Will Bartholomew Keeping the Faith

June 29, 2001

By Bill Sorrell

Seldom has a dare made Will Bartholomew think he's in over his head. When challenged by his family to jump into an icy swimming pool while it was snowing, bartholomew took the plunge.

"I realized I had gained weight when the diving board snapped in half. (The board was frozen). I did a back buster. They made fun of me," said Bartholomew. "I'm pretty terrible."

Will Bartholomew
As team captain, Bartholomew will be one of the inspirational leaders for the coming season with his example of physical sacrifice on the field and in the weight room. (Photo by UTSports.Com)

Bartholomew likes to beat the odds. "I have a motto: 'Always do what you're afraid of.' Not in the stupid sense. Don't go throw yourself off a 200-foot (tall) building. But if it strikes fear in you, try to do it."

Before Bartholomew, a senior fullback and one of five team captains, because one of Tennessee's most versatile offensive threats, he faced a broken ankle and second string. Both were new experiences.

He had been the Tennessee Class AAA Athlete of the Year in 1997 and was All-State in football, wrestling and track. After recovering from the ankle injury his freshman season, he had to battle Shawn Bryson, now the Buffalo Bills' starting tailback, at fullback. "He became the man for two years," said Bartholomew, who began to lose his passion to play. "I was just consumed with getting through football."

In May, 1999 that change. He married Shelly Moore, Miss Teen USA of 1997. "After we married, Christ changed my life. Marriage was a huge turning point for me. Shelly made me realize what a great opportunity I had. God had given me talents and abilities."

With Bartholomew's ability to run, block, catch and provide pass protection, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer is proud to have him. "Will brings great leadership, not only vocally, but by action as well," said Fulmer.

Fred Weary, a senior offensive guard who is also a captain, said that Bartholomew's passion, work ethic and enthusiasm are contagious. "His influence carries over to every one of us. Everything he does is a great example."

One of Bartholomew's goals is to continue as a spiritual example. "The guys look to me for spiritual leadership. They ask me a lot of questions and open their lives up to me. I share Christ with a lot of guys on the team."

Said Fulmer, "Will is a dedicated Christian. He has become the focal point of the spiritual part of our team. We have other fine Christian young men, but none are more vocal than Will Bartholomew.

"A Christian background can help any one of us in our daily lives and in our professional lives. To say that a football player can't be a tough guy and also be a really nice guy is wrong. Will has done that."

Although Bartholomew became a Christian when he was nine years old, he did not fully commit his life to Christ until his high school senior year. "I realized that I had put so many things, girls, football, popularity, in front of God," he said. "I realized I wasn't serving Him first. I realized that living for Christ is a daily commitment."
Will Bartholomew
He plays a big role as one of the team's spiritual leaders and sets the pace in the classroom with a 3.61 grade point average in Finance. He's on the Academic All-SEC team. It's that kind of leadership which helps mold individual talents into teams, the kind necessary to win a championship. (Photo by Football Time in Tennessee)

Bartholomew, who has been president of Tennessee's FCA chapter, studies his Bible and prays daily. He and Shelly speak to youth groups. Both have taught Sunday school.

He stresses the importance of putting God above all. "My basic message is that in high school I lacked a passion for God. I describe that passion as loving something more than yourself," he said.

"You need to put yourself aside and give it all to God. You will be blessed because you are living in His will. I wouldn't be here without Him. I wouldn't be married to the woman I have. She's a great minister for God."

Along with his wife, Bartholomew gets inspiration from his family. His father (Sam) and mother (Vicki) are spiritual role models. "My father has a steadfast relationship with Christ. He is very consistent in his faith."

He also has a brother, Bo Bartholomew, who is studying at Dallas Theological Seminary. "He never drank. He was never into the party scene. He lead the way." Bartholomew also has faith that the Vols rebound from an 8-4 record last year.

"My attitude is to take care of my business, then try to encourage my teammates," he said. We have to have the goal to win every game. If you go into a game without expecting to win, you came for the wrong reasons."

The NFL is also a goal. But no goal is bigger than proclaiming his life verse, Philippians 1:20: "I will no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."

"Jesus means in essence salvation, grace and mercy. I never want to lack courage," said Bartholomew. Still, he said that he has never listened to bad advice. "I take things as a challenge. I'm a firm believer in doing the impossible...but I haven't jumped off any more frozen diving boards."

If we meet and you forget me, you have lost nothing, but if you meet Jesus Christ and forget Him, you have lost everything!

For those who want to be saved and become the sons and daughters of the living God, and find the purpose for your life, just like Will Bartholomew did! Here's a site that shows you how. Just click on the button

The Gift of God

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