ARLINGTON, Texas (Christian Examiner) -- Whether or not the University of Oregon overcomes Ohio State to win the college football championship Jan. 12, a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chaplain who has worked with the team said some of Oregon's players have already won life's most important contest.
Those players are men of faith, walking with Christ and growing into mature Christian men, said Tony Overstake, who until last week was a football chaplain and volunteer coach for the Oregon Ducks.
"They face so many challenges that come with being a high profile collegiate athlete," Overstake told Christian Examiner. "It is never easy with all the temptations around college athletics in general, but there are also distractions that come with being the number two team in the nation playing for the national championship. Society worships athletes, especially football players. You're always being told how great you are."
But Overstake said Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and wide receivers Keanon Lowe are "grounded."
"They remember who they are in the Lord and know it is what they do off the field that is most important," Overstake said. "Not that winning a national championship isn't important ... it just isn't the most important thing."
Mariota, from Honolulu, Hawaii, told FCA Magazine in a recent interview "going 'all in' for God is glorifying Him with the abilities He's given us and shining our light for Him."
Overstake said Mariota, who grew up Protestant, also finds value in tradition. The quarterback will attend Protestant services on one day, and Catholic chapel the next. He is also at Tuesday Bible studies regularly.
"He has such a quiet, soft spirit about him," Overstake said. "That's one of the things people love about him."
Overstake also said wide receiver Keanon Lowe loves Christ and is a "solid leader" on the team. Lowe, he said, is among the hardest working members of the team, even though the senior has missed multiple games this season due to an injury.
"He has a light about him," Overstake said. "He is a personality people want to follow."
Overstake said the young men he's seen grow spiritually over the past few years want to win. He, too, understands the thrill of winning. The former wrestler and PAC-10 champion piled up an impressive record during his days at the University of Oregon. But victories on the mat, or the football field, are fleeting, he said.
"Being a man of character and living out your faith – that's who we want to be and what we want to do," he said.
Now in his second year with FCA, Overstake remains a chaplain for the other collegiate teams at the university.
Gregory Tomlin is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas. He writes frequently on religion, politics and public policy issues. He is also assistant professor of church history with Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary