Every year, the One Heart Bowl seems to grow even bigger. This year’s game even attracted a trio of Dallas Cowboys.
Grapevine Faith coach Kris Hogan established the annual football game between the Lions and Gainesville State, a maximum-security facility for juvenile offenders, in 2008 as a teaching tool for players at both institutions.
Prior to Friday’s fourth game between the schools, the lesson was delivered to the Gainesville State players by Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, wide receiver Miles Austin and quarterback Jon Kitna.
Hogan said Ware, the NFL’s premier pass rusher, made a huge impression.
“When he walked in, you could see the change in their eyes. It was cool,” Hogan said. “The kids were captivated. He basically talked about his route to the NFL and how it might not look like it now, but a lot of the time he was an underdog and needed second chances over and over to get where he is now. Anytime you talk about second chances, that’s something these kids can relate to.”
Grapevine Faith went on to win the game 35-16, but this game has never been about the final score.
It’s about hospitality and support, starting with a pregame meal that includes food Gainesville State players don’t often get to enjoy. School officials have learned to monitor the meal so players don’t make themselves sick. Last year, Hogan said, one player ate 13 cupcakes.
At the game, half the Grapevine Faith fans sit on the Gainesville State side to cheer on the Tornadoes. During pregame introductions, Faith fans formed a spirit line for the Tornadoes that was 80 yards long.
After the game, each Gainesville State player received two letters from Grapevine Faith students of the same age. They also received a Bible, a daily devotional reading guide and character literature.
Hogan has also started a letter-writing ministry to help the thousands of incarcerated youth around the country who get no correspondence from anyone, not even on their birthdays.
“It costs nothing but a stamp,” he said. “And it means everything to these kids.”
For more information on how to participate, visit the website www.oneheart.com and click on One Heart Notes. More information on the One Heart Bowl can be found at www.grapevinefaith.com.