You may think you know Mark Richt. If you follow college football, you certainly know about his career. As offensive coordinator under Coach Bobby Bowden at Florida State, Richt’s offense ranked in the nation’s top five top-scorers for five seasons and top twelve in total offense for five seasons. He coached two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks and sent six quarterbacks to the NFL. During his time at FSU, the team won seven consecutive ACC titles and two national championships. He then began a fifteen-year run as the head coach of the University of Georgia, where he won two SEC titles, was a two-time SEC Coach of the Year, and had the highest winning-percentage of any UGA coach who played more than 29 games. Finally, he finished his coaching career at Miami, where he led the team to their first ever ACC Coastal title and was named ACC Coach of the Year.
But these are just career achievements. In his new book Make the Call, Coach Richt discusses his career, but what he really hopes readers will learn is how a relationship with Jesus changes everything. It was while he was working with Coach Bowden that Richt learned the most vital lesson he could learn about football—it’s not the most important thing in the world. He explains, “Everyone will say Coach Bowden was about football, faith, and family; but in order, it’s really faith, family, and football. A lot of folks say that’s what they’re about, but Coach Bowden truly was.”
In fact, it was Bowden that would eventually lead Richt to Christ. After the death of FSU player Pablo Lopez, Coach Bowden sat the team down for what would be a life-altering conversation. Richt recalls, “He said, ‘Men, I don’t know where Pablo is right now. I don’t know where he was in his faith. But God created you, He loves you, and He wants a relationship with you.” He then proceeded to share the Gospel, explaining that the only way to have enteral life was through faith in Jesus. Bowden was speaking to the players, but as he talked, the Holy Spirit was speaking to Richt. The next day, he went to Coach Bowden’s office, and together they prayed for him to receive Christ.
This decision would change every aspect of Mark Richt’s life, including the kind of coach he would be. Throughout his career, Richt was certainly known as a successful coach with impressive titles and records, but he was known even more to be a man of integrity who personally invested in his players. He lived by the philosophy, “If you build a better man, you build a better team.”
Coach Richt has had a massive impact on the lives of countless young men over the course of his career. To this day, he’s never changed his cell phone number, always wanting them to know he’s just a phone call away if they ever need him. He knows that many of these men have been abandoned by their earthly fathers, but they can be sure that Coach Richt will never leave them—and their Heavenly Father won’t either.
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