Mason Rudolph – Making an Impact

Mason Rudolph

Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback, Mason Rudolph.  Photo by Bobak Ha’Eri

Image is everything.

In a culture of 33-character tweets, instagram photos, and 30-second news stories, creating marketable images is paramount.  The formula is simple; stage an inspiring photo, broadcast the image to the world, move on, and repeat.

In 2015, a 4-year old boy named Gavin King was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer called medulloblastoma.  He endured months of chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments.  In October of that year, ‘Coaches vs. Cancer’ and ‘ProCure’ collaborated to give children like Gavin an experience to create joy and hope for those who had gone through so much suffering.  After the Oklahoma State vs. Kansas State game, children like Gavin would be pared with an Oklahoma State player for a ceremony.

Of course, there would also be the photo-op.

In the photograph, Mason is holding young Gavin in his arms.  Gavin looks to the crowd and waves, while Mason looks up into the stands.  The picture has found its home in the King’s household, perched on a ledge at eye level and encased in a frame which bears white flowers and small Oklahoma State logos.  The frame rests on a white handkerchief with blue cursive lettering.  The lettering reads; He will wipe away every tear… Rev. 21:4.

The picture had been taken.  The image had made its way to the Oklahoman newspaper.  Mason Rudolph and OSU had done their good deed, projected their desired image, and strengthened their brand.  Now, it was time to move on a repeat.

Only that’s not Mason Rudolph.

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Mason Rudolph’s grandfather was a preacher.  He explained to Fellowship of Christian Athletes; “Growing up with my family, my grandfather being a minister, I was always around the gospel. Once I made it to college, my faith had to become my own. The distance away from my family actually strengthened my relationship with Christ. I passionately pursue Christ because I want to be a witness for Him and use this platform to impact our community. I think my faith has grown in every chapter of my life, especially in college.”  To Adam Kramer at Bleacher Report, he added; :I was brought up with a biblical background, with an idea that I could and should do what I could in my community.  If I were to get a platform through football or something else, I didn’t want this just to be a gain for myself.  I wanted to give back and impact people.”

While still at Oklahoma State, that’s exactly what Mason did.  Fellowship of Christian Athletes arranged situations for him to read books to children and speak to elementary school students. He led team-building exercises with high school football teams.  He spent his Thanksgiving in 2016 serving dinners at a local food bank.  He took part in Tim Tebow’s 2015 “Night to Shine” event, which serves as a prom for teenagers with special needs.  When he heard of tragedies in the area, Rudolph would go to the hospital and visit the victims.

Oklahoma State coach, Mike Gundy, said of Rudolph; “I said this three years ago, and I’ll say it again.  I have three sons, and if they could grow up to be as squared away off the field as Mason is, it would make me comfortable as a dad.  That’s the kind of kid he is.”

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Mason Rudolph isn’t concerned with his brand, his image, or creating a picture-perfect, inspirational photo.  His goal is to use the platform God has given him to become a blessing to others.

The day after the photograph with Gavin was taken, Gavin’s mother, Angela received a message from Oklahoma State.  Rudolph was seeking permission to contact the family.  He explains, “I wanted to know I wasn’t just a guy in a picture to them.  I wanted to have some kind of relationship.”  Rudolph would send text messages to Gavin.  He would reach out with words of encouragement during times of treatment.  The two developed a special bond.

Soon after Christmas that year, Gavin was called home to glory.

Rudolph has remained in contact with Gavin’s family.  Their connection continues to be a blessing.  Gavin’s mother Angela explains; “I feel like my child and his story along with Mason’s is just going to keep going.  His impact is still here.”

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As it turns out, Oklahoma State was just the beginning of Rudolph’s journey. In 2018, he was selected in the 3rd Round of the draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  On Sunday, September 15, 2019, Steeler’s quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, went down with a season ending injury.  Rudolph has taken over as the starting quarterback and will receive the first start of his NFL career this upcoming Sunday, September 22, in San Francisco against the 49ers.

There are many who doubt his talent.  Nick Schwartz of “For the Win,” dropped the Steeler’s odds of making the playoffs by 26% when Rudolph was named starter.  Steven Ruiz of USA Today published an article entitled, “Mason Rudolph Isn’t the Short- or Long-Term Answer at QB for the Steelers.”

This Sunday, Rudolph has the opportunity to prove the world wrong.  His plan is simple.  He tells Sports Spectrum; “Christ is at the center of it.  It’s Christ who will always be there for you; He’s your foundations.  So just getting in the Word and leaning on a few of my life verses throughout the week, as well as constant communication with my parents – that’s my secret to success.

As young Gavin King would be glued to his television screen during Oklahoma State games, the world will be watching as Rudolph takes the field on Sunday.  Whether his college success will translate to the NFL is yet to be determined.  But his faith, his maturity, and kindness are already making an impact.

Terry Shumpert, Ty Blach, and Setting an Example

Ty Blach Delivers

Pitcher, Ty Blach.  Photo by Don DeBold

If you were a baseball fan in the 90’s, you may remember Terry Shumpert.  Shumpert was a 2nd Round pick out of the University of Kentucky in the 1987 draft, selected by the Kansas City Royals.  He made his major league debut in 1990 for the Royals, mostly in a utility infielder role.  He played 5 seasons with the Royals, going on the play for the Red Sox, Cubs, and Padres.  In 1997, he signed as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies.  It was in Colorado that Shumpert enjoyed his greatest success.  Shumpert would play with the Rockies from 1997-2002, peaking in 1999 with a career high 10 home runs, a .347 batting average, and a .997 OPS.  Shumpert’s final season would be in 2003 with the Tampa Bay Rays.

One day, while playing for the Rockies, Shumpert signed an autograph.  Under his signature, he wrote a Bible verse; Matthew 6:33.  The verse says Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you.

This particular autograph went into the hands of a young boy from Colorado named Ty Blach.  Ty grew up in a Christian home and had faithful Christian parents who prayed with him every night.  Faith was a big part of his life.  He would attend a catholic high school, Regis Jesuit in Aurora.  After High School, he chose to attend a Catholic College; Creighton University in Nebraska.  In college, he immediately joined up with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and continued his walk with the Lord.

Ty would go on to have a successful collegiate career.  He would later be selected in the 5th Round of the 2012 draft and would go on to pitch for the Giants from 2016 through August of 2019, at which point he was claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles and moved into their starting rotation.

Even as an adult, he still remembers the way that Terry Shumpert’s willingness to share his faith impacted him.  He explained to “Unashamed Athletes;” My favorite verse is Matthew 6:33. It says “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all of His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you” When I was a kid I got an autograph from Terry Shumpert who was a utility infielder for the Colorado Rockies. Under his signature he had this verse written. Ever since that day, that verse has never left me. It reminds me that in everything that I do, I should put God first and God will help take care of everything else. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Shumpert a year or so ago and I told him about the autograph and the Bible verse that he put with it and the impact it still has on me to this day. He made an impact on me with that Bible verse and I too hope to make an impact on someone’s life when I include Matt 6:33 on my autographs for fans.

In 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul urges young Timothy to set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.  Shumpert set an example of how a Christian athlete can make an impact on the lives of others.  Blach strives to use his platform to share the Gospel with those around him.  He encourages other athletes to do the same.

Blach says; the advice that I would give to other athletes who are afraid to share their faith is to remember what Jesus Christ did for you. He died on that cross so that you could live eternally. There is nothing more important in this world than that love that Jesus showed to us and sharing that love with other people is all that He asks in return. It can be difficult and you may feel unaccepted by some people in society today, but you will come to find out that there are a lot of people in the world who are very accepting of God’s love. Someone may just be needing a ray of hope in a tough time or someone else might be just as afraid to show their faith just like you. No matter what the case, God has put you in this world to make an impact on the people around you so don’t be afraid to live for Him. There are so many wonderful people in this world and you should never be afraid to seek the advice of another Christian on how they live out the gospel message in their daily life. Trust in God with all of your heart and know that He has a plan for you and to never be afraid to live your life for Him because of the blessings that he has put in our lives.