Ariz. Football Player Shifts Focus to God, Game Improves

In Trevin Wade’s mind, Jon Demeter was pretty persistent in his invitations to visit with him about spiritual matters. What he didn’t realize was the persistence was not really from Demeter but from God Himself.

When he finally “gave in,” the senior University of Arizona football player began a journey that has resulted in amazing spiritual growth and leadership opportunities that he credits with changing his life for the better.

Wade is a native of Round Rock, Texas, who came to Arizona to play football. While he was raised in the African Methodist Episcopal church, he admitted that once he got to college, like many students, he didn’t get plugged into a local church for a while.

His sophomore year, Wade had a successful season on the field for the Wildcats, earning a place as a starting cornerback and making the All-Pac-10 team. But as his light shone brighter on the field, his relationship with God was dimming.

“I always went to chapel before every game, but I never got involved with Athletes in Action,” Wade said. “Every time I saw Jon and he’d ask to visit with me, I’d say ‘no thank you.’”

That next summer, Wade found himself with some struggles and this time, AIA campus director Demeter got a positive response.

“Initially, Trevin was hesitant to begin meeting. He had no idea that he had been in God’s cross-hairs for a while,” recalled Demeter, who has served with AIA at Arizona since 2005. “We began to meet every week, going over the basics of the Christian faith. But it took him a while to begin to open up.”

Wade was working through issues with his academic major, and he sensed trouble was brewing on the spiritual side.

“I had a problem with getting credit from man instead of God, worrying about my image and all about myself,” Wade said. “I got injured a little and things in football started going downhill from there. I was getting beat and getting scored on and the coaches were getting mad. I wanted to get credit from man and it all started turning on me.

“I knew I had to either stay with God through this trial or give up. I knew that the trials were testing my faith, like God was doing this for me by taking football and other things away that I had on a platform.”

During this same time, Wade was meeting regularly with Demeter and beginning to see things from a different perspective. It was, in Wade’s own words, “a rough three months,” but he kept reading the Bible and praying for strength to endure. As the season ended, he attended the Athletes in Action Winter Retreat with Demeter and fellow Arizona athletes in nearby Flagstaff. The lessons he learned there, both physically and spiritually, began the turnaround for Wade.

“I began doing better in the off-season, because now I knew who I was playing for,” Wade said.

As the school year began to wane, Demeter began encouraging Wade and others to consider attending the AIA Ultimate Training Camp, a week-long experience in which athletes learn biblical principles tied in with athletics and physical training. This time, Wade’s response was much more positive. As it turns out, the results were intense.

“I came back this year a different person. My life is really changed,” said Wade, now a senior preparing to graduate in December with a major in economics. “The season started off good and I’m passing where I was last year already. I’m playing for the Lord now and not worrying about myself anymore.”

Wade credits Demeter with being the voice of reason and truth in the midst of a pressure-packed lifestyle of a college athlete. He is also helping Wade to learn to share his faith and use his platform as a college athlete to share a positive message with others. He still attends the weekly Athletes in Action meetings on campus and finds encouragement there, as well as from Arizona strength coach Shawn Farria, also a believer. He’s gaining a reputation among his teammates and friends as a Christ-follower who lives a different life.

Demeter says the change in Wade is remarkable.

“The bump in knowledge, confidence and love that Trevin got both from the AIA Winter Retreat and the Ultimate Training Camp were invaluable in his relationship to the Lord,” he said. “He has been such a spiritual leader on the football team since coming back from the summer. During football camp he gathered all the guys in his room together and pulled out the Soularium cards (a tool that Campus Crusade puts out of 50 color pictures and some questions that start spiritual dialogue). His teammates began opening up and talking about their views on life and God.”

Now Wade is encouraging his team, especially those with which he has connected on faith aspects, to be totally sold out for God. And whatever comes in his next chapter of life, whether he continues to play football or enters the business world, Wade knows he is well equipped.

“Before, I was one of those people who wanted to be halfway; I didn’t want to be all-in as a Christian,” he said. “I always prayed that I would get closer to God, but I didn’t want to do anything about it. But you can’t be halfway. You have to be in there 100 percent.”

Teresa Young is part of the communications team for Athletes in Action, a sports ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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