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Sports Spectrum Daily Devotional: Wednesday, July 31, 2019

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” — 1 Corinthians 12:12

Big Team, Little Me

Erskine “Erk” Russell (1926-2006) was a legendary football coach for the University of Georgia from 1964-1981, and Georgia Southern University (then Georgia Southern College) from 1981-1989. He coached UGA’s defense with fellow Auburn alumni and head coach, Vince Dooley. He coined a term at Georgia that is still used today — the “Junkyard Dawgs” — referencing his defense.

Later, following UGA’s national championship in 1980, Erk made a move to GSC in Statesboro from Athens, and revived a dormant football program as head coach. In nine years, the Eagles soared from a team that “didn’t even have a football,” as Russell quipped, to a perennial national championship contender in Division I-AA. 

With all his success, perhaps the most memorable quality Erk possessed was his use of clever phrases and gimmicks that helped his players believe they could rise above any challenge. Blessed with a colorful sense of humor and a great football mind, he was described by UGA cornerback Scott Woerner of the 1980 Bulldog squad as “the greatest motivator in college football.” One fabled gimmick of Russell’s was a T-shirt with the word “TEAM” printed in large letters above the word “me” in smaller letters below it. This communicated to his young men that they could accomplish far more by putting their team before themselves. 

As God’s people, we are called to put the “team” of Jesus Christ, the Church, above ourselves. Several Scripture passages illustrate this concept of the parts of the body all working together. Paul, gifted with words like Erk Russell, wrote to the believers in Corinth, “But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20).

We may not all preach or sing, but we all have a role to play as Christians in putting God’s team above all. 

— Allen Kent, Kathleen, Ga.

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