TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Offensive lineman Barrett Jones and his University of Alabama teammates hoisted the gleaming, crystal trophy into the air while thousands in the stadium cheered – the Crimson Tide football team had won the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) National Championship.
Grueling hours of practice, training and watching films had finally paid off. But in that moment, one thought struck Jones: “This is great, but this is what all that work was for – this crystal trophy – something that will break?”
And break it did.
A few months after the championship, an accident left the trophy, worth thousands of dollars, shattered on the floor.
“What a symbol of things of the world,” Jones said. “Something I worked so hard for and put so much into, someone just knocked it over and it breaks. And that’s exactly how the things of the world are – it’s a great picture of when you invest in other things and you make other things your idol above God, that they’re going to crumble.”
A 22-year-old graduate student at Alabama, Jones has built a slew of achievements during his football career: the Wuerffel Award for combining exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement; the Outland Trophy for the best college football interior lineman; unanimous NCAA All-American; being part of two national championship seasons and graduating with a 4.0 GPA in accounting in three years.
He and his team vie for another national championship title Jan. 7 when the Crimson Tide faces Notre Dame for the 2012 title.
But for the towering 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound football player, the trophies and achievements are nothing compared to what he is truly passionate about – sharing the gospel.
Photo by Thomas Graham
Beneath the bright lights at the University of Alabama, offensive lineman Barrett Jones kneels in prayer before a game against the Ole Miss Rebels on Sept. 29 – a personal practice before each game. His brother Harrison, who plays tight end, offers an encouraging pat on the back.
“If I’m known as Barrett Jones – he’s a great Alabama football player – then I’m not doing my job. I want to be known as Barrett Jones – he’s a Christian who happens to play football – not a football player who happens to be a Christian.
“My faith is the most important thing to me, it’s not just an important thing to me on a list of things. … I feel like [God’s] called me to go and to tell people about Him, so that’s my main job.”
This past March during spring break, Jones, a member of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., organized and led his third mission trip. Thirty-one of his friends, family and fellow Bellevue members headed to Jinotega, Nicaragua, to share the gospel. He previously led groups to minister in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
A servant’s heart is something Barrett’s parents, Rex and Leslie, instilled in all their sons at an early age. As a fifth-grader in 2001, Barrett accompanied his parents on a missions trip to Honduras, along with his two younger brothers, Harrison and Walker. The venture helped shape the boys’ worldview.
“I think missions is something that’s extremely important to the Christian community because God is so much bigger than just America – He’s a global God,” Barrett said. “Every time I go on mission trips, I’m reminded how big God is and how big the family and the body of Christ is. … Even though [God] doesn’t need me, He doesn’t need my help, He has called me to do certain things overseas and that’s why I feel blessed to be doing that.”
Jones also looks for “mission fields” at his own back door.
“You can have a variety of mission fields, and I think this [Alabama football] team is a mission field for me,” Jones said. He also sees the city of Tuscaloosa and the many fans he meets while speaking at churches, awards dinners and Boy Scout meetings as opportunities to talk about Christ.
“[God’s] given me a platform to share my faith where people are interested in hearing about it,” he said. “… [It’s] a great opportunity.”
His dad, director of advancement at Evangelical Christian School in Cordova, said he sees Barrett striving to honor Christ in all he does.
“Most people think that fame, fortune and money are really what drives most people, and they don’t with Barrett,” Rex Jones said. “I really believe that most of the awards that he won this year were nothing more than God’s hand preparing the platform for him to be able to share.”
For now, Barrett has put his NFL plans on hold to finish his graduate degree and to spend a year playing for the Crimson Tide with his younger brother, Harrison, a junior tight end.
“As I matured and continued to grow in my faith and read the Bible and prayed, God just showed me His eternal vision,” Jones said. “I’ve just caught that and realized that sports are going to pass away just like everything else – and the only thing that’s going to matter at the end is your relationship with Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is a writer for IMB.)