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LaQuan McGowan: the next big thing in college football

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Baylor Bears offensive guard LaQuan McGowan (80) catches a pass for a touchdown during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic between the Michigan State Spartans and the Baylor Bears played at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, January 1, 2015 (Credit: Icon Sportswire/Andrew Dieb)

{source}<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #c0c0c0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/asg0kKFZYBY?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}We’ve now reached that awkward point in the college football offseason where practices and games are close enough to start getting people excited about the upcoming year without enough on-field action to keep writers occupied. That’s why we’ve recently seen a slew of rankings articles and player profiles popping up. One such topic that’s generated a lot of interest is Baylor University’s new tight end. Well, he’s not exactly new…he’s actually a 5th year senior who lined up at offensive guard until a play in last year’s Cotton Bowl made him a YouTube sensation.

LaQuan McGowan has always been a physical marvel and, at 6’7″ and 400 plus pounds, he’s never been difficult to spot on the practice field. However, he was never able to consistently crack the starting lineup and has received most of his playing time as a fullback in goal line situations. That all started to change when Head Coach Art Briles and others noticed the ease with which he caught footballs while goofing around before practice. As star sophomore receiver KD Cannon described, “He can catch passes one-handed behind his back. He can do it all. His hands are so big. It’s really fun to watch.” Baylor’s new starting quarterback Seth Russell echoed those sentiments when he said of McGowan “I can pretty much put it wherever, and he can snag it out of the air.” 

McGowan’s life hasn’t always been as easy as catching footballs though. He grew up in a rough Dallas neighborhood until his mom decided to enroll him at the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch outside of Amarillo, TX when he was 11. Cal Farley’s is a non-profit school that accepts at-risk boys and girls. Initially shy and reclusive, McGowan began to find a home with sports. He played basketball and football while also part of the track team but the school had difficulty finding shoes that would fit. Always a big guy, he entered high school wearing a size 22. Eventually, they found a solution when they contacted the Phoenix Suns and Shaquille O’Neal, who wore the same size, sent a couple pairs over.

However, it’s not just his size that has made McGowan stand out. As Mike Wilhelm, the school’s chaplain, described in an interview with ESPN‘s Jake Trotter, “LaQuan is a special person and it has nothing to do with his size…He’s a big man, but he has a big heart too.” He would go on to say, “Even the younger kids who’ve never met him, they know LaQuan, they know about the Cotton Bowl catch. He’s become a hero to a bunch of kids who have come here from all kinds of unfortunate backgrounds and needed a hero.”

McGowan has become a role model to the students at Cal Farley’s not only because of his play on the football field but because he comes from a background those kids can relate to. He has a unique perspective on what their lives are like because he’s lived it. That he’s made it through to find success gives them hope that they can do the same.

In a similar way, each of us has a unique background that has helped shape who we are today, for better or worse. What you choose to do with that past will greatly influence how it shapes your present and future. If you’ll let him, God has a plan to redeem every mistake and difficulty you’ve experienced in order to make you a more effective witness for his kingdom.

Maybe that means being able to get through to someone who would otherwise never give God a second thought. Maybe it means being able to comfort someone as they battle disease or attempt to cope with the loss of a loved one. We may never know this side of heaven what kind of impact that faithfulness to use our past for God’s glory may have. But never doubt that God will give you those opportunities. Will you be ready when he does?