In 1990 I was the the offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky and had the wide receivers and quarterbacks over to my house for dinner one evening after spring football practice had finished. One of the players attending was our starting quarterback named Freddie Maggard. Most coaches do this just to get to know the players a little better in a personal way in a non-competitive environment. Before we ate, I said a prayer like I have always done with my family, thanking God for the food and the opportunity to work with these young men. I didn’t think much of it at the time, they ate, we socialized, then they went home. One year later I left to become the offensive coordinator at Auburn University.

25 years later Freddie Maggard called me to go speak at his church. When Freddie introduced me on Sunday morning at church, he told me that he had never forgotten that prayer I said before dinner 25 years earlier. He even quoted some of it. He said he had never heard a man or coach pray that personal of a prayer in that type of environment, a coach and his players. He told me, “A simple prayer showed me what a Godly man looked like. That simple prayer shaped my life as a Christian man”.

I had not seen, talked to, or corresponded with Freddie Maggard one time in 25 years. Tommy Bowden had nothing to do with Freddie’s growth and maturity as a Christian. But this is the kind of legacy you can leave when you make yourself available to God.

Looking back at the change in Freddie's life, and in the lives of many others, I believe a coach, or any man, can leave a legacy by sharing these five basic principles with the young people they have influence over:

  1. Commitment

  2. Accountability

  3. Responsibility

  4. Discipline

  5. Sacrifice

I think all coaches believe this even though they might use different words. If you take the first letter of each of these words it would spell CARDS. If you study the life of Jesus Christ and the principles of Christianity, you would surely have to agree that it teaches and heavily emphasizes Commitment, Accountability, Responsibility, Discipline, and Sacrifice. This is one of the reasons I strongly encouraged my players to get involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and regularly attend a local church.

As their coach, I tried to give them as many resources as possible to help me incorporate CARDS into their daily schedule and lifestyle. If their success depended on them making good, wise decisions when they were not under my supervision, then why not put them in as many environments as I could, where CARDS was encouraged. I am mostly familiar with college football programs in the Southeast since that is where I spent most of my coaching career as an assistant and head coach. Most every team in this area has a team chaplain and is actively involved with the FCA.

I know there are Christian coaches in other parts of the country that encourage a similar environment, I’m just not as familiar with them. But this I know, using CARDS in football to teach Jesus, is alive and well in the Bible Belt and provides some key principles that will allow you to leave a legacy wherever you are.

Tommy Bowden can be seen weekly as a College Football Analyst with Fox Sports. He coached college football for 32 years and holds the record as head coach for 90 wins in eleven and a half years and has never had a losing season. Coach Bowden has been actively involved with faith-based speaking for at least 20 years. He has been involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for over 30 years and speaks at fundraisers and conferences. He has been honored in the past as the FCA National Coach of the year. Follow Coach Bowden on Twitter @tommy_bowden.