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Initial episodes of ‘Gridiron & the Gospel’ reflect college football-Gospel connections

The Ouachita Baptist University Tigers took on the Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldogs in college football's opening weekend Aug. 31. OBU photo

NASHVILLE (BP) — George Schroeder’s 25-plus years of covering college football means little surprises him about the sport, including a historic, nationwide change the same week he co-launched a podcast about it.

Conference realignments fundamentally altered the landscape. And sure, it was something for Schroeder and Brad Edwards, co-hosts of “Gridiron & the Gospel: A Faith & Football Podcast,” to discuss. But as the title implies, it’s far from the only thing.

Schroeder is a former Baptist Press editor and award-winning sports journalist for outlets such as USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Edwards, previously an ESPN researcher and sports personality with appearances on SportsCenter and College GameDay, joins Schroeder in discussing the sport and its intersection with the Gospel. Both shared their testimonies in early episodes and take part in weekly segments such as “On My Heart,” where they talk about what God has been teaching them lately.

Now the Groups and Care minister at Storyline Church in Arvada, Colo., Schroeder, it so happens, lives near the center of two storylines covered in the podcast’s early episodes – the departure of the Colorado from the Pac 12 to the Big 12 and the Buffaloes’ potential success under new head coach Deion Sanders.

A production of BP Sports presented by Sunsplash, Gridiron and the Gospel’s episodes are available on its website as well as major podcast platforms.

“The first few weeks have been a lot of fun for us, and I hope for the listeners, too,” Schroeder told BP. “Brad and I know it from our years of covering college football, but there’s never a shortage of interesting things going on in the sport.

“This is my hope for Gridiron and the Gospel, and I know it’s Brad’s, too: That we bring a weekly helping of real insight and just plain fun – but that listeners get so much more than a college football fix.”

That “so much more” comes with the Gospel’s connection to those who love college football, whether they be fans, athletes, coaches or Baptist state convention directors.

Episode 3 guest Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer for North Carolina Baptists, shared his testimony that began when he was a sportswriter.

Covering University of Georgia football introduced him to well-known media personalities and created a SportsCenter-leading stir when he asked new South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier about a player’s arrest.

Unzicker shared on the episode how the next day his shanked golf shot ended up on a different fairway at the feet of … Steve Spurrier. The Old Ball Coach apologized for his reaction before and told Unzicker he could have the first question when USC came to Athens later that season.

But Unzicker, “definitely not following Christ” at the time, wouldn’t be there. Instead, he would be headed to Honduras as a missionary.

This came to be through observing the faith of Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt.

“There was something different about him,” said Unzicker, whose job put him in Richt’s orbit for at least a half-hour almost daily.

“He took time to know our names, ask us about things, how he could pray for us,” Unzicker said. “This went on in a season of [spiritual] bankruptcy in my life. I started going to the church that he went to, because I wanted to see what made him tick.”

Unzicker was warned by a bartender about the church, Prince Avenue Baptist, “because they’re serious about Jesus there.”

The warning only intrigued Unzicker, saying it made him want to “go all-in” on seeing how Christ could change his life.

Episode 4 featured a discussion with Mike Sanford, who has coached at the college level for several years in various roles, including as Sanders’ Colorado predecessor in an interim role.

In addition to discussing the life of being a college coach, Sanford talked about God’s work in his life.

“I don’t want to be the person who constricts my worship to Sunday,” he said. “I don’t want to constrict my worship to the prayer right before a meal or putting my kids down to bed. I want spontaneous acts of worship in my life.”

Discussion over the Gospel is central to the show.

“We’re passionate about college football. But Brad and I both love God because He first loved us, and we want to encourage people to follow Jesus,” Schroeder said.