Baron Athletics

Faith and Football

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Baron Athletics

Faith and Football

The 2022 Baron Club dinner highlighted former football players’ stories of faith.

Autumn 2022

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Faith and Football

Jim Tressel, Mike Tomczak, Ryan Shazier, Franciscan University President Fr. Dave Pivonka,TOR, Maurice Clarett, and Simon Arias.

Football greats and coaching legends headlined the 54th Baron Club Dinner, an annual fundraiser that supports Franciscan University’s D-III athletic programs.

Franciscan Athletic Director Scott Greve opened the evening with an update on sports at the University and highlighted the unique role faith has for the student-athletes.

“Baron Athletics is all about helping each of us grow closer to Jesus through sport,” he said. “Competition gives us the opportunity to share grace and mercy, both in winning and losing. It is sometimes in our missteps and falls that God brings the greatest of victories.”

Coaches held a place of honor during this year’s award presentations. Father Terence Henry Baron Club Awards were given to Jerry France, former Ohio University head baseball coach, and Bob Kramer, former Madonna High School football coach. Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz and his late wife, Beth, received the Kuzma Community Award for their service to Franciscan University and the local region.

Jim Tressel, president of Youngstown State University and former head coach of The Ohio State Buckeyes, then led a panel discussion with four former football players: Simon Arias, Maurice Clarett, Ryan Shazier, and Mike Tomczak. The men shared their inspirational stories of faith and perseverance on and off the field.

Attendees at the 2022 Baron Club dinner heard stories of faith from former football players.

One such story was that of retired Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Shazier, who sustained a life-threatening spinal injury during a game in 2017. Shazier talked about how going from playing professional football to learning how to walk again tested his trust in God.

“I thought my goal was to play football. I thought my goal was to be in the Hall of Fame,” Shazier said. “The biggest thing I learned was that our faith has to be in God and not in ourselves.”

Shazier also mentioned how the support and prayers he received helped him throughout his rehabilitative journey. Now, he provides the same support for others facing spinal injuries through his charitable foundation.

“If I never got hurt, I don’t think I would be on this stage right now,” he added. “I would still be with the team and focusing on the vision I had. I wouldn’t be able to talk about the vision God has for me.”

To close the evening, Tressel posed a question to the audience that he first heard from New York Yankee Bobby Richardson, who asked, “If the game of life ended tonight, would you be a winner?” “It can seem like difficult times, and we can wonder how it’s all going to turn out,” Tressel said, “but we can end up winning if we let our God direct our steps.”

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