During the opening week of the football season at North Greenville University, after evangelist R.V. Brown spoke to the team, 13 players prayed to receive Christ as Savior.
That experience “sparked” something in senior punter Jacob Buckley’s heart, who for a couple of years had been holding a Bible study in the house he shared with two other players. “Starting that night, [my roommates and I] got on our knees and prayed before going to bed every night.”
A few weeks later, scores of North Greenville students, including several football players, came forward to make public professions of faith during a chapel service less than a week after the tragic death of student Brent Elrod.
Elrod’s death “really shook a lot of the players and made them question whether they were saved or not,” Buckley said. He noticed that a majority of the football players making faith decisions were underclassmen, so he approached head coach Jeff Farrington and his staff to ask if he might be allowed to have a Bible study for team members in the locker room after Friday walk-throughs. The coach told Buckley it was a great idea.
“We have a good group of older players,” said assistant coach Trey McCray, who described Buckley as the “spiritual leader” of the team. “We wanted to step back and let those guys [take charge of the Bible study], and we offered to help them any way we could.”
The first time the players gathered for the voluntary Bible study, there were 16 present; the next time, 25. “It’s taken off,” said Buckley. “The guys have gotten really deep the last couple of weeks.” He said the studies are an open discussion, “not just me talking.” Buckley’s roommates, Jake Morris and Braelen Meredith, also help lead the weekly study.
On the Friday before the Crusaders’ last game of the season, seven of the players were baptized by Buckley’s father, Seth Buckley, who is student pastor at Spartanburg First Baptist Church.
“Watching guys accept Christ means more to me than anything,” said the younger Buckley, “more than any punt.”