Annual Independence Bowl FCA Breakfast continues to inspire

COMMON GROUND: Players from Louisiana-Lafayette (in dark sweats) and Houston shared testimonies Wednesday morning at the Independence Bowl’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast. (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

The University of Louisiana–Lafayette’s Eric Treuil has served as the team chaplain for the Ragin’ Cajun football program for the past 30 years. Through those three decades, Treuil has served six different head coaches. 

“Over the 30-year time frame each coach, honestly, has seen spirituality (as) more and more important,” Treuil said. “Today, it is a cornerstone of our program. Coach Mike (Desormeaux) looks to me –- however, it’s the students and seeing these young men have a hunger for God, grow in their faith, and then influence their teammates. It’s been a great time to see that take place.”

Treuil introduced several Louisiana-Lafayette players to the crowd assembled at the 45th Fellowship of Christian Athletes Independence Bowl Prayer Breakfast at the Shreveport Convention Center on Wednesday morning.

The Cajuns collide with the Houston Cougars in the 46th Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Friday at 2 o’clock at Independence Stadium. 

Among the Ragin’ Cajuns who spoke to the crowd was Johnny Lumpkin, a 6-6 redshirt senior tight end from Atlanta. After making his way to Lafayette via Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Lumpkin became involved with Cajuns for Christ, an on-campus group that meets every week to hold Bible studies and devotionals.

Earlier this month, with temperatures in the high 40s, Lumpkin was one of six players on the team to be baptized in a pool on campus. 

“It was an opportunity for me to lead my teammates in the right direction,” Lumpkin said of the baptism experience.

Where Lumpkin led, his fellow teammate Damani Burrell, who also plays tight end, has followed. 

“I started going every Tuesday because Johnny was going,” Burrell said. “It has made a difference in my life.”

Freshman quarterback Zeon Chriss has shown his Ragin’ Cajun teammates that when it comes to living out your faith, you don’t have to be a senior. Chriss, who led Madison Prep Academy to a state championship in 2021, uses social media to influence others. Using Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, Chriss has over 5,000 followers. 

“The younger generation, they’re all on social media,” Treuil said. “Here comes Zeon. He is on fire for Christ. He is not ashamed of the Gospel in any way, shape or form. On TikTok, Instagram … all these different social media platforms, he’ll do devotionals live and he’ll invite people to send in prayer requests and pray for them. It’s powerful. It’s wonderful to see that. That’s a great influence.”

During his testimony, Chriss talked about growing up “doing church” but it wasn’t until “going through the storms of life” that he started living for Christ.

Treuil encouraged the audience to follow Chriss on social media.

“I’m going to be speaking to you boldly,” Chriss promised the attendees who chose to follow him on social media.

Like the players from both Louisiana–Lafayette and the University of Houston who shared their testimony, the FCA prayer breakfast itself has grown over the years. 

It started during the Independence Bowl’s second year in 1977 when FCA’s Lynn Mitchell spoke to members of the Louisiana Tech football team in the lobby of the old Holiday Inn-Bossier. 

One of the players who listened to the message that morning was Terry Slack, who is now the director for FCA in Louisiana. 

“I don’t know if he went to the hotel where Louisville was staying and had a devotional there or not,” Slack said, “but that is how the Independence Bowl Prayer Breakfast started and we have had it every year since.” 

Before taking a leadership role in FCA, Slack was the head football coach at Airline High School for 12 seasons. Each year, Slack would take members of his team to the FCA Prayer Breakfast. 

For the last 33 years, Slack – along with his FCA staff – have organized the event.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com