Local football players find 'teachable moments' in film
By Bobbie Frazier
Special to The Courier-Tribune
ASHEBORO — Birmingham, Ala., 1973, was the epicenter of cross burnings and blazing racial riots brought on because of the government-mandated desegregation in the public schools, including Woodlawn High School.
Tony Nathan, a gifted football player, and other African-Americans were a part of Woodlawn’s desegregation. The tension among the white and black players erupted into such anger that Coach Tany Gerelds had to do something, but what? Then Hank came along. He wanted to talk to the players about Jesus. The coach took a step and allowed Hank, an outsider, to speak to his team. What happened then changed everything.
On Oct. 16, 2015, the movie, “Woodlawn,” was released as an American Christian sports drama movie based on this true story of Woodlawn High School and Tony Nathan.
Chuck Powers and the Randolph Christian Men’s Ministry team decided to take a leap of faith similar to Woodlawn’s coach.
On Tuesday they purchased all the seats in Theater 6 where the movie was playing at the Cinemark Theater in Randolph Mall in Asheboro and invited local high schools to fill it with football players, coaches, chaplains and youth ministers from Randolph County.
Several schools had conflicts, but the group was able to fill the theater.
“I truly felt there was a presence in that theater,” said Austin Johnson, a senior at Southwestern Randolph High School who plays defensive back on the football team. “I really feel that someone got to know Christ better and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior for the first time in their lives.”
Ryan Hill, also a senior at Southwestern and receiver and cornerback on the team, said he could relate to the running back in the movie.
“Because of his great faith and giving all the glory to God for what he was able to do, that’s what I try to do,” he added.
When Chuck Powers saw the preview of “Woodlawn” he knew he wanted to see it. He woke up one morning with the idea of setting aside a theater and inviting the high school teams for a showing.
The Randolph Christian Men’s Ministry team agreed unanimously.
“We wanted these young men and their coaches to be inspired to greatness from this movie and we wanted to share the love of Christ that is the central theme of this film. It’s not every day we get this kind of opportunity to give something of great value to our youth, so this was our opportunity,” Powers said.
Danny Akins, the head coach at Southwestern Randolph, said everyone in the theater was impacted by the movie.
“They saw how it changed the people in the movie. It was a fine message throughout … just follow the steps, they saw how it changed the people in the movie and how it could change their life also,” Akins said.
Nathyn Frantz, a senior at Randleman High School, said he thought the movie was going to be football related, but was impressed by its message.
“It had a great message and I appreciated the film,” he said. “You just have to keep believing — let go and let God.”
“ ‘Woodlawn’ was a movie that was good for the whole culture of our kids. It covered all facets of life, all diversity, a touching well done movie” is how Shane Handy, Randleman’s head coach, described it. “It allowed the kids to see what has been done for them and then what Jesus has done for all of us. Pretty powerful.”
Handy also pointed out that this movie was a confirmation of what they try to show the boys on a daily basis.
Luke Johnson, a junior right guard at RHS, agreed.
“ ‘Woodlawn’ showed how people coming together and going for the same common goal can affect a town, and if they set their eyes on one thing how it can be achieved,” he said.
For more information about the Randolph County Christian Men’s Ministry, contact Chuck Powers at (704) 213-0962. The group meets the first Tuesday of each month at different locations.
Click poster for more pic's