When Chette Williams first thought about stepping into the role of football team chaplain at Auburn University it didn’t exist as a full-time position. Up until then local pastors had served in that role as volunteers, but no one was there as a full-time spiritual director for the team.
But God had plans it seems. When Coach Tommy Tuberville came to Auburn in 1999 he sat down with Williams and together they drafted his job description. They decided to just take it one day at a time and watch how it developed.
And those days turned into months, months into years and years into two decades of leading athletes at Auburn to know Jesus better. Williams is now the longest-standing chaplain at an NCAA Division I school and he’s served as director of Auburn’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) for just as long.
“It’s been amazing,” Williams said. “It’s been 20 of the best years of my life. There have been challenges — whenever you’re in ministry and trying to make a difference you’re going to come under attacks, adversities and trials. But there have been a lot of blessings.”
Watch God work
One of those blessings has been the opportunity to disciple players, watch them grow in their faith and then watch how God works through them as they move on.
“After being here that long you get to see a guy come in, you disciple him and lead him to the Lord and then years later you get to officiate his wedding or dedicate his children,” Williams said.
A lot of those men are in full-time ministry. Some of them are chaplains at schools all across the nation — Miami, Western Kentucky, the Citadel and other places. Part of that has been because of a chaplain training program he started with Wes Yeary, a chaplain and FCA leader who came to Auburn from Ole Miss in 2005.
To watch men grow in their faith and ministry “has been absolutely amazing — one of the biggest joys for me,” Williams said.
Nate Farrow, minister to singles 20s/30s at The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, said Williams has made a tremendous impact on a lot of student athletes and served as both a father figure and spiritual father to many.
“I was grateful for the impact Chette had on my life as a young man at Auburn,” said Farrow, an offensive guard for Auburn’s football team from 2004 to 2007.
One memory that stands out for Farrow was during a season when he was experiencing a hard time navigating some life decisions.
“One of the things Chette taught me then was how to pray through Scripture,” Farrow said. “We opened up to one of the Psalms and he walked me through verse by verse and prayed it with me. That has been such an incredible help in my life over the years both in my prayer life and relationship with Christ.”
Williams said he loves those moments. He himself was changed by a moment when someone sat down with him and helped guide his relationship with Christ.
“My faith journey started right here as a sophomore playing football at Auburn,” he said.
‘Victories and defeats’
That year Auburn Coach Pat Dye had kicked Williams off the team telling him that his attitude and other grievances had created a situation that just wasn’t working out.
“That night I went to one of my teammates, Kyle Collins, who is still one of my best friends today,” he said. “He sat down with me and I told him what had just happened.”
Collins asked Williams if he was a Christian and Williams said yes — and started explaining all of the reasons he thought he was.
“He said, ‘I didn’t ask if you were religious, I asked if you had a relationship with Jesus,’” Williams said.
That night Williams hit his knees and after he and Jesus got on the same page he humbly went to see Coach Dye again.
“Coach Dye said, ‘Let’s just take it one day at a time,’ and I was able to graduate,” Williams said. “I love him — he’s one of my dearest friends.”
Taking it one day at a time has brought Williams a long way.
He chronicled that story in his first book, “Hard Fighting Soldier,” and continued the story of what God is doing through Auburn players in his second book, “The Broken Road.” Both are available on Amazon.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the players grow through victories and defeat,” he said. “But seeing lives transformed — that’s at the top of the list of things I’ve loved the most.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Listen to the TAB News podcast with Auburn football chaplain Chette Williams and basketball chaplain Randy Roberts at www.tabonline.org/leading-athletes.