adding that Dungy is “very encouraging to me.”
Asked how Christians can pray for him this season, Weatherford told the Witness, “Just that I continue to have the strength to live the life that God has called upon his sons and daughters. … There’s a lot going on and our schedules are really packed and I’ve found myself not having the heart for people like I used to. I’ve been praying for that a lot and I think that’s the biggest thing, that I get that back and to have the heart to witness and to use my platform to glorify Christ.”
James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.