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Kendric Rhymes began his football career at age 4. Even then he powered through his sport with determination while leaning on his faith to see him through life’s struggles. Once Rhymes reached high school, he worked hard to prove he was ready for the gridiron and varsity football. He gave his all to practices, the weight room and long nights of film on top of a demanding school schedule. But during his sophomore year as his varsity dreams were coming true, a season-opener kickoff return injury left him with a fractured wrist.
Upon being told his season was over, Rhymes relied on God and his determination, and he made a comeback by week nine. A year later, however, he faced another injury—this time a broken thumb. But the tough-as-nails junior running back missed only one game and finished his season with 629 rushing yards, 596 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns—all while wearing a cast. He had prayed to God and believed everything would work out—and it did. A scholarship offer to continue his football career at Utah State following high school graduation in 2021, which he accepted, was one confirmation. Clearly no stranger to adversity, Rhymes knew what to do when COVID-19 hit earlier this year. While he was shocked like the rest of the world, he leaned into his faith, which had already helped him face and overcome disappointments.
Where were you when news about COVID-19 hit?
I was sitting in class when I heard the news. It was spreading fast, and no one knew what was going to happen. The superintendent, principals and students were confused about what steps and measures to take. Do they end school? Return the next day? Waiting for the administrators to make the right call, I was a little anxious.
Then school got shut down and sports were canceled. At first I was clueless and shocked because they took football away.
How did the pandemic affect you both personally and as an athlete?
I couldn’t interact with friends and family members on a regular basis like I was used to. My family loves to come together and have BBQ dinners, birthday celebrations and backyard fun activities. For awhile, we couldn’t touch, hug or have more than 10 people around at a time.
Athletically, I couldn’t work out with my team, whom I consider my brothers. Social distancing meant I wasn’t allowed to socially connect with these brothers, which was not cool. But I stayed in contact with my teammates through social media, video calls, video games and simple phone calls. I missed the game, coaches and my team.
What does being 100% mean to you in sports, life and faith?
When I think about giving 100%, it makes me want to give 110%. I have to push for greatness and give my all (heart, mind and spirit) because of my commitment and dedication to God and sports. I pray that God continues to give me strength on my journey.
I live 110% of my life through Christ, who strengthens me during sports, my life and faith. I can give God my best even when I’m not competing because He lives within me, and I can trust that, as we start competing again, He will be in the midst of it all. I believe not competing allowed me time to spend with God because sometimes He wants my attention and I needed to slow down and listen to Him.
One of the biggest challenges athletes have to face is being injured. You’ve dealt with injuries already in your high school football career. What has God taught you through them?
I have always kept God first through my injuries. He has taught me how to stay strong, persevere, keep the faith and stay humble in both my Christianity and my athletics. God said to have the faith of a mustard seed, and I live by His Word, which helps me overcome my adversities. I kept the faith even when times were hard for me, and I watched my teammates play on game day without me. I’ve applied that faith to this year when the pandemic separated me from the game.
What is God teaching you right now?
To stay faithful in His Word, be patient, cherish my loved ones, live life with a purpose and never take life for granted. I would encourage other athletes who are experiencing difficulties (from the pandemic, injuries, not being able to compete or other challenges), to trust in God. He will never let you down.
Written with support from Sarah Rennicke-Freymuth
Photo courtesy of Kendric Rhymes