Seasoned Football Players Lead the Way
by catherine elvy, staff writer
Dartmouth football players Brandon Hester, Andrew Hunnicutt, and Nathan Nunez are sharing a game plan for life with teammates via Christian Union’s ministry. The three upperclassmen are encouraging Big Green players to attend weekly Bible courses and receive Christian leadership development training.
“We’ve been adding to that group every year,” said Nunez ’19. “The football players have a tight-knit community.”
During their freshman year, Nunez and Hunnicutt ’19 were part of a Christian Union Bible study that served as a forerunner to the course now catering to the demanding schedules of football players. Today, the men marvel at how their vision for team cohesion has resulted in regular gatherings of 10 or so players. “It helps us to grow as men at Dartmouth,” said Nunez, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences.
The veteran players especially made a point of welcoming freshmen as they arrived for training camps in late August, inviting them to gather at Christian Union’s ministry space in Hanover where they chowed down on pizza while watching preseason NFL games. Click to Tweet
“Most of the freshmen are trying to find community anyway,” said Nunez, a linebacker. “They are welcome to hang out with us.”
Hunnicutt, a wide receiver, agreed, noting that freshmen settling in at Dartmouth can feel lost or lonely.
Christian Union Ministry Fellow Chase Carlisle credited the three men who serve as his assistant Bible course leaders for their dedication, both on and off the playing field.
“They’ve reached out to their teammates,” said Carlisle. “They’ve grown the Bible course and have been a solid, steady, faithful presence on their team.”
The 2018 season was especially sweet for the Big Green, which celebrated a 9-1 record and finished second in the Ivy League behind undefeated Princeton.
During a cold, rainy homecoming game in November, Dartmouth defeated Harvard, 24-17, for its first conquest against the Crimson in 15 years and first at home since 1993. Hunnicutt, a Texas native, also rejoiced after logging a 102-yard receiving day on Memorial Field.
The homecoming breakthrough over Harvard was extra glorious because Dartmouth graduated about half of the starters on offense and defense from the 2017 team. The high turnover had prompted the 2018 Ivy League Football Preseason Media Poll to predict Big Green would finish sixth in the division.
Given the intensity of the 2018 season, Carlisle praised the trio at the core of his Bible course for astonishing discipline. “Football is almost a full-time job,” he said.
Carlisle noted the student-athletes also are “amazingly teachable” and demonstrate steady growth in faith and character. “They want to know Christ and be good men,” he said. “These guys are very easy to love.”
Drew Hunnicut breaking away during a game against yale
While Hester, Hunnicutt, and Nunez each arrived at Dartmouth with a spiritual foundation, each also has taken their faith to a new level while on campus. “This is where I made my faith my own,” said Hunnicutt, a government major.
Hester ’20 echoed those comments, noting his relationship with his Savior is “stronger now than it’s ever been before.”
The California native expressed profound gratitude for the spiritual coaching he receives from Carlisle. “He’s always reaching out to us,” said Hester, a wide receiver who is majoring in sociology. “I don’t know where I’d be without Christian Union.”
Carlisle also has been a source of guidance for Nunez as they meet for coffee or burritos in the Upper Valley. “Chase puts himself at a level where he can talk to you about anything,” said Nunez.
“They’ve reached out to their teammates. They’ve grown the Bible course and have been a solid, steady, faithful presence on their team.”
—Chase Carlisle, Christian Union Ministry Fellow
Not surprisingly, Bible course participants also are forming deep connections with one another. Given the common struggles of football players, especially with time management, players often bond as they tackle collegiate life. During Bible course, the men discuss “how to walk as a man of God on an Ivy League campus,” said Hester. Having a community of Christian peers has been “really good for me,” Nunez added.
All of that translates into opportunities for spiritual brotherhood. “It’s taking an existing relationship and dynamic and letting it go deeper,” said Carlisle.
Likewise, the football players are grateful for their platform, both in and out of the locker room. “Other students know who the football players are,” said Hunnicutt. “Football players have a great influence on campus.”
Still, as he bonds with teammates, Hunnicutt reminds them of life’s bigger playing field. “It’s not all ‘how you do on the football field,’” Hunnicutt said. “Football is important, but it’s not the main reason to go about day-to-day life.”
“We are strengthened by our faith connection.”
Christian Union at Dartmouth
To learn more or to get involved with the Christian Union ministry at Dartmouth, click here.