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Illinois pastor preaches, plays semi-pro football
Mary Jacobs, Jul 28, 2010
The Rev. Robb McCoy, pastor of Chenoa (Ill.) United Methodist Church, plays semi-pro football in his spare time for the Twin City Dawgs.
By Mary Jacobs Staff Writer
Robb McCoy has two nicknames: He’s “Pastor Dawg” to his congregation and “Preacher” among his teammates.
Mr. McCoy, pastor of Chenoa (Ill.) United Methodist Church, earned the monikers playing for the Twin City Dawgs, a semi-professional football team based in nearby Bloomington.
It all started as a lark. Last summer, when the Dawgs started playing their home games at a field near his home, Mr. McCoy volunteered to work in the press box, announcing the games and working the scoreboard. When he told team owner Kellie Ridgeway that he was willing to help out again next summer, she invited him to try out.
He laughed it off, but then decided to use the tryouts as an incentive to get back in shape, and started lifting weights last fall. At tryouts, he was surprised to find he was able to hold his own.
“I realized that I could do it,” he said. “I was terribly sore afterward, but I had a lot of fun.”
Mr. McCoy, 33, played football in high school and as a “fifth-string right guard” for a year for Illinois Wesleyan University.
“I’m not going to be a star on the team, but I can contribute,” said Mr. McCoy. And while semi-pro players do occasionally advance to minor league teams, among the Dawgs, “none of us have NFL hopes.”
The team practices two nights a week and plays on Saturdays.
Recently, Mr. McCoy led a prayer for both teams, when players “took a knee” after an opponent was injured.
“Football’s a violent game,” he said. “I’ve done this with the support of my wife Sarah. She trusts me that if I’m getting in over my head, I’ll pull out.”
But risk is part of the game, and Mr. McCoy cites a concept from Bishop Robert Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations as inspiration for getting back in the game.
“I guess you could say this is my risk-taking mission,” he said. “Where else can I go two or three times a week and be able to build a relationship with 50 young men?”
“Sometimes you have to take risks in life,” he added. “You can get hurt driving a car. I’m trying something new and hard and risky and scary, but it’s been great.”
Ms. Ridgeway, who co-owns the team with her husband, Lyle, says Mr. McCoy has emerged as a quiet leader on the team.
“He doesn’t judge anybody, and he relates well with the younger guys on the team,” she said. Team members range in age from 18 to 46.
Mr. McCoy says the team has provided ways to build relationships, although he’s careful not to proselytize.
“The guys on the team all know I’m a pastor,” he said. “If someone wants to talk to me about religion or God, that’s great, but I’m more interested in building relationships, trust and earning respect on the field.”
At the request of the team’s coach, Skip Sutton, Mr. McCoy offers a short prayer and devotion before each game.
Recently, Mr. McCoy did have to miss one game: to attend his own ordination ceremony.
That means he’s not “Pastor Dawg” anymore. Please call him “Reverend Dawg.”