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468 || No Place for Pride in Faith and Football

Minkah Fitzpatrick saves lives. Maybe not directly, but if you ask any Alabama fan what their blood pressure was earlier this season when Alabama played Texas A&M, they will tell you it was reaching dangerously high levels before Minkah stepped in to do what he does best — win.

He’s a natural-born competitor, someone who focuses on his goals without risking any distractions. Just ask his parents. When his sixth-grade football team went to the playoffs in Florida, he refused to play in the pool with his teammates because he wanted to focus on the upcoming game. 

On the field, Minkah reaches all new levels of control. He’s methodical and precise. Even as he plays in front of 100,000 or more angry and/or excited, happy fans, he’s at peace. Even as the top coach in college football yells at him and occasionally throws his headset. Even as the other teams goad him before and after plays. Even as he deals with the college course load and everyday drama of a 20-year-old student, Minkah is at peace.

It’s something that doesn’t come from skill, although he has that in abundance. It comes from his faith. The calm you see while he plays at Bryant Denny Stadium comes from knowing that football is only part of his life.

It’s what he does, not who he is.

The Peanut Butter Room

Minkah is from Old Bridge, New Jersey, where he grew up in a hard-working family. Things were tough before 2011, but everything changed when Hurricane Irene devastated the area, flooding Minkah’s childhood home. Without flood insurance, the family had no other choice but to rebuild from the ground up, literally.

Minkah’s father worked three jobs while his mother and sister all started working to keep Minkah in the private school where coaches were training him to be the next big thing in football.

Some weeks, even that wasn’t enough. On more than one occasion, Minkah was pulled out of class when administrators told him his family hadn’t paid, he told CBS in 2015. 

Although he was a straight-A student, it’s highly frowned upon to give star athletes additional scholarships because it looks like sports recruiting at the high school level. So Minkah’s family saved and sacrificed to get him the coaching staff he needed to excel. He even offered to stop playing football so he could help his father work, but the family wouldn’t go for that.

There was a room at his private school all the students called the peanut butter room because that’s where the kids who couldn’t afford lunches ate. Other students got fancy lunches — things like buffalo wings and paninis — while the poorer kids got PBJs prepared by one of the school pastors.

That’s where Minkah ate his lunches every single day. The adversity only made him stronger, though.

He worked harder, often spending 13 hours a day at the school after classes, football practice and football meetings were done. Then he came home to help his dad work on the family home after that.

It paid off. He was a five-star recruit out of high school where Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban took him in as a true freshmen. Recently, an article noted that Minkah had the brain of Nick Saban in the body of an NFL star, possibly earning him the greatest compliment that has ever been given to a college football player.

Grace Under Pressure

Even more than his determination and work ethic pushed him, it was Minkah’s faith that held everything together. While Minkah is quiet about his football skills, he is open about his relationship with Jesus.

“The fact that I am where I am today is PROOF that there is a God,” Minkah tweeted earlier this year.

He even wrote Prov 18:12 on his arm bands, a reference to the verse in Proverbs that says, “Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor.”

Or the more well-known version, “Pride goes before a fall.”

It’s a good reminder for someone who is as talented as Minkah. Even Nick Saban, another devout Christian, knows that’s true. Just ask any of the reporters who were accused of giving his players “rat poison” every time they praised them in the media. There’s no place for pride in faith and football.

He doesn’t just live out his faith in front of his teammates, either. Minkah recently formed a bond with a 10-year-old boy with leukemia. The two were fast friends after Minkah made a house call to the boy’s home. Now they stay in touch with Minkah reminding the boy over and over again to keep fighting.

The biography section of Minkah’s Twitter account reads: God told me this movie will write itself, to spread love, be wise and let foolery fight itself.

When you think of Minkah’s life, his trials and dedication, it makes sense that he already knows how everything is going to turn out. That’s where his calm comes from. While thousands — maybe even millions — of Alabama fans might think otherwise, God already has the outcome of every game planned out in advance.

And Minkah knows that.

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