Christian beliefs don't dampen competitive spirit

July 29, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

HOOVER, Ala. - During a week together at the Athletes in Action Camp in Colorado this summer, Georgia defensive end David Pollack and Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd got a chance to know each other while strengthening their Christian faith.

But that won't have any impact on the way they play when Georgia comes to Kentucky Nov. 6.

"I am going to sack Shane Boyd no matter what. Or maybe I better say I'm going to try," said Pollack, one of the Southeastern Conference's best defensive players the last two years, Wednesday during the SEC Media Days. "You can still be crazy even if you are playing for God. Shane's a good guy, but that won't stop me from going after him."

Boyd would be disappointed if Pollack didn't come after him.

"That's something we learned at the camp," Boyd said. "He's going to come at me and I'm going to come at him because we are playing for the same reason, and that's for the Lord. It's going to be fun when me and him go head-to-head because we are playing for that higher power."


The camp at Colorado State attracted several players from Kentucky, including freshman linebacker Joe Schuler. His father said his son thought the camp, which included a 24-hour competition, was the hardest thing he had ever done.

"You compete for over 24 hours. It teaches you to play for an audience of one, which is God and is what we should do," Pollack said. "You do all kinds of stuff. You swim. You play basketball. You are worn out by the end. Then you do a one-mile run where you carry a board to resemble what Christ went through. It teaches you that you can do anything because of what Christ did for you."

A "life-changing experience" for Boyd

Boyd said it was a "life-changing experience" for him as much for the Bible study as the athletic competition. But he also returned home impressed with Pollack the person even more than Pollack the player.

"He's a great guy, a credible guy. He's a God-fearing man and that's the most important thing. He's a strong Christian, and we need more of that in college athletics," Boyd said.

Pollack not only leads a Bible study at Georgia for about 20 football players, but he said he also read the Bible with coach Mark Richt on the way to Media Days.

"Coach Richt is phenomenal," Pollack said. "He is a man who cares more about where you go when you die than he does about football. That's something special. Not a lot of coaches are like that. I love him. We put God first at Georgia. Our faith is huge."

Pollack said he heard about the camp from Georgia's team chaplain and at Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings.

"God put it on my heart that I needed to go," Pollack said. "I would not take that week back. We only get three weeks off in the summer and that was one of them, but it was the best week of the summer for me.

"I met a lot of Kentucky guys. We got to share our faith and not worry about football for a few days. We just went out and praised God and thanked him for what he's given us. We are blessed to be able to play football. We need to remember how lucky we are and make sure we tell others that we do what we do because we were blessed by the Lord."

Missing Bo: Kentucky defensive Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns says he hopes cornerback Bo Smith makes a full recovery from injuries suffered in a recent altercation in Oldham County that have put him out for the season. Smith needed surgery to repair head and eye injuries.

"We are going to miss him tremendously on the field. He's a big part of our defense, a shutdown cornerback with NFL-like skills," Burns said. "But the main focus should be on his health, not football.

"I was worried if he would walk or see again. I wasn't even worried about football. Something like this scares us all. It lets us know football could be taken away at any time. We should cherish these moments. We just all wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to having him back."

Quotable: Kentucky coach Rich Brooks was the last of four coaches at Wednesday's media event to speak to the print media.

"Obviously, they saved the best for last," Brooks said.

When there was not an abundance of laughter, Brooks added this, "I've never been a humorous guy. And I continue not to be."

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