Athlete Testimonies:

Rich DeVos

Rich DeVos, owner of the Orlando Magic, is more than just a garden-variety billionaire. His heartbeat is to influence the world for God, and it's this core value that drives his vision of pro sports ownership.

"Rich's Christian faith influences every part of his life," says Pat Williams, senior vice president of the Magic. "All of his judgments come from that centerpiece."

One such judgment was his purchase, in 1991, of a fledgling NBA franchise in Central Florida. "We [DeVos and his family members, under the umbrella of RDV Sports] bought the team because we wanted a new audience to witness to," DeVos says. "[Owning an NBA team] gave us a new base for telling people about Christ."

If he's fearless about sharing his faith, DeVos is also bold in giving what he calls "fatherly talks" to his players about their lifestyles. A pet issue for DeVos is the athletes who share homes and children with their girlfriends. "I say, 'When are you getting married?' or 'You grew up without a dad-don't leave your kids the same way.'"

It's evidence that DeVos' beliefs are infusing the Magic.

"Rich's life values-honesty, integrity, positive influence-are all hallmarks of a Christian organization," Williams says.

Richard Jefferson

Is Richard Jefferson the "finely-tuned Christian"? "No, no, never," he says. "I don't think anyone can call themselves that. It's an everyday struggle."

His life has always been a mix of church and basketball. But through tough moments and times of extreme growth, Jefferson has been known for his confidence. Because of his athletic success? No, because of Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." That's why he says, "When I step out on the court I don't believe there's anybody I can't guard, I don't believe there's a shot I can't make."

The line dividing confidence and arrogance is easy to cross but difficult to distinguish. For Jefferson it's simple. "Cockiness is when you belittle other people. I don't do that." He has, however, rubbed others the wrong way on occasion. Pair his words with his abundant confidence, and his comments are sometimes as explosive as his game.

Jefferson understands the need for a steady Christian walk. "I'm a perfectionist, and if I mess up I'll feel so guilty that I won't read my Bible, then it's a snowball effect. I really need to get to consistency." He knows God is teaching him, and he feels extremely blessed.

Roger Neilson

"God knew there could only be one Roger Neilson," said one speaker at Neilson's memorial service in Peterbourough, Ontario, on June 28, 2003. When the iconic coach of the NHL died, he left an indelible imprint on the hearts and souls of the hockey world. He was perhaps the most beloved man in hockey. Four and a half months after Roger passed to the other side, his friend Mike Caluari said, "No one was more confident of his eternal reward."

Roger had a passion for spreading the word about Christ. "When I die, I know where I'm going, and it sure beats Philadelphia," Roger is known for saying. Gentle, real, and thoughtful, Neilson's way of bearing witness was never overbearing.

As a mentor, a father figure, coach, and friend, Roger Neilson is alive in the memories of the people whose lives he touched and through the message he worked so hard to convey.

"For his friends in hockey, Rog wanted to impart the great attributes he had: sportsmanship, love of the game," says Hall of Fame inductee Mike Gartner. "But what he desired most of all was for his friends to accept Christ."

Russ Ortiz

Russ Ortiz loves pitching...and he loves the Lord. He's done a great job meshing those two loves together in his life. "As a Christian athlete, I play for an audience of one," he says. "I play for Christ. He's the only person I need to glorify and honor. After that, the rest will follow."

Through team switches, injury, and anything else life has thrown his way, Ortiz has remained consistent. Because he's playing not only for his team, but also for his audience of One, he wants to make sure he's always giving 100%. In 1998, early in his career, he began writing Scripture verses under the bill on his cap. One of the first ones he wrote was Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." "I needed a reminder of what I needed to get the job done," says Ortiz.

At many points in his baseball career, Ortiz has been a center of attention in the baseball world. But you can believe him when he says that the focus of his attention has been and will always be on his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ruth Riley

On April 2, 2001, Ruth Riley and her teammates at Notre Dame inspired a nation with their selfless play as they captured the school's first NCAA women's basketball national championship. From a wonderful college career, Riley moved on to the WNBA, including a season playing in Valencia, Spain. Her basketball success was foreshadowed at a young age, especially since she has been tall all her life, and she certainly has lived up to expectations.

Riley admits that she's always professed to have her priorities in order: faith, family, school-basketball. She credits her mother for taking her to church while she was growing up, and she just always believed what she was taught there. But she confesses that words didn't always match up with actions. "It was at college where my relationship with the Lord began to grow," she says. "When you are on your own and forced to make decisions for yourself-your faith and beliefs are tested."

Riley's relationship with Christ has been her foundation through many changes and ups and downs in her basketball career. "Basketball has provided me with a platform, which means my life is under constant scrutiny," she acknowledges. Her goal is to consistently follow God and to point others to Him.

Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall is on his way to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. Though young, Hall has established himself as a skilled distance runner, now considered the best marathoner in the United States.

How did it all start? For Hall, all it took was a relaxing jog with his father around Big Bear Lake in California at age 14. He states, "God gave me a vision for my life that day."

Hall knows he is "ordained to run", but that hasn't stopped him from experiencing both rejoicing and mourning in his short career. He has gone from injuries at Stanford to a marriage to long-time sweetheart Sara Bei; from feeling "ready to give it all up" to realizing that running is a total lifestyle that suits him well. Hall shared intimate moments with God while running in the Men's Marathon Team Trials in November of 2007, only to learn minutes after crossing the finish line that close friend, Ryan Shay, had died during that same race.

Through it all, Hall has become more and more humbled and appreciative of the calling God has placed on his life. He says, "It is my job to worship Him every day as I run."

Uncommon Challenge