Prayer a part of the playbook

When a football player points his finger to the sky after running into the end zone or quickly kneels down to give a quick “thank you,” there might be more to these faithful gestures than most fans think.

Faith and football can absolutely go hand in hand, and TCU football is no different, said the Rev. Chauncey Franks, who serves as the TCU football team’s life and character coach.

Franks, a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chaplain, said faith is a great thing to have on and off the field to motivate and bring a sense of unity to the team.

“Worship is a huge part of football because it unites a team. It gives them something to play for that is greater than the team or themselves,” Franks said. “I believe that God desires for us to honor him in everything we do, in academic work, our work world, as well as the world of sports.”

Franks’ own spiritual path hadn’t been clearly laid out when he played college football. Growing up, Franks said he wasn’t religious 8212; God didn’t have a role in his game, he said. Call it irony, fate or coincidence, but now Franks helps athletes like former TCU standout Jeremy Kerley find a sense of unity through worship.

“You have to have confidence when playing the game because confidence carries you,” Kerley said. “Faith is my No. 1 confidence, and if you don’t let faith carry you, you are kind of dead.”

Kerley said football was a way to get away from everything for 60 minutes. He said it is about being your own person, transforming and getting away from all of the headaches in life and focusing on one goal.

“For anybody who dares to put the same faith they have in anything and implement it into football, the results will shock you,” he said.

Melanie Garrett, author of “Under His Helmet: A Football Devotional,” said it doesn’t take a football player to understand the connection between faith and the game, and it doesn’t even take a guy to figure it out.

Garrett said she grew up immersed in football. From watching college ball with her mom and dad on Saturdays to watching the Dallas Cowboys after chapel services on Sundays, there was never a gap between faith and football for Garrett.

“My college days found me at the University of Texas in Austin,” Garrett said. “Football doesn’t get much bigger or better, at least in my eyes, than in Longhorn Land. Not only did I enjoy attending all of the home games, but I finally got a tiny taste for playing the game myself as I entered the fabulous world of flag football.”

Garrett’s daughter Lydia, a sophomore music major at TCU, might disagree about Longhorn football. With Lydia Garrett now a Horned Frog, there is consolation in that Melanie Garrett now considers herself a member of the Horned Frog family, football included.

“Football is where I see and hear God the most clearly,” Melanie Garrett said. “I know. Go figure. I’m 50 years old and a woman. Of course, I’ve never played a down in college or pro ball. But here is where it gets intriguing. When a person first meets me, linking me to the world of football is not an obvious connection.”

Before Melanie Garrett wrote “Under His Helmet,” she said she noticed the church had done a good job addressing the needs of women, but fell short when it criticized men for having a warrior spirit.

“Knowing that most men have not been in, or near, a spiritual training camp, I wanted to help them adjust to answering this call to duty by reintroducing them to their spiritual responsibilities through a language most men speak fluently 8212; football,” she said. “Each daily devotional [in the book] is presented in a short, to-the-point manner. …My book is a real playbook dealing with real life issues, showing the relevancy of God and his word to a society where most churches are not very relevant.”

Faith may not get all the credit for a 21-19 Rose Bowl win for the Frogs, and prayer may not be the only reason for a top-25 TCU recruiting class in 2011. But if you ask Franks, Kerley or Garrett, they’ll tell you both were certainly a part of the playbook.

“Under His Helmet: A Football Devotional” by Melanie Garrett

Available at the TCU Bookstore for $16.99