Toronto Argonauts vice-chairman Michael “Pinball” Clemons interacts with fans on the team’s Faith Night Nov. 7 at the Rogers Centre. Photo by Evan Boudreau.

Faith on the gridiron

By 
  • November 12, 2014

TORONTO - For the season’s finale the Toronto Argonauts started their faith-filled quarterback Trevor Harris who led the team to a 23-5 victory against Ottawa, fittingly on Faith Night. 

Despite spending the past three seasons in the CFL after a two-year stint in the NFL, Harris had yet to make a start and doing so on a must-win night dedicated to faith only added to the pressure. 

“I was thinking I was going to have all these nerves but when I got out there I really felt calm,” said the 28-year-old from Ohio. “A lot of the people in my prayer group were texting me that ‘I just pray that God calms your nerves,’ and that did happen.” 

Harris not only appeared calm the entire game, his passing game was tight as he completed 26 of 36 attempts for a CFL career high 281 yards during his Nov. 7 start. 

After the game he and a number of other players, along with a couple hundred fans, gathered down on the field to speak about their faith, and of course the victory. 

Argos vice-chairman Michael “Pinball” Clemons doesn’t disagree with Harris that God calmed the quarterback’s nerves, but feels God’s hand in action had less to do with prayer and everything to do with the man Harris is daily. 

“Faith is not something you pick up on Sunday (or Friday),” said Clemons, a four-time Grey Cup champion during his playing and coaching days. “It is not something that you pick up before a game or the big play. Faith is a conviction and it becomes part of the way you live your life so the way (Harris) played was because of (his) faith. 

Clemons’ confidence in making that claim is based on his 13 years as a professional football player. 

“The way I played every game was a byproduct of my faith.” 

It’s not rare to hear that around the Argos dressing room, or any of the other CFL teams. 

“It is a wonderful thing to see that it is not an exception, it is the rule actually,” he said. “Days like this (Faith Night) happen right across our league and our league has been very supportive of the role of faith on teams.” 

Each team has its own chaplain. 

“Our bare bones essential role is providing a weekly Bible study which is available for the players (and staff),” said Herbie Kuhn, team chaplain for both the Argos and NBA’s Toronto Raptors. “It is very difficult when you are a professional athlete to get out to church on a regular basis; they have very demanding schedules. So part of our role when they can’t get out to church is to bring church to them.” 

That’s a struggle for more than just the players. Coaches, training staff and even the cheerleaders make these sacrifices during the season. 

“You always have to have faith,” said Jackie, lead cheerleader for the Argos, who would only give her first name. “What I never realized is that a lot of players, they are very religious. I learned this year that a lot of them are really strong in their faith and I mean we don’t really showcase that especially in sports.” 

That’s why Jackie, a Catholic who attends Mass infrequently due to her job, said that “it is fantastic” that the Argos hosted a Faith Night. 

For Harris, standing up and openly celebrating his faith is something he always tries to showcase even if it makes him stand out as different. 

“The Bible tells us to be holy, to be set apart,” Harris told the fans after the game while donning a large gold cross around his neck. “If you are in an environment that you are not really part of, that you feel like you are a little different (because of your faith) then that is OK. You are supposed to be holy, you are supposed to be a little bit different so that you want to lean on people that you trust that are in faith with you. 

“Just remain holy and set apart for God in the same way because if you fall outside of that then you start to fall (away from God).” 

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