Mark Richt: A Protege of Football's Finest
By Will Dawson
The 700 Club
Gatorade baths are just part of the job for University of Georgia head coach Mark Richt. Coach Richt is one of only nine Division I coaches in history with 60 or more wins in his first six seasons. But Mark didn’t dream of becoming a coach. In college, his dream was to become a successful quarterback. He attended the University of Miami, but playing time was hard to come by. Mark was second string to legendary quarterback, Jim Kelly.
"Once my dreams of becoming this great quarterback went in the tank. I went in the tank and did all kinds of things I shouldn’t have done," he recalls of his wild college partying days.
"One summer, I had a roommate come in who was a little bit on the wild side too. He was that until that summer he had recently gotten saved. He just spent some time talking to me about what had happened to him. It was just kind of me and him and his Bible, and he was planting some really good seeds."
But Mark wasn’t ready to listen. I was more worried about what my friends thought rather than what God thought.
"I was thinking I had to be perfect to become a Christian. I was thinking if I turned my life over to God, He may send me on a mission trip somewhere and not be this great quarterback iI wanted to be."
Mark’s playing career ended after graduation, but he decided to pursue a career in coaching ... a decision that payed off. No doubt Coach Richt is one of the top coaches in the country, but it was a legendary coach that gave Mark his start and had a major impact on his life.
700 Club Reporter Will Dawson: Does the name Bobby Bowden mean anything to you?
Mark Richt: Yeah, Bobby Bowden! Coach Bowden ... when I hear his name I still think he’s my boss, you know? He gave me an opportunity to be a coach at the collegiate level, but he also means a lot more to me.
Mark took a job as an assistant coach at Florida State University under Coach Bowden. One evening in 1986, a Florida State player was shot and killed. Coach Bowden called a team meeting.
Bobby Bowden: We went to a big room where they always sit and every boy sits in a certain seat, and so all those boys were there, and that one seat was empty.
Mark Richt: And he pointed to Pablo’s seat. He [Coach Bowden] said, 'Pablo used to sit right there, and now he’s gone.' He [Bowden] said, ‘Men, if that was you last night, do you know where you would spend eternity?’ Well, I’m listening in the back and I’m thinking of where I might spend eternity, and I didn’t really like the answer.
Bobby Bowden: The next day, he [Mark] came to see me. He said, ‘Coach I don’t know the answer to that either.' So I had a Bible there, and we went through the Bible about the plan of salvation.
Mark Richt: I prayed to receive Christ that morning in his office. And it changed my life. After I accepted Christ, I began to think more about others. I began to think more about Christ and serving Him. And it just changed my way of thinking. You know, the peace that my roommate had back in college that attracted me, began to enter my life and then my goal from that point forward was just to live a life pleasing to God.
It was through his mistakes that Coach Mark Richt realized he needed God. And in his success, he hopes others recognize his source of strength.
"Jesus means salvation. Jesus means everlasting life with God. If you know there’s a Power that created you that’s much greater than you, that’s never-ending, you know you can tap into that resource that gives you peace and gives you hope instead of despair," believes Mark.
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