Watts says FCA kept him straight
Former University of Oklahoma quarterback and ex-Congressman J.C. Watts told a packed crowd that his involvement in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meant the difference between “graduating from a public educational institution and graduating from a penal institution.”
Watts, who spoke at Columbia’s annual FCA fundraiser October 25 at the Embassy Suites, said he was re-introduced to the organization as an incoming freshman at Oklahoma. He had grown up in a rural impoverished neighborhood in Eufala, Oklahoma, and had been one of the first children in the area to attend an integrated elementary school.
He said his life could have gone either way, but with the help of FCA, he graduated in 1981 with a degree in journalism and became a football player in the Canadian Football league until 1986.
Watts, who went onto a career in politics until his retirement in 2003, said that athletic mentors could have a great deal of influence on young people’s lives.
“If you ask someone who his or her seventh grade teacher is, they may have to think about that for awhile,” he said. “But you ask who their basketball coach was, and that person does not forget that name. Coaches can have that much influence.”
Watts said his spiritual journey has not been easy over the years with the many career hats he has worn including athlete, politician, pastor, and businessman.
“Forgiveness is what I have struggled with,” he said. “I’ve gone all the way through the Bible for a loophole on that. Unforgiveness is J. C. Watts drinking poison and expecting it to kill someone else.”
Watts also said he hopes coaches and leaders realize their roles in the lives of their athletes.
“(USC Head Coach) Steve Spurrier used to be a great quarterback; he was a Heisman Trophy winner,” he said. “Let me tell you though, he can’t throw a ball anymore. He can’t run fast anymore. His job is to put the players on the right spot on the field and to tell his players when they aren’t doing right.”
That job needs to translate to life off the football field, Watts told the crowd.
“We don’t do correction well,” he said. “We have to make sure that people want to be better and put them on that path – on and off the field and court.”
An investment in FCA, Watts said, helps that happen. The message seemed to resonate through the crowd as dozens of donation envelopes were collected from attendees. Organizers had targeted the fundraiser to raise the lion’s share of the FCA Midlands’ $328,000 annual budget. That money goes towards funding staff salaries, providing FAC camp and retreat scholarships, paying for resources like Bibles, and directing money for annual outreach programs.
According to its website, 85.9 percent of every dollar goes directly to ministry.