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Faith and football with the BC Lions

by Vince Rankine

After a convincing win over the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday, Oct 22, by a score of 32-25, the BC Lions rested the next day before their preparations begin for their final two games against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It wasn’t all rest though. On Sunday several players from the Lions showed appreciation to their fans by appearing at Calvary Worship Center church in New Westminster for a community event. The event was coordinated by Dave Klassen of Athletes in Action and Chaplain of the BC Lions and the Vancouver Canucks.

Before and after every home game, Klassen gathers the players together for a time of reflection which he refers to as “Chapel.” It’s a historical tradition he’s mirrored from legendary NFL Coach Vince Lombardi who popularized chapel during the 1950’s.

During chapel players are encouraged, motivated and most importantly, engaged in a time of prayer to God to boost their faith and confidence.

The players who attended chapel in New Westminster were; wide receiver Shawn Gore, defensive line-man Maxx Forde, fullback Rolly Lumbala, defensive tackle Bryant Tuner Jr., and strength and conditioning coach, Chris Boyko.

The event kicked off as a regular service with praise and worship, followed by a short message, then after, Klassen gathered the players at the front of the church for questions and answer. Klasssen believes chapel is a fundamental part of Christian athlete’s life because it provides community for them in times of loneliness.

Commitment, discipline and faith was the recurring theme discussed during the evening by each player. They attribute their successes in professional football to living a life of faith, being disciplined in their chosen profession, and having the commitment to keep going no matter how difficult situations get.

Toronto native Shawn Gore was drafted as a receiver by the Lions in 2010. Now in his seventh season with the team, the 29 year-old veteran has been one of the standout receivers on the team. This season alone in 16 games, Gore has achieved 829 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

As a teenager, Gore played high school basketball then rugby before making the transition to football. After high school, Gore attended college at Bishops University in Quebec where he was a standout wide receiver earning male athlete of the year in 2009. While in College, Gore admits he wasn’t focused on a professional football career, he admits his thoughts were “just living in the moment…the next game…the next training session.” It wasn’t until his skills developed dramatically that he started thinking about the pro’s.

Gore attributes habits like discipline and sacrifice as leading him to a successful career as a wide receiver. He admits there were guys more talented than he was who didn’t make the pro’s simply because they weren’t disciplined. During his college years, he missed many parties, and other family social events such as weddings, because he had to focus on football games and practises. Gore says he wanted to be the best player he could be and reach the highest level he could reach, so he had to make many sacrifies, even when it meant choosing the right foods. Gore models a pyramid system of success for his life. “If the things around me don’t line up for me in reaching my goals, then those things had to go,” he says.

Gore says he prays for success. He prays to God to give him the strength to accomplish his goals. Roughly 90 players go into the Lions training camp each spring and at the end of the camp, only 40 will make the team. Gore says he’s blessed to be living out his dream as a professional football player. “I am ahead of the game because I’m playing the sport that I love. I’m living my dreams,” he continues.

Playing profession football is a dream; only a small percentage of players make the pro’s and when they do, it’s a very short career, averaging only two and a half years long. It’s a short lived career and Gore feels he’s beaten the odds now playing in his seventh season with the Lions.

When asked what it feels like when fans or other players acknowledge him for doing something amazing, Gore says it feels like validation for all the work he’s put in over the years.”

With one Grey Cup win under his belt in 2011, Shawn Gore hopes to help the Lions win another one in 2016. It’s something they’re all praying for.

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