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Ryan Smith, a high school football coach in Newton, Mississippi, recently had the opportunity to lead one of his football players to Christ and baptize him in front of a unique audience of approximately 250,000.
Smith is a Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) alumnus and the head football coach at Newton High School. When one of his senior players, Garrick Alford, approached him about receiving salvation, Smith was more than happy to help.
“He (Alford) approached me one day and talked to me about a couple of things,” Smith said. “One of them was football-related and the other was about receiving salvation.”
A few weeks after that conversation, Alford expressed his interest in furthering his new commitment through baptism. However, rather than being baptized in front of a church congregation, Alford wanted to be baptized in front of his fellow teammates. After finding an off-campus location nearby, teammates were invited to join Alford after school to witness his baptism.
“You could see a lifestyle change,” Smith said. “You could see his (Alford’s) language change. You could just see him change, not anything that I have done but as a result of what Christ has done in his life.”
Along with students and members of the community that volunteered to attend, the baptism was also captured on video and shared on social media. With approximately 250,000 views and counting on Facebook, Smith said that the footage has been a "rallying point" for local churches and the community.
While the footage gained both praise and negative feedback, Smith believes that the necessary legal steps were taken in coordinating this off-campus event.
Smith also believes that his time at SAGU in Waxahachie, Texas, has been a significant influence on his values and beliefs as a Christian coach.
“I think if you are called to teach, first of all, you are not doing it for the money because there is not a lot of money in it,” Smith said. “Second of all, if you are doing it, it may be because that is what God has called you to do. If you are doing that, I would say to start teaching character.”
Smith went to say, “To have the opportunity to be the head coach and to do what God has called me to do — to see that kind of fruit — is awesome.”
In regards to what is next for Alford, he will be graduating in May and has already received several offers to further his education and to play football at the collegiate level.