This 5-star football recruit chose to attend Ole Miss over Alabama to ‘get in touch with my religion’

College football recruit Greg Little chose Ole Miss over other schools so he could ‘get in touch with my religion’

This 5-star football recruit chose to attend Ole Miss over Alabama to ‘get in touch with my religion’

College football recruit Greg Little chose Ole Miss over other schools so he could ‘get in touch with my religion’
  • Five-star college football recruit Greg Little didn't choose to play at Ole Miss over Alabama just because of the team's tactics.

  • He also felt the team's coach, Hugh Freeze, could help him grow spiritually.

  • As SB Nation reported Wednesday, Little, a 6-foot-5, 318-pound offensive tackle, received offers from all the major college football programs in the United States. He chose Ole Miss — a team that hasn't won a title in his lifetime — over schools like Alabama, LSU and Texas because of what Freeze offered him, specifically "Freeze being able to help him with his religion in a way that other coaches cannot," SB Nation reported.

  • "He's a very religious guy," Little told SB Nation. "He can help me get in touch with my religion. He's a very big believer, going to church and everything."

  • He also said Ole Miss' recruiters provided a familial touch, saying that everyone on the team and within the athletic organization feels like they're part of a family.

  • Freeze, he said, was a major component of that.

  • Freeze's religious beliefs have long had a major impact on the Ole Miss locker room.

  • "He believes two strong forces, football and his Christian faith, brought him to this point, and within the framework of both parts of his identity, he is able to teach all manner of lessons to young, impressionable men," The Washington Post reported. "He uses his Twitter account to share Bible verses and practice photos, sprinkles praise music into the playlist during practices and believes it's important to tell recruits and their families he believes in Jesus."

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  • His players often enter team meetings with their own Bibles, and will often hear Christian music, like "Jesus Paid It All," playing from the speakers, The Washington Post reported.

  • In these team meetings, players talk about their mistakes, hopes and dreams. Freeze hopes this will help players merge their life with football.

  • "The most important thing we have is the platform we have to impact the lives of the people in our program," Freeze told the Post. "When my life comes to an end, how much does that scoreboard really matter?"

  • The Ole Miss coach also hosts a Fellowship of Christian Athletes worship service every Sunday for players, hoping they'll view their time in the pews and in the locker room as their own form of church, from which they can gain spiritual lessons.

  • And this isn't uncommon for coaches, especially those in the South, where football and church go together like an old married couple, the Post reported.

  • "Nothing says more about a Southerner than the team he cheers on Saturdays and the church he attends on Sundays," the Post reported.

  • But Freeze's choice to spread religion in the locker room hasn't come without its issues.

  • The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that advocates for the separation of church and state, filed records requests with Ole Miss back in 2014 to find how much influence the team's chaplain, John Powell, had on the players, and whether it was a violation of spreading religious beliefs in school, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

  • "A lawsuit is never out of the question for us," FFRF staff attorney Sam Grover told the Clarion-Ledger. "Having a student, preferably a football player at the school, who is willing to risk that public exposure — that's often a barrier for us, because what we find in these aggressively religious communities is that it can be dangerous to out yourself as a non-believer. And then beyond that we need to find local counsel."

  • It's not hard to see that Powell has had some influence on the team, but most of it, he says, has been in the interest of the players. He told Oxford Family Magazine, a local newspaper in Oxford, Mississippi, that he's helped players find "what it means to be a Christian" as they work harder on the field.

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  • "There is nothing more exciting than seeing a player receive Jesus as Savior and then start to desire him by how he lives his life," Powell said.

  • The players have used that influence on others, too. For spring break 2013, a number of players volunteered to head down to Panama City — typically a hotbed for spring break — to spend time at "an orphanage, feed the homeless, speak to school-age children and run a free football clinic, among other activities," an Ole Miss press release said.

  • Freeze says the team, no matter what others think, has to reflect his own personal beliefs in order for it to succeed.

  • "We're unapologetic," he told the Post, "about who we are."

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.


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