Going Long

In Columbus, Ohio, where the colors of fall are scarlet and gray, the Buckeyes of The Ohio State University are top of mind. Not too far from Ohio State though, there are fans who think football is all about the Falcons of Bowling Green State University and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame — and their quarterbacks, respectively, Josh Harris and Brady Quinn.
 
These two record-breaking quarterbacks have never met, but they have much in common. Aside from leading the offense of high-profile collegiate teams, these two share a history with the Buckeye Region of Young Life and friendships with Young Life leaders that extend beyond their high school experiences.
Josh Harris: Bowling Green State University
The list of accolades for Josh Harris grows as fast as his rise up the ranks of collegiate quarterbacks. As of mid-October, Harris was ranked eighth in the country in total offense, racking up an impressive 304 average yards per game. He is a Heisman Trophy hopeful and one of 26 finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the nation’s top senior quarterback.

He’s been named a Mid-American Conference scholar-athlete three years in a row. Earlier this year, he led the Falcons to their first victory over a nationally ranked team in 31 years in BGSU’s 27-26 win over Purdue.

He does it all. He passes. He runs. And he prays. He and his wife, Tami — an all-American athlete herself — spend time in prayer nightly, offering up the present and the future. You would think Josh would find the pressure unnerving, but he says he’s getting better at handling it. “Things don’t change all that much,” Harris said. “I still try hard to do the right thing at all times. I try to do what’s right for everyone.”
 
A young leader
That kind of maturity is what impressed Ryan Snow, area director in Westerville, Ohio, when Harris started coming to club during high school. “In his junior year when he started coming, Josh brought tremendous energy to the meetings,” Snow said. “That summer of 1999 he was responsible for bringing a large group of athletes to Lake Champion. Ninety-seven kids were on the trip, and we had an unforgettable week.”

Harris remembers camp as the place he realized he was not alone. “Camp was cool,” he said. “I met a lot of guys who were going through the same stuff I was. You realize you’re not the only one.” And Harris is thankful that Young Life showed him that following Christ can be fun. “This is something I enjoy, not another obligation,” he said.
 
Faith on the field
Harris has taken his faith from Westerville North High School to his teammates at BGSU. “You can see the faith at work in the way our coaches and teammates pull together, what we believe in,” he said. “I’ve learned to believe in something even if I can’t see it. We have a deep belief on the team that things are going to work out positively for us and trust in what is supposed to happen.”

Ryan Snow couldn’t be prouder of his friend. “Josh is an unbelievable athlete. In high school, he lettered in football, basketball and track,” Snow said. “He doesn’t have to work to be good, but he hasn’t settled for that. He’s gone beyond just getting by to become all God intends him to be.”
Brady Quinn: Notre Dame University
Brady Quinn made his first start for Notre Dame against Purdue University. During that game, he passed for a total of 297 yards and completed an 85-yard touchdown pass that was the third-longest pass play in Notre Dame history. And get this — he’s only a freshman.

And at Quinn’s alma mater, Dublin Coffman High School, there is no passing record without Brady Quinn’s name tagged to it: most passes completed in a career, most passing yards gained in a season and most touchdowns in a career.

Quinn would be the last person to recite those achievements, however. The words from
James 1:19 — “Be quick to listen and slow to speak …” — characterize Quinn, said Rob “Crock” Crocker, Buckeye regional director and Quinn’s Young Life leader. That verse and, in fact, the whole book of James became the focus for Quinn and a close-knit group of upperclassmen that met every Friday morning at 6:30 in a local doughnut shop. The discipleship group called itself the “James Gang.”

“The group was one of the best things I ever did,” Quinn said. “I kept to myself a lot, but I found a close group of friends there. We became true friends over time and really held each other to higher standards.”

Crocker said this type of study, geared toward seniors, helps them navigate through the last year of high school, but also prepares them for the future.

In Quinn’s case, the future is being played out in front of national media and the eyes of thousands of fans. He handles the pressures, trusting that “it’s in God’s hands, not mine. He has a plan for me, and I need to walk in it.”
 
Part of a larger plan
Quinn still communicates with friends from home, including the quarterback who took his place. “I talk to him a lot via e-mail,” Quinn said. “I try to give him inspiration, telling him not to worry. ‘Keep praying and keep believing.’”

That doesn’t surprise Crocker, who is passionate about preparing kids to become leaders in the faith. He knows that each one is part of a larger plan. “Of course, when kids leave Young Life for college we hope some will become Young Life leaders,” he said. “And many do. But all of them have a ministry. That’s what we’re preparing them for. Brady’s ministry is football.”

The friendship between Brady and Crocker remains strong. The two talk several times a week. They conclude most conversations with prayer. “I have a really close relationship to Crock,” Quinn said. “I can talk to him about anything — school, sports, my girlfriend and my faith. He gives me great advice. It might sound funny with our age difference and all, but Crock’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”
 
Continuing Relationships
The Young Life mission statement doesn't end with "introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ." It continues with "helping adolescents to grow in their faith." What begins at club and at camp continues — sometimes less visibly, but always just as vitally, in smaller groups and one-on-one relationships as leaders walk into adulthood with teenagers like Josh Harris and Brady Quinn.