When I was sixteen-seventeen years old I had coaches from all over the Country calling my house every night. My stock went up greatly in basketball. I’d walk in the door from practice in my junior & senior years of high school, and I'd be on the phone for two or three hours, under pressure conversations. That's pretty tough for a high-school kid to go through with all the big head attitude that [pressure] can bring.
I ended up playing big-time college basketball. I went to Duke University. My freshman year we played in the final game of the NCAA tournament. As a freshman, I even got into the game and scored four points. We got beat by a six points by Kentucky, but I can promise you right now, number two in the Country is not bad. We got back to Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium and every shoe company in the world had sent every player a brand new pair of shoes. When you're in that big-time college basketball arena, particularly like the *ACC, people recognize you in restaurants. You walk in a store they ask you about the games. People know who you are. You go into a store and there's your picture on posters. You can’t get away from it. People are paying for your meals at restaurants. They are bringing their little kids up asking for you to sign their shirt or something.
After I left Duke, in North Carolina, and came back to Georgia where I was coaching and teaching, I was trained to look over my shoulder and say, “Who's looking at me?” “Who's recognizing me?” It was a positive paranoia that had been that had built into me over four years. That was part of the ego trip. It took time for me to come down off of that, and realize, “Nobody's looking at me.” “Nobody cares that I’m in this restaurant, or at this store, or whatever. The Duke thing is fading. It's gone. It is no more.” That was a rude awakening, but a good thing.
College athletes are treated like idols. The only way I survived that time in my life was something that happened right at the end of my high school career. I had a high school friend who ends up being the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I also had an assistant basketball coach who was the school Chaplain at my private high school. Through their friendship, they shared with me what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and what it meant to turn my life over to him.
Near the end of my high school time, I was in a classroom, the teacher was teaching, inside of me I was churning. I knew I was a jerk. I knew I was selfish. I knew I was an egomaniac. I knew that basketball had crept into me that way. I knew I was headed toward destruction. So, I bowed my head in the middle of class. I tuned out the teacher and prayed to the Lord. I said, “Jesus, I understand you died for me. You went to the cross for me. You paid for my sin. You rose from the dead. That’s what I know, and that's what I’m going to put my trust in.” So I gave my life to Christ.
When I got to Duke as this raw young Christian, knowing very little, with all this crazy idolatry flying around, the only way I survived [spiritually] was getting connected to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Duke University.
My first church job at after seminary was at a large church with a pastor that had a TV ministry and a radio ministry. He served on several Boards. He traveled all over the country. He had thirty phone calls a day. He was a pastor's pastor. He pastored all over the Country, and the Lord used him well. I haven't been used that way. That's not been my life. I've had to you appreciate that, but be at peace just being a small to medium sized church pastor, just loving people and serving them, and leading them without being an author, without being on the television, without being on everybody’s Board, without having my phone ringing all time. I’ve had to be at peace just doing the next right thing, serving the next sheep that came in the door, loving on that person and telling them the truth. That’s my life. That's what the Lord has for me.
*Atlantic Coast Conference, See www.http://www.theacc.com