Where sport meets religion: Hopefest 2017

Former Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander spoke at the free religious event


KIERA CLUBB | The Daily Evergreen

Athletes take turns answering questions about their personal experiences Friday at Beasley Coliseum.

JACOB MOORE, Former Evergreen sports editor

Global Awakening’s Hopefest 2017 brought notable sports stars to Beasley Coliseum to talk about Christianity. The event began at 7 p.m. Friday evening and ran until midnight.

2005 NFL MVP Shaun Alexander, Super Bowl 40 champion Antwaan Randle El and former volleyball player Christina Hovestadt headlined the gathering.

Actor Noel Gugliemi, who has been involved in movies such as “Fast and Furious 7” and “Training Day,” began the free event.

“We want to give the hopeless hope,” Gugliemi said. “That’s the point of Hopefest 2017.”

Following music performances, sports and religion came together as the dimly-lit coliseum focused the lighting toward the stage. Hundreds, if not thousands, of faces listened to the athletes describe how religion has affected their lives.

KIERA CLUBB | The Daily Evergreen
Christian rap artist Dontae performs at Hopefest on Friday at Beasley Coliseum.

Alexander, commonly known for his time spent with the Seahawks, was welcomed with loud applause. He didn’t talk about his achievements in football, though. Instead, he spoke about his relationship with God.

“Shaun Alexander can have a cool car, a cool house,” he said of himself, “but he can’t make the wind blow.”

Religion has had a place in Alexander’s life since he was a child, he said. However, going to church was never a priority over his relationships. He sometimes drives past church to eat breakfast if he and his wife are having an excellent conversation, he said.

Randle El, former player for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins, said he put religion on the backburner during his time at Indiana University.

“I got to a point in my senior year where I just had so much weight on me,” Randle El said. “I couldn’t move, couldn’t really talk. I said ‘God, if you can move this rock off me, I’ll continue to live for you.’ ”

Going to other players, coaches or family wouldn’t help, he said. The pressure was too strong to be relieved by anything but his faith. Shifting all his burdens to God through prayer, the former Big-10 Player of the Year said he felt alleviated. The rock had finally been removed.

Christina Hovestadt’s story is different.

The former volleyball player and current USA Volleyball coach came from an all-around athletic family, she said. Playing sports had always been an outlet and a dream for her since she was four-years-old.

But hanging out with the wrong friends and denying that anything bad would happen was the underlying problem, Hovestadt said. Her relationship with her family deteriorated, along with her reputation.

“When I was in high school, I lost my virginity to a guy and the whole school found out,” Hovestadt said, “and it was awful.”

One broken relationship after another led Hovestadt into a downward spiral. In college, the man she thought was her future husband cheated on her and got another girl pregnant. To make matters worse, she developed an eating disorder.

“I would eat a grape and go run like four miles,” Hovestadt said. “I got to this point in my life where [doctors] thought I had cervical cancer … I had to go in for surgery.”

Hovestadt broke down at a hospital, she said, asking God to turn things around for her. The test results came in negative, and she instantly gave her life to God.

“There are so many other girls going through the same exact thing,” she said. “Nobody ever wants to talk about it.”