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Tenn. placekicker: There’s more to life than national championship

WINCHESTER, Tenn. (BP)–Jeff Hall has seen his share of glory, particularly in the last four years.
The University of Tennessee placekicker was a key player and a co-captain of the team which claimed the NCAA national championship at the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4 over the Florida State Seminoles. During the season he kicked the game-winning field goals against Syracuse and Florida.
Hall is a four-time All Southeastern Conference performer. He also has been named four times to the conference’s academic all-star team as well. On Jan. 16 he will kick in the East-West Shrine all-star game and participate in the Hula Bowl game on Jan. 24.
Despite all the glory and acclaim he has earned, Hall spends his time making sure people know all the glory goes to God and not himself. “What makes me who I am is Jesus. That’s the only thing special about me,” he said.
Hall, a December graduate of UT and a member of First Baptist Church, Concord, in Knoxville, admitted that was not always the case.
“During my freshman and sophomore years, I wanted to praise God so I could play football,” he said, noting he had an ego then “as big as Neyland Stadium.”
“Now,” he said, “I want to play football so I can praise God.”
Though he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of 11 in a United Methodist church in his hometown of Winchester, Tenn., Hall was not pleased with his spiritual condition.
Particularly during his first two years of college, Hall said he did things, such as drinking, that he knew were displeasing to God. In early 1997 he was having personal struggles with his faith because he knew he was not turning everything over to God. In addition, he had undergone back surgery that potentially threatened his football career.
Hall, who was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, heard Doug Sager, pastor of First Baptist Church, Concord, speak at a meeting and liked what he heard. He began to attend the church and joined in February 1997, which he says is a turning point in his life.
Hall received encouragement and support from the church and also from Rob Merriman, who at the time was on the FCA staff and was a member of Central Baptist Church, Bearden, in Knoxville. “He encouraged and challenged me in my life in Christ and was an inspiration to me,” Hall said.
Hall’s life began to change for the better. He began reading Christian books and studying God’s Word.
He discovered “God is bigger than any sin you could ever commit.
“Jesus is not just your Savior, he is your Lord. Regardless of who you are, what you have done, God’s love surpasses all that,” Hall said.
Hall said he has scars on his heart from mistakes he made but has “claimed a victory over that with Christ. I can’t change the past, just like I can’t change a missed field goal,” he said.
Hall said he has learned that just like in football a person should never be satisfied with his or her Christian walk. “No matter how much I study the Word of God, it will never be enough.”
Hall has reached the point in his life where he keeps success and failure in perspective. At the Fiesta Bowl, he missed a 34-yard field goal on his first attempt, normally an easy distance for him. “I did not get down on myself. When I got back to the sideline I told myself that God had that all planned out.”
Hall attributed the miss to a lack of focus and corrected the problem on his next attempt.
“If I miss a field goal, I put it behind me and go on to the next one. There is no perfect athlete. The great ones are those who learn from their mistakes.”
Hall hopes to have a career in the National Football League, but it will not be the end of his world if that does not happen. He already has a job with a Knoxville investment firm lined up. “God will put me where he needs me the most,” he affirmed.
Hall noted if his last field goal was against Florida State, then “God has been good to me.” He noted the Fiesta Bowl win was a climax to a good career. He dreamed of playing for UT when he was only 9 or 10 years old. “I’ve been so blessed to play on a great team with great players.”
He knows there is much more to life than winning football games or national championships. “There will not be a record of made field goals in heaven,” he predicted.
“God doesn’t care if we win or lose. He cares about how much glory he gets and how much we learn from the situations he places us in.
“I know we won this year simply because God will get a lot of glory from it, from a lot of different people. And I will be one of them,” Hall said.

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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