Spud Alford: He Did It God's Way
By Randy Rudder
The 700 Club
Spud Alford’s life always revolved around athletics. In high school, he excelled in track, football and baseball and went on to play at the University of Southern Mississippi. Then, one day in 1976, he saw something on TV that would change his life.
“I was working at Sears to pay my way through college, and I happened to notice on the appliance center TV a fellow by the name of Bruce Jenner,” Spud tells The 700 Club. “I had never watched the Olympic Games before. I had never heard the word ‘decathlon’, but I fell in love with what I saw as he carried the American flag around the track that particular day.”
He began training immediately for the 1980 Olympics and spent the next four years preparing for Moscow. While participating in the trials in Eugene, Oregon, however, his plans were derailed.
“I got through eight events and got to the ninth event, which is the javelin. In the javelin, you’ve got this boot that has spikes in the heels. So when you plant your foot, you’d better make sure it’s where you want it. I planted and my knee just exploded to the left. So there I lay in front of 30,000 people, and basically the dream ended there.”
President Carter announced that year that the United States would be boycotting the Moscow Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But that was the least of Spud’s concerns. That same year, he began to feel a chronic pain in his groin.
“I was so focused on that gold medal and my task at hand. Decathletes are so use to pain every day that it was just one more pain. So I just let it go for actually one year.”
Spud eventually saw his doctor, who examined him and did a CAT scan. The news was not good.
Spud recalls, “They came into my room with my parents and a preacher. Obviously, I knew they weren’t bringing football scores. The doctor walks over to my bed, and he says, ‘Spud, we have found a grapefruit-sized tumor under your right rib cage, and it’s much worse than we thought.”
Sadly, Spud was so focused on an Olympic medal that he had been using anabolic steroids during his training, which may have caused the tumor. The doctor prescribed major surgery, and Spud prepared for the worst. Later that evening, he received a visit from an old friend.
“About 30 minutes later, this fellow came walking in my room — Bobby Banks from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We knew each other. He said he was at home doing his devotional with his family, and he felt like the Lord spoke to him, ‘I want you to go to Forest General Hospital. Spud is there with cancer, and I want you to go pray for him. I’m going to heal him tonight.’”
Banks laid hands on Spud, praying for his healing.
“He prayed this incredible prayer for me, unlike I’d ever heard before — the sincerity in his voice and the way he just looked at me. I sort of pepped up. The next day or so, they came into my room and said, ‘We’ve got to mark you for an extensive surgery.’”
Doctors then performed a second CAT scan.
“They did the CAT scan again, came into my room that evening and said, ‘Spud, it doesn’t really look like there is a tumor there today. We’re not really sure what’s happening. We believe it’s there. These machines don’t generally make a mistake.’ I actually saw both x-rays. I saw the mass, and it was clear this time.”
He underwent chemotherapy for a short period as a follow-up, but the tumor has never reappeared. Even after this miracle, though, Spud still tried to hold god at arm’s length. He began working to rehabilitate his knee and started training for the 1984 Olympics. He also began to drift from God.
“The further I got away from that event, the more I got back into the normal way I felt about training and life,” Spud says. “I was on the campus at Southern Miss one day, and I was in front of the Student Union in my car. I heard this gentleman singing with his guitar out in front there on the lawn.”
A young evangelist named Rice Broocks was there speaking to anyone who would listen.
Spud says “I listened to the songs, and I began to cry. When Rice Broocks got up there with his Bible and began to preach the word unlike I’d ever heard before in my life, I knew that day that my life would never be the same.”
Broocks invited the students to a meeting that night, where Spud accepted Christ.
“I maybe for the first time ever, earnestly, spoke with God and said, ‘I believe in You. I’ve always believed in You. I just had things I wanted to do first that I thought were more important than making You the complete Lord of my life.”
Spud’s Olympic dreams eventually faded, and he went through several challenges in his personal life. He then moved to Georgia and married Cathy. Spud always dreamed of starting a business that involved his love for sports. One evening in 1989, he got an idea, and Zelosport was born. The company developed a board game based on finger football and has since expanded into soccer, baseball and golf. Although the company has faced some challenges, God has proven Himself time and time again.
“You know, God’s just continued to bless everything that we’ve done, because we’ve kept Him in the middle of everything that we’ve done. He sits in our boardroom. He directs everything that we do.”
Spud still shares his testimony every chance he gets and says he has finally learned to trust God in every area of his life. He says, “I’ve tried a lot of things in Spud’s ability in my life, from the decathlon to relationships to companies. I’ve failed at most. I eventually realized that yes, He is, in fact, concerned about everything in our lives and does want to be Lord of our lives, because obviously He’s been here longer and He knows better.”
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