Summer 2024

UNC football players Jahvaree Ritzie, Kaimon Rucker get baptized, 'passing from old to new'

In the midst of spring football practices, University of North Carolina football players Jahvaree Ritzie and Kaimon Rucker made a life-altering decision: The pair of Tar Heel defensive linemen were baptized by team chaplain Mitch Mason.

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“Baptism is simply an outward expression of an inner work,” Mason said while baptizing Rucker. “It is passing from old to new, from death to life. That is what we have when we follow Jesus Christ.”


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A post shared by Mitch Mason (@tarheelchaplain)

Originally from Hartwell, Georgia, Rucker is entering his fifth season with the program. He became a regular starter as a sophomore in 2021 and was one of the best defensive players in the ACC last season.

Rucker led the Tar Heels in tackles for loss (15), sacks (8.5) and quarterback pressures (12), while recording 61 total tackles and earning a spot on the All-ACC second team. Pro Football Focus has him listed as the fourth-best returning edge rusher in college football.

He declares in his Instagram bio that he is a “Follower of Christ” and he led a series of short Bible studies live on his account in December. Mason joined Rucker for one of them, which focused on gratitude. In the video, Rucker shared that he has made it a priority to focus on the small blessings in his life and encouraged others to do the same. He admitted it is something that does not always come easily to him.

“It makes me overlook the little things that I should be grateful for — that I should give gratitude towards, that I should be thanking God for,” he said. “There are so many little things that God has put in my life — that I’m so focused on the bigger things — that things that are closer to me, things that are smaller, I’m not giving a bit of my attention.”

Rucker finished by reminding everyone that God wants His children to express their gratitude even though He already knows every thought, feeling and emotion.

“Even though He knows that you’re thankful for today, even though He knows you’re thankful for the little things that happen in your life — the good, the bad, the ugly — He still wants you to give thanks, no matter what it is,” he said in the video.

Meanwhile, Ritzie joined the North Carolina program as a true freshman in 2021 and appeared in all 13 of the team’s games last season, contributing 25 tackles and a forced fumble. He regularly mentions his faith on social media and often uses Bible verses as captions on Instagram.


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A post shared by Jahvaree Ritzie (@jahvaree)

The Tar Heels went 8-5 in 2023, recording their fourth winning season in five years under head coach Mack Brown. They were ranked as high as No. 10 in the Associated Press college football poll, marking the third time in four years they cracked the top 10.

North Carolina will hold its spring game April 20 and visits Minnesota for its season opener Aug. 29.

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