By: Nilson G. Ramirez
The Nebraska Prayer
[GCC’s Men’s Pre-game Chant (the team repeats each line)]:
“Dear Lord in the battles we go through life
we ask for a chance that’s fair.
A chance to equal our stride,
a chance to do or dare.
If we should win,
let it be by the code;
Faith and honor held high.
If we lose, we’ll stand by the road,
and cheer as the winners go by…
DAY BY DAY!
WE GET BETTER AND BETTER
TILL WE CAN’T BE BEAT,
WON’T. BE. BEAT!!!
The Company of Christ at a regional tournament in Alabama
For the past two years the campus men who play for “The Company” have been saying/screaming this prayer before every game. They have chanted this prayer over a hundred times in the last two years. They’ve inserted specific lines into random conversations, thought about it during church prayers, recited it to parents, and some even hear it in their sleep. It was a chant used to prepare them for the grueling game ahead. Still, with all its hype, vigor and honor, this chant failed to prepare them for what God truly had in store for a flag football team made up of friends. A team made up of disciples.
Two years ago, when the name “The Company” was first etched on a jersey, the dream was to play in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (The Swamp), in the Championship Game. In 2010 The Company entered a field of 80 teams, and on paper, their name read, “Gainesville Christian Church”. The goal was for everyone in the University of Florida to see “GCC” on the Jumbo-Tron, in the Rec Center and in the newspaper. In Gainesville, after Gator Football, Football Intramurals is king. Their prayer was that the King of Kings would be glorified by their play on the field.
On December 5th, 2011, The Company of Christ stepped onto the same field where the Gators play with a chance to do just that. Before the game Tyler Chacon reminded the team that they deserved to be there, that God had brought them this far, and that victory was a stone’s throw away. Nilson Ramirez then proceeded to lead the team in the Nebraska Prayer.
The first time this team played a flag football game was in 2007 during the Church’s annual Playmaker’s Bowl in Tampa, FL. Before the championship game Tyler Chacon urged the team on and Nilson Ramirez led them in a chant. The team name was “Gator Blue” back then, the chant was different, the goal was to win and the result of the tournament was a heartbreaking loss in the championship. After 2007 the goal of GCC’s flag football team drastically changed: The local tournament the church put on centered around evangelism and joy, Gator Blue’s main focus was honoring God, and playing in The Swamp was still a long way off.
In the three years that followed, Gator Blue helped three college students come to Christ. They were also able to avenge their defeat in the Playmaker’s Bowl, winning the championship in ‘09. When 2010 came around, Tyler Chacon, the team Captain/Quarterback, realized that this same team that had only played in church leagues, was good enough to play in the nation’s most competitive intramural league and maybe even good enough to play for the National Championship. With a new challenge the heart of the team- its purpose and ultimate goal- remain unchanged; Glorify God on and off the field while bringing people to him through the field. The team decided that, win or lose, they would pray with the opposing team after each game in the middle of the field.
Tyler Chacon (#7) and Steven Jones (#12) playing for "The Company of Christ"
In 2010, God did immeasurably more than anyone on the team could have imagined. The name was now “The Company,” the Nebraska Chant was in full form, and a team that was only planning on playing games in Gainesville, FL. and maybe West Florida (National Championship) was now traveling to Orlando, Tampa, Mississippi, and College Station, Tx. As Mississippi Regional Champions, The Company entered the National Championships in Texas as unknowns and ended up placing 5th in the Nation, losing to the National Champions by 1 point in the closing seconds. As incredible as that year was, no one got baptized on account of the football team, though one student, Nick Gimbrone did start studying the bible. Also, the initial dream of playing in the swamp was thwarted due to a missed Captains meeting that disqualified the team from playing in the playoffs.
For the returning members of the team, the summer of 2011 consisted of two things; training for the coming season through drills, diets and workouts, and praying/fasting for Nick Gimbrone to become a disciple. The first tournament of the 2011 season was a U.F.-only tournament. The Company entered as favorites to win it all and up until the Championship Game, no one had any reason to think otherwise. In the Championship Game, The Company was met by a brash team called the “Bad Boyz”. That game ended 21-0, the first time GGC’s flag football team had ever been shut out. As they had done the year before, The Company asked the men who had just pummeled them to pray; some did, others did not.
The next tournament was “Swamp Bowl”, a 30+ team tournament that featured the best flag football teams in the South Eastern, U.S.. After facing previous national champions The Company was once again facing their now-rivals the Bad Boyz. The Company took a dominating lead to start, but after Tyler Chacon went down due to injury and along with the addition of mistakes and turnovers, the Bad Boyz pulled out a come-from-behind victory. By trash-talking and bickering the opposing team tested the Company’s resolve of glorifying God on and off the field. Still. when the time ran out, the Company once again knelt at mid field and asked them to pray. Some did, others did not.
In the months that followed the Company traveled to Alabama, winning the Regional Tournament there. They drove down to Orlando, losing the Regional Tournament to the previous 2-time national champs in the championship game. Also, they carpooled all the way back to Mississippi to defend their regional championship from the year before.
Along the way two things happened; Nick Gimbrone was baptized and The Company played their way into the Championship Game in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium against, the “Bad Boyz.”
Nick Gimbrone's Baptism
On December 5th, on a beautiful Monday night, 200+ disciples showed up to cheer on The Company against their archrivals. Some even drove from Tampa to watch the most revered flag football championship game in the country. The Bad Boyz were introduced first, then the Company. The crowd willingly succumbed to silence as The Company huddled up for what was now a well known and Youtubed pre-game ritual. Tyler’s words before the game were heard, and the Nebraska Chant was expected, but neither were needed.
Though the team had just gotten back from Mississippi the day prior, no one lacked energy or resolve. Even though the team across the field seemed unbeatable, no one carried doubts then. The last four years had all led up to this, and win or lose; the team had already been victorious, because Nick Gimbrone was their brother in Christ. The last thing Tyler said before the chant was, “Have fun and enjoy this moment.” And enjoy the moment they did.
The game began with the Bad Boyz marching down the field only to be intercepted in the end-zone. The Company then scored in four plays, the last being a 40-yard pass from Nick Gimbrone to Eric Schwebach. The game proceeded to become a back and forth battle and after Kyle Chacon, the starting running back, went down on account of a torn ACL, it was easy to see another heartbreaking loss approaching. But when the Bad Boyz’s starting quarterback dove into the end-zone-while showboating (to take a 1-point lead with 3 mins left in the game) The Company Offense took the field, calm and unafraid. In two years as “The Company,” they had seen it all; come from behind wins and losses, blowouts and close calls, rivals and friendly matches. The setting may have been different, the stage, grander, but the team, made up of mostly disciples, knew they were mentally prepared. It was up to their bodies to follow suit.
The last drive of the game took every second that the clock was willing to grant. After three 1st downs The Company was 15 yards away from scoring with :38 left in the game. After a sideline pass and a middle of the field lob that took the air out of the stadium, The Company lined up at the 2-yard line on 4th down with time winding down. Tyler Chacon called hike with :2 left, ran to his right and with the Bad Boyz Captain chasing him, threw a no-look pass into the end-zone that was caught by Nilson Ramirez as time expired, to win the game!
As the last two remaining players from the original 2007 team (Tyler Chacon, Nilson Ramirez), with a crowd made up of mostly disciples, and even with a demoralizing injury to a key player, The Company of Christ won out in a field of 92 teams in the most coveted stage. And though the Bad Boyz were hurting, upset and disappointed, one of their players was heard saying, “Guys, they’ve asked us to pray with them all year after losing to us. All of us need to join them in prayer.” That night, surrounded by the church (they had charged the field), every member of the Bad Boyz and every member of The Company knelt down and prayed in The Swamp, while the King of Kings stood glorified.
(Next for The Company: Nationals in West Florida and Texas)
What we will remember most won’t be the prayers we shouted before the games we played. We will remember the quiet prayers rendered in defeat and victory. We will remember praying with rivals, national champions, on television, surrounded by hundreds and at times, by ourselves. But the one prayer we will never forget, the one we will hold in the highest esteem, the prayer that will stand tallest beside the measuring stick of our memory, will be the one we all prayed at Nicks baptism, as 10 men baptized their friend.
To view the highlights from the UF intramural Championship game in the Swamp, go here: Highlights from UF Intramural Championship Game