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Making His Mark

Published on July 14, 2017

Sarah Rennicke

The life of FCA Urban Atlanta’s James West is “marked” by God’s fingerprints.  

His heart draws lives to the Lord through his catch-fire spirit, his football career filled with success, and by emptying himself for the sake of others in his six years with FCA.

As a young boy in Houston, Texas, West craved connection with God and was intrigued to know more about his Creator. As a teen, his neighbor took him to church and, though he wasn’t sure where it would lead, West tucked away this knowledge before heading to college at Texas Southern University.

FCA Urban Atlanta staff James West (second from left) and some of his student-athletes.

Even though he’d never played football before, West decided to try out for the team. He didn’t make the team, but one of the players invited him to an FCA Huddle. There, the pastor spoke straight into his heart, and West received Christ.

As his faith renewed, so did West’s determination. He gave football another go the next year and made the roster. His time at Texas Southern was filled with bustling enthusiasm living in a way that piqued the interest of teammates, floormates and whoever he encountered. The consistency with which West lived his life gave credibility to spiritual conversations, leading many people to faith in Jesus.

In the athletic realm, West played in the NFL with the 1979-80 Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders before heading north to play for the Calgary Stampeders for three years in the Canadian Football League. After one season with the St. Louis Cardinals football team in 1985, West returned to the CFL for the next nine years with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In that time, he won two Grey Cup Championships, and received multiple All Star honors, League Defensive MVP and numerous other accolades. He finished his 14-year professional football career with the BC Lions in 1993.

Not bad for someone who never played until his sophomore year in college.

Then, at age 37, West felt the Holy Spirit nudge him away from his playing days and he headed back to Texas Southern to coach. While on campus, he reestablished FCA, and his life for the Lord continued to reverberate through past conversations. He’d have coaches and teammates from years ago tell him they have a relationship with Christ because of his consistent showcase of a faith well lived.

20160229_154623One of those conversations was with Mark Wracher, former FCA Atlanta Director and now the Greater Tennessee FCA Multi-Area Director, whom West met when he coached at TSU. Wracher encouraged West to join FCA staff, and in his early ministry time, West helped with more than 50 Huddles while also balancing the role of assistant youth pastor at his church. His current focus is on the schools of North DeKalb County, and he is a faithful and favored mentor to many. 

Last year, West’s football feats earned him a spot in the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame. Grateful for the honor, he held to the story of Enoch in Genesis 5, whose close relationship with God is a great faith compliment.

“The most incredible thing you can say is, ‘I walk with God,’” he said. “I walked with God, so He's right beside me and leading me where I need to go.”

West’s journey leaves an indelible impact on everyone he encounters. His physical and spiritual marks across the years have honed the man he is, evidence of communion with God and His handprints all over.

To learn more about Urban Atlanta FCA or get involved, visit fcaurbanatlanta.org.