Former Razorback Football Coach Ken Hatfield speaks at First Bapt Little Rock May 4, 2011 (Part 1, mentions Branch Rickey and Don McClanen)

This is the pregame broadcast of the Arkansas-Texas game at Razorback Stadium in 1985. It features both the Razorback and Lonhorn bands and the 1964 punt return by Ken Hatfield.

I got to hear former Arkansas Razorback Football Coach Ken Hatfield speak and it was very encouraging and enjoyable. The “Zone Luncheon” is held the first Wednesday of every month at 11:45am at Little Rock’s First Baptist Church where Jim LaGrone is the pastor.

This month’s guest was former Razorback football coach Ken Hatfield. Dr. LaGrone introduced him as the coach who brought us back to back trips to the Cotton Bowl in 1989 and 1990 with our two conference championships. LaGrone continued by pointing out that  Coach Hatfield was best known most for his Christian character and for how much he loved and cared for his players.

Coach Hatfield said so many inspiring things in his talk that I am starting a new series of posts that will go through many of the points he made in his talk.

He told about the experiences of Don McClanen who was a junior high coach and how he was led by God to start the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Here is a portion of the story that I got off the internet:

In a quiet chapel where no one could see, Don kneeled and asked the Lord into his heart.  In Don’s words, “that was the conversion of this cantankerous soul.” 

Over the years, Don collected articles that mentioned sports personalities willing to talk about their faith.  These courageous athletes were his heroes.  One by one, Don wrote to each of them. He never gave up.  He wanted the inspiration and strength of hearing their stories, personally and professionally.  A new dream was nudging him.     

 Finally he got a response from Pittsburgh Pirate General Manager, Branch Rickey. Don was told that he could have a five minute appointment.  The five minutes stretched into five hours. Together they imagined Don’s dream, “The Fellowship of Christian Athletes.”  Rickey found some start-up funds, and Don did the footwork.  Don made the contacts, shared the vision, and did more fund-raising and organizing.  It took so much time that Don had to leave his coaching job.   He and his wife and (by then) three children lived on very little. But step-by-step the dream became a reality.  

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is over fifty years old now, and is the largest inter-denominational, school-based, Christian organization in America. It even reaches athletes internationally.  The FCA encourages coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, middle school, and youth levels to use athletics to “impact the world through their faith and example.”  

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes was his first big dream.  It joined his hungry spirit with his love of sports.  Step by step, his vision grew, far beyond where he ever dreamed. But he was still bothered by racial differences, and the uneven distribution of wealth.  

His longtime questions about money and race and faith have led him all over the globe. After he created the FCA, Don founded Washington Lift, Inc. (an inner-city youth ministry), the Ministry of Money, Inc., and Harvest Time, Inc. When I asked him why he started these organizations, Don’s words were simple. “I thought somebody else would take it and run with it.  When no one did, I did.”  

Although Don doesn’t play sports anymore (except golf), he still dreams dreams and works to make them come true. Don’s playing field has changed, but at 81 years old, he’s still in the action. Like the mower that splash-landed in the mayor’s pond, Don’s dreams have rippled out all around the world.  He hopes that by one strategy or another, he has helped kids around the world to climb mountains.

That story is very inspiring, but I just want you to know that the things you do today may continue to have influence on others many years later.

Let me give you one example. Recently I talked to Melvin Pickens who has been selling brooms in Little Rock for over 60 years. I have known Melvin for almost 30 years and I have always known that he is a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan. Then just the other day I asked him how he came around to pulling for the Dodgers. He told me that in 1947 when he was at Henry Clay Yerger High School in Hope, Arkansas, Branch Rickey (the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers) stood up for Jackie Robinson and made him the first black baseball player to play professional baseball with the whites.

Every person he knew at Henry Clay Yerger High School became a Dodger fan that year, and he has been a faithful fan ever since!!!

On the Road: 81-year-old salesman sweeps customers off their feet

Published on Sep 20, 2013

As part of our continuing series “On the Road,” Steve Hartman meets an 81-year-old salesman who’s been in business for over six decades selling one simple product that everyone needs.

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The following is from the website www.arkansasexpats.com:

Hatfield's punt return against Texas. Photo from hogdb.com
In the history of Razorback football, few figures loom larger than Ken Hatfield. Not only does he have the highest winning percentage of any head coach in the program’s history, he also was a star punt returner and defensive back for the Razorbacks’ one and only national championship team. After a six-year coaching tenure in Fayetteville, he left for Clemson in 1990 and was later the head coach at Rice for 12 seasons.

Now retired from football, Hatfield lives in northwest Arkansas, where he serves on the board of the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes; is involved with Horses for Healing, non-profit therapeutic horseback riding center for individuals with special needs; and is state director for Arkansas Drug Card.com, which provides free discount prescription cards to uninsured and underinsured residents of Arkansas.

In the first part of a three-part Q&A, Hatfield discusses his unforgettable 81-yard punt return for a touchdown in an upset of Texas in 1964 and the start of his coaching career. (And before we started, a quick note of thanks to the invaluable Hogdb.com for several of the photos in today’s installment.)

A touching story about when Adrian Rogers accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior

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