Spring 2021 Magazine

Tennessee men's basketball players get baptized as season gets into full swing

This week has brought more than a few reasons to celebrate the University of Tennessee.

The Volunteer women shut out Texas A&M in soccer on Sunday night, besting another top-five program and securing the school’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals in the process. Tennessee athletes gathered for team Thanksgiving dinners. And, perhaps most important of all, two of the players on UT’s men’s basketball team decided to get baptized.

Smack dab in the middle of Tennessee’s 3-0 start in the SEC, both Kyle Alexander and Jordan Bowden hit the tub to declare a life of dedication to Jesus Christ, as teammate Grant Williams shared via Instagram.

“Man, what a day,” wrote Williams, the team’s 6-foot-9 sophomore. “Soccer advances to Elite Eight, Thanksgiving team dinner, then two of my brothers were baptized and took a step closer to the Lord. This Vol family is something I cherish, and we’re just getting started.”

Alexander, a 22-year-old forward for the Volunteers, also shared the news on Instagram, posting the date of his baptism with the following message: “God You’re Good.”

Head coach Rick Barnes said the baptisms were “far more important than any win we’ve ever had”:

Alexander, Bowden, Williams and the Volunteers are ranked No. 5 in the nation after three games. Tennessee returns to the court on Wednesday with a game against Louisville, then hosts Eastern Kentucky a week later. The Vols are slated to match up with another top-five team, No. 3 Gonzaga, on Dec. 9.

In-season baptisms aren’t unusual across the sports spectrum as of late. The defending Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles made headlines with hotel baptisms during their Lombardi Trophy run in 2017. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr once baptized former teammate Cordarelle Patterson at a team hotel. Ditto for three Dallas Cowboys and countless others at colleges across the country.

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