Pandemic Perspectives

WTW coach mixes faith and football in book

Like many of us, Tony Johnson took advantage of some downtime during the COVID-19 pandemic to reflect.

The W.T. White football coach dug out 20 pages of old journal entries he wrote after his father’s death in 2019 and showed them to his son, Anthony, an assistant coach at Arlington Martin.

That sparked a discussion about their shared career that became the basis for their self-published book, Faith on the Field: The Pastoral Ministry of a Football Coach.

“We would sit on the back patio and have lots of conversations. We had those moments where we could be candid and open up about our values,” Johnson said. “It was interesting to hear his perspective. As a young coach, I saw a lot of similarities. It was a neat, therapeutic thing.”

The wide-ranging book delves into the rural history of football and how organized sports became a vessel for teaching behavior as schools became more organized.

Johnson, a 30-year coaching veteran, said the book isn’t about preaching religious doctrine but about finding parallels between the role of a coach with that of a spiritual leader. It also includes extended interviews with coaches, ministers, and former players about how their faith ties into football.

“In any profession, you need good mentors and good leaders. In such an ego-driven sport, you have to have a strong foundation,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to make those connections. To the common person, it’s kind of unique to get those perspectives.”

Anthony, 27, was a tight end and deep snapper at the University of North Texas, where he was a film major. He’s written two other books and some essays but said this project was especially meaningful.

“The sport is unique to our relationship. I grew up in that world, and it’s kind of all I’ve known,” Anthony said. “We were talking about life. I was realizing how much of a calling this profession is. We looked at it from a religious perspective and tied it all together.”

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