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Former NFL athlete shares story, encouraging message (VIDEO)

Bringing athletes to Fresno and across the country for around 14 years, Champions for Today (CFT) came to FC to share how students can make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, Oct. 4. Former National Football League (NFL) player, Leonard Larramore, who played for both the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers visited the campus to share his personal experience as well as perform stunts in front of the students.

Under the branch of Bill Glass Prison Ministries, CFT provides the opportunity for schools to hear from past NFL football players and professional athletes. The Central Valley program is the largest in the nation, with nine athletes, 80 programs, 67 schools and speaking to an average of 36,000 students during an average week.

Larramore played professionally from 1994-1999, followed by joining an organization called Power Team. This Christian organization included professional athletes, body builders, football and basketball players that traveled around to churches and schools. Power Team turned out to be affiliated with CFT and allowed Larramore to share his story.

“My favorite part about traveling is meeting new people,” Larramore said. “You always meet new people; you always hear new stories. And those things I use and put in my arsenal to help the kids. I?ve been doing this ministry around 14 years. I was with the group called the Power Team after I finished playing football. I got plugged in through the Power Team. Same guys who participated in Power Team ended up being involved with Bill Glass ministry.”

Diane Bethke, one of the many helpers involved in CFT, has a long history working with the Bill Glass Prison Ministry programs and appreciates seeing how God is working through the lives of the listeners.

“My husband and I are involved in the Bill Glass Prison Ministry and this is just one arm of it a I guess you would say,” Bethke said. “I’ve been with the ministry [Bill Glass] approximately 12 years. I really just like to watch their faces and how intently they’re listening and seeing that God is working through this ministry; I really can see that through the kids’ faces.”

With the help of volunteers, Larramore lifted students, bent bars, ripped a phonebook and even rolled a frying pan. Through these stunts Larramore interests students enough to explain his message of hope and love in an intense way.

“I am here to, really, just share my personal testimony with young people,” Larramore said. “To let them know that I just did not start out being a professional football player. It was a process to my achievements in life, but God is the main focus behind those achievements. And so my platform of being a professional athlete is that I like to use that to go out and speak to young people, encourage them, give them hope, love and just really help them go to that next level in life.”

With both junior high and high school students present, eighth grader Trevor Trevino enjoyed watching the correlation between the message and the tricks.

“I loved this chapel because he talked about how you can make wise choices,” Trevino said. “We just need to get through dream breakers and need to keep going for your dream. My favorite part was when he rolled the pan and said, ‘You need to close the door to sin, Lord.'”

For some students like sophomore Devin Jakusz, the high energy speaker and strength tricks help when paying attention for a long period of time. Jakusz was also picked as a volunteer where she was lifted and spun around along with another student.

“I liked it and I like that it makes me listen more by hearing their personally stories,” Jakusz said. “I was kind of excited to be picked, but I usually don’t like it; it was scary. I learned that I should follow my dreams and not let anyone stop me.”

Compared to public schools where Larramore also speaks, FC gives him the freedom to openly talk about his faith.

“The message is a little different in public schools,” Larramore said. “I just can’t give the credit to the Bible or to my Christian relationship. So, I just have to stay really general, but at a Christian school, I can share my faith openly, share Scriptures and do a lot of different things to give kids a reference of how I made it to where I am.”

In one stunt, Larramore picks three people; one small, medium and big, to stand on his back while he does push-ups. Since the first year CFT came on campus, senior Stephan Melendez was chosen as the “Big Dream.”

“Being the ?Big Dream? for the past four years in chapel is a great honor,” Melendez said. “I get to help students understand the importance of Jesus Christ?s forgiveness and a second chance in life. But, at the same time I am sad to not help out next year as the ‘Big Dream.'”

Local businessman and CFT helper Norm Kizirian has been volunteering with the organization for 13 years and appreciates the message that goes out to students across the country.

“I love to see how the kids are impacted,” Kizirian said. “We are born choosers. God gives us free will and we need to take personal responsibility for our actions. There is a price to pay for any inappropriate actions but that doesn’t mean we mess up for life.”

Along with the positive lessons from each presentation, Kizirian believes that the visual representations help students understand the the meaning of real life situations.

“A lot of kids see the visuals and remember it,” Kizirian said. “They remember the steel bar and remember that they can make a u-turn in whatever circumstance they might be in.”

Not only do the students appreciate the guest speaker, but teachers as well. Bible teacher Robert Foshee admires the insight Larramore provides for students as one of their athletic role models.

“They get real and I think it’s a great message that they give to fight through whatever somebody goes through,” Foshee said. “It’s not just their life story, but a Christian lifestyle. It gives great insight of how we can rely on God. Each time you get a different perspective. This year, he {Larramore} had a different background, which was cool for him to share what God has done in his life.”

For more features, read the Sept. 28 article
Seventh grader sets motorcycle world record.

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