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Grieving father uses son’s life and death as platform for the Gospel

Alan Dodson speaks about his 17-year-old son, Andrew, who died after suffering a severe brain trauma during a Pulaski County spring football game. Photo by Robin Cornetet/Kentucky Today

SOMERSET, Ky. (BP) – Alan Dodson’s testimony about his son’s remarkable life and tragic death was both heartbreaking and hopeful. It was both raw and real.

The former Kentucky Baptist pastor and regional consultant spoke powerfully about his son Andrew during part of the Anchored: Hope for Lake Cumberland crusade at Pulaski County (Ky.) High School’s gymnasium. The event was a one-day evangelistic crusade Nov. 12. It was fitting and maybe a little haunting for the father to speak at a place where Andrew Dodson enjoyed life.

A brief video of Andrew Dodson sharing his testimony was shown before his father took the stage.

Andrew was only 17 years old, healthy and in the prime of life, when he suffered a brain injury during a spring football scrimmage in March. His death was caused by blunt force trauma that occurred on the Pulaski County football field — just a few hundred feet from the gymnasium where his father was speaking. It wasn’t a jarring hit or even a head-to-head collision. Thousands prayed for his recovery, as it stunned not only the Pulaski County community but the Kentucky high school football community and so many more in communities far and wide.

His family continues to grieve the loss of a son and brother. Reminders of his absence come every day. But the Dodsons are continuing to spread the message of hope that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Andrew was a believer, and there was plenty of evidence to that fact. He loved people well and lived his life in a way that honored God. Even in death, his testimony continues to bring others closer to the Lord.

His father asked the audience if they were about to communicate with someone they loved dearly for the very last time, what would they say?

“Perhaps you, like me, you wouldn’t have a lot of time to think about it,” he said. “You wouldn’t be able to rehearse it because so often that moment comes without warning. Looking back on it, it’s really a good thing that I didn’t plan it because in my Baptist preacher proclivity toward words, it would have probably been way too long and probably wouldn’t have been right. I know I would have messed it up.”

But on March 31, 2023, Alan Dodson was sitting in a coffee shop in South Alabama pondering that message.

“At 3:57 in the afternoon, I received this text from my Andrew from right here on this campus at Pulaski County High School. Andrew reached out and said ‘Getting ready to go out and start warming up.’ I just texted back to him what I had said to him so many times before: Go get ‘em! That was the mantra of Andrew’s life from the time he was born. He actually won a pretty baby contest in Columbus, Georgia, and Andrew was always ready to ‘Go get ‘em!’ His life was absolutely off to the races. Andrew was always ready to go anywhere, try anything, participate in absolutely all life had to offer. As a matter of fact, Andrew Dodson packed more life into 17 years than a lot of people pack into a life when they get to live it well into their senior adult days.”

Andrew enjoyed life to the fullest, played nearly every sport offered and was a source of joy for so many. He was compassionate to those whom others ignored or teased. He was the life of the school which his father said he loved. When he wasn’t playing a sport, he was in the middle of the cheering section. His classmates saw him as a leader, as someone who knew how to love.

“Andrew loved Pulaski County High School. Some called him Mr. Maroon,” his father said.

Alan Dodson counts the days his son has been gone from this world – it was 227 on Sunday. He knows the statistics from the spring game – Andrew rushed for 30 yards on five carries. There’s a great big hole in Alan’s heart but the love that came from his son brings relief and hope to those who knew him.

“Andrew loved fiercely because he knew the greatest love,” his father said. Andrew accepted Christ and a young age and had lived for Him ever since.

Dodson compared his son facing death at 17 to David facing Goliath. Though Goliath towered over David, Goliath was the underdog because God was with David.

“Andrew’s last steps on earth were the night here on this campus,” Dodson said. “That last ‘Go get ‘em!’ meant so much more. It was more than encouragement. Andrew was about to go out and face his ultimate Goliath. Goliath is the underdog. Death is a Goliath, and Goliath is an underdog.”

Dodson urged the crowd to learn from the lesson of Andrew’s death.

“As our pastor, Brother (Ed) Amundson from High Street Baptist Church, said at Andrew’s funeral on April 7, ‘Andrew’s death proves once more that the moment you’re born, you’re old enough to die.’ Don’t miss that. It doesn’t matter how old you are. You may be a child but you’re old enough to understand what’s being sung about, what’s being proclaimed here at Anchored tonight. You may be a young adult, you may be a senior adult, but the bottom line is this: If it can happen to a 17-year-old kid that was strong and in the very prime of his life — it’s not that it can happen, it will happen to you. And it will happen to me. The writer of Hebrews said it is appointed once to die and then face the judgement. But here’s the good news: Death, that old Goliath, is an underdog. If your Goliath is not an underdog to you right now, I want you to know, tonight he can be.”