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A Great Victory

Published on February 14, 2024

Scott Barkley

Highmark Stadium has been the setting of many comebacks and victories for the Buffalo Bills. It became the scene of another victorious day last summer on June 13 for more than 600 young athletes through an FCA Fields of Faith gathering, the first one to take place in the city’s history and the first in an NFL stadium.

Another 1,300 friends and guests attended the event, said Jake Hannon, Buffalo FCA Director. These were people connected to the athletes and FCA.

CrowdThe Fields of Faith was in conjunction with a graduation ceremony for those completing FCA Training Camp, a three-month discipleship program for middle and high school students. Speakers included Buffalo special teams legend Steve Tasker as well as current players Damar Hamlin, Von Miller and Dawson Knox.

Three years ago, when being together in person was considered dangerous due to COVID-19, Buffalo-area FCA leaders took steps to bridge the gap. The discipleship program Training Camp was launched, which included an emphasis on reading Scripture through a custom plan on the YouVersion app.

“That first year, we did 100 days and read through the whole New Testament,” said Hannon. “I talked to a few of our friends on the Bills and [Buffalo] Sabres and asked if they would be willing to speak with the athletes that were going through the program on Zoom. We had 132 athletes sign up. It was amazing.”

Bills head coach Sean McDermott joined other players, coaches and chaplains involved in the 15-week program. The first in-person gathering for those in FCA Training Camp in 2020-2021 was the graduation held at Highmark.

FCAJUN23-139“We got to go on the field and play football on the turf, meet a couple of those players. It was really cool and crazy how God put that all together,” Hannon said.

The 2022 class saw 182 athletes sign up, with graduation once again at the stadium. The 2023 group had 252 signed up, and the Fields of Faith event was integrated into their graduation.

Nate Breske and Denny Kellington were also part of the June graduation. Breske is the Bills head trainer and Kellington is the staff trainer who performed CPR on Hamlin during the Monday Night Football game in Cincinnati and helped save Hamlin’s life. One month later, the Bills’ training staff were presented the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs.

“Nate was one of our Huddle Leaders for this program and he had about 60 kids in his house,” said Hannon.

But it was Hamlin’s story that held the attention of everyone at the stadium.

“His message was about the faith that he had in God before the accident and how it was really key for him as he walked through the aftermath. He’s been asked if his faith grew afterwards, and it has, but it was really his faith before that got him through,” Hannon said.

Miller, a two-time Super Bowl winner, spoke about the importance of being a professional and developing a good work ethic. Knox talked about the impact of the death last year of his brother Luke, a tight end who played at Ole Miss before transferring to Florida International University.

Light“His message was about the trials and ups and downs but how his faith and God kept him through that,” Hannon said.

At the event, seven young athletes gave their lives to Christ. Others rededicated their lives and accepted the challenge to share their faith. Frank Reynoso, Regional Inner-City Coordinator for FCA in the New York City area, shared the Gospel and invited others to respond.

Several other Bills players signed autographs, including backup quarterback Matt Barkley and defensive end Greg Rousseau. Bills special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley was extremely helpful with the event.

The collective involvement of the Bills organization was hard to overstate.

“These are people our whole city looks up to,” said Hannon. “It was powerful to hear from them.”


Photos courtesy of Amanda Ryan Photography and Jennifer Reed Photography