This year marks the 150th anniversary of College Football, which means plenty of interesting documentaries on ESPN!  One story that caught my attention was the bravery of Nate Northington–the first African American football player in the SEC.

In contrast to the image of Alabama Governor George Wallace attempting to prevent the entry of black students at the University of Alabama, the above photograph captures the signing of Northington at the University of Kentucky–spearheaded by Kentucky Governor Ned Breathitt, a major Civli Rights voice in the South in the 1960s.

Given how this important action represents the mission and vision of Imago Dei Leadership Forum and the idea of treating others as image-bearers of God, I thought you might enjoy reading more about this interesting history in an op-ed of mine that ran on Friday October 24 in The Wall Street Journal, which they entitled, “College Football as a Religious Experience”:

While the National Football League is celebrating its 100th season, college football goes back even further. Originating only four years after the end of the Civil War, the sport kept men from being “soft” and offered what William James deemed “the moral equivalent of war.”

After the inaugural game on Nov. 6, 1869—in which Rutgers defeated Princeton 6-4—football rapidly spread to the Northeastern and Ivy League schools and exemplified the 19th century ideal of “muscular Christianity.”

Trailblazers like athlete-coach Amos Alonzo Stagg recognized the important role sports could play in developing men of strong Christian character and reaching the world with the Gospel. After being hired to coach football and lead the athletic program at the University of Chicago in 1892, Stagg declared he “could influence others to Christian ideals more effectively on the field than in the pulpit.”

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