“My wife informed me that we were going to church in DeKalb County this past Sunday. Her cousin and her husband were having their 8-month-old son dedicated. When my wife, Chia, gives me the “and you know we have to be there” eye, I don’t have to ask if she’s sure. I got some khakis and a sweater vest out to be ironed and moved along. There was a reason I was supposed to be at New Life Church in Decatur on Sunday, and it wasn’t just because Chia gave me the stink eye. It was much bigger than that. Much bigger.
“Following the dedication ceremony, which by the way was very nice, New Life Senior Pastor Marlin D. Harris introduced the morning’s guest preacher, Mark Cahill. I felt like I knew Cahill from somewhere or at least heard of him. I did; I knew I recognized him but not from what he’s now known for all over the world. Cahill was a member of the Auburn University basketball team from 1981-84, having played on Tigers teams with Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Charles Barkley and Indiana Pacer great Chuck Person.
“Years ago, I had done research on those Tigers for a magazine piece and Cahill’s name just so happen to stick with me. He wasn’t a big time SEC player by any stretch of the imagination â€” he did, however, make a few All-SEC Academic teams, averaging 2.3 points and less than a rebound per game as a senior. Cahill’s greatest moves are being made on stages, at malls, in the streets and wherever he can as an evangelist.
“On Sunday in front of a 99.9 percent African American congregation, Cahill, a 6’7″ white man with a shaved head, told stories and jokes, quoted the Bible, preached the word in a way I had yet to hear in my time on Earth. My mother, God rest her soul in heaven, had my twin brother and I in church every chance she got and I thank her for it every night in my prayers. I’m passing that on to my kids and now I will be passing on parts of Cahill’s testimony as well because his words got me up off my feet.
“Sports and faith don’t always find their way into the sports section of a newspaper, especially one in the south. First, church service on Sunday morning, then Falcons football on Sunday afternoon. Everything in its rightful place. For the sake of this column, I wanted to incorporate Cahill’s work and his five books (and counting) into this “sports” column.
“What I saw on the stage that morning was a former athlete that found his calling off the court, away from the huge crowds of the Southeastern Conference. Today, Cahill is still performing in front of crowds and changing lives “by having conversations.” He’s changed mine by what I saw and heard from him on Sunday. Hopefully, he’ll read this and get up off his feet for me like I did for his words. I should be so lucky.”