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Coleman, Branch tell different kind of war story

April 04, 2004|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

Monte Coleman stood before a room full of athletes, coaches and sports fans Thursday night in Frederick, Md., ready to tell a story.

It wasn't the typical story you would expect from a former standout athlete, and Coleman apologized for that - in a sense.

"I guess I'm supposed to talk about football," Coleman said. "OK. I'll talk about football. Joe Gibbs is great. I'm glad he's back. There."

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He wasn't being flip. He simply felt he had more important things to talk about with this gathering.

Coleman was the featured speaker at the Western Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes Fundraising Banquet at the FSK Holiday Inn.

As an athlete who was impacted by the FCA, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the former Washington Redskins standout thought it better to give his testimony about the organization and his relationship with Jesus Christ.

"I could talk about football. I've got a lot of football stories," Coleman said. "But none of those stories are as good as the one I'm going to tell."

Nor as good the ones told by former Maryland basketball star Adrian Branch - who served as emcee - Urbana football coach Dave Carruthers and former Clear Spring High School athlete Matt Michael.

And that was just fine with the more than 200 people who were on hand for the event. They knew what Coleman and company were there for, and it wasn't to talk about their careers.

In fact, the point that each person who took the microphone made was that, in our society, the third letter in FCA often overshadows the first two letters.

There's plenty of emphasis on the athletes and on athletics - at all levels - but fellowship and Christian values are often left out of the mix in sports.

For Branch, it took only a few words from Los Angeles Lakers teammate A.C. Green - one of the most respected men ever to play in the NBA - to help him get the recipe right.

Green noticed Branch running in two circles of friends - "my wild friends and my good friends," Branch said - and offered his wisdom.

"Adrian, are you gonna be fixed up ... or mixed up?" Green asked the youngster.

Branch said it didn't take long for him to make that decision.

Coleman has been involved with FCA since his days at the University of Central Arkansas. He said his relationship with Christ goes back further, but it was more of an acquaintance at that time.

"I was baptized when I was in about the sixth grade, but I didn't know what that meant," Coleman said. "I went into the water a sinner and I came out a wet sinner."

Who says Christians can't be funny? Coleman and Branch had the crowd in stitches at times.

All the while, they delivered a clear message to the high schoolers in attendance, the ones who make up the newest generation of FCA.

There is a lot of glory to go around in sports, and it's OK to take joy in success. The key is keeping the priorities in line.

And once that happens, there's plenty of time for telling football stories.




Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com

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