Hey look at me when I’m talking to you!
How can you let your man get around you like that!
Force him to the baseline!
Get a hand in his face when he attempts to shoot!
Box out and get some rebounds or you’ll find yourself sitting next to me!”
Have you ever felt like you can’t succeed no matter how hard you try?
Have you ever had a parent, teacher, friend, or maybe a boss continually tell you that you were no good or you would never amount to anything? That is basically how I felt playing basketball for five years at Indiana University!
Before that, I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I came from a wonderful family that includes two loving parents and two older sisters. From the start, basketball was always my game. I started playing when I was about five years old.
I truly loved the sport from the start. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was about two to three inches bigger than everyone my age. In the sixth grade, I was about six foot-two. In the seventh grade, I grew to about six foot-four. In the eighth grade, I grew to around six foot-six. I finally stopped growing in the summer before my sophomore year in high school.
Due to my height I instantly knew where my talents lied. My first recruiting letter came to me in the seventh grade from Akron University, who was then being coached by Coach Huggins. He is currently coaching West Virginia U.
I knew basketball was my ticket to college. I grew up in a family of strong morals and whom placed a strong emphasis on academics. I wasn’t worried about the academic part, because I got mostly A’s through both middle and high school.
After my freshman year in high school, the recruiting started to really pick up. I was receiving anywhere between 10 to 20 letters a day from different schools across the U.S. I would get phone calls at night from coaches like Steve Fisher of Michigan, Tom Davis of Iowa, Coach K of Duke, and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. It was that same year that a former Cuyahoga Falls JV high school coach by the name of Robert Montgomery Knight came to see one of our home games.
WOW, coach Knight came to see me play a high school basketball game. About nine months later I would verbally commit to play my college basketball at Indiana University. So, basically I knew for the last two years of my high school playing days where I was going to one-day end up.
Two years later the time had finally come…. it was time to pack the car and head to Indiana. One thing I quickly learned when I started to drive down I-71 was that my parents, sisters, and my friends were not sitting in the back seat. No matter how many awards and accolades I received in the last eighteen years, nobody cared now! I was about to face a huge transition without the ability to run home to mom and dad for a hug.
When I got to school I found new friends and started to work on the game that got me there. As the season grew near I felt myself getting use to the evolution of the game. The strength and quickness of the game in college is so much greater than that of high school. It was then when Coach Knight called me into his office to talk about red shirting me for the upcoming year. I knew this was going to be a part of my college career. I came to Indiana at 6’10” and around 220 pounds. I definitely needed a year to build my strength and foot speed.
Even though I knew I needed the year to prepare, I didn’t know how hard it would be to sit and watch the game from the sidelines. I had always been a major part of whatever team I played on. It was that year that I really lost focus on what I went to school to do. I start to get off track with drinking a lot of alcohol. I never got into drugs, but for a guy who never drank alcohol before college, it was more than enough for me to handle.
The next three years, I really got lost in the shuffle. I worked hard, but I probably could have done more. I could have spent more time in the gym, working on the areas of my game that were weak. My playing time steadily declined from my freshman-playing year to my junior year of college. I worked hard in practice and truly thought I deserved to play some more minutes.
Then the spring before my senior year I had three amazing things happen to me. One afternoon, a man by the name of John Saucier called me on the phone. John was a man that was involved with my high school “Fellowship of Christian Athletes”. He also created his own sports ministry called “Team Jam”. The strange part of all of this is I hadn’t talked to John for about three years. Yet, he called me that afternoon to see how I was doing and to see if I might be interested in playing for a group called Athletes In Action.
I truly thought nothing of the conversation with John. I just thought it was an old friend calling to see how I was doing. It was later that week that I had a guy by the name of Mike Sigfrids call me to see if I would be interested in going on a mission trip with AIA to Croatia and Bosnia. My initial reaction was, “why me”? “Why would a Christian organization want me to go on a mission trip with them? I mean, sure I come from a well-recognized program (IU), but I average somewhere around 2 to 3 points a game and 2 to 3 rebounds a game. What in the world do they want with me?”
The third thing that happened to me that week was a blind date. My roommate’s girlfriend decided to try to set me up with a co-worker of hers. That Friday I met a beautiful young blonde girl by the name of Tiffany. She was a senior at IU and was aspiring to be a news reporter. Little did I know, but she was a strong Christian woman who had come from a strong Christian family. After a few dates she revealed that she was a Christian. This prompted me to start asking her several questions about the Bible and what religion meant to her. Tiffany called me one day and asked if she could stop by for a minute. During that visit she gave me a gift that would forever change my life. The gift she gave me was a green student NIV Bible with my name inscribed on the cover. She told me that I could now read to try to answer some of the questions that I was asking her about.
What is the relevance of those three separate stories you might say?
They were the start of my new life in Christ!
I accepted the invite to play with AIA in the summer of 97, but first I had to do an internship with the Cleveland Indians to finish my degree. This meant that for the first time in four years, I was going to be home for the summer. During my time at home that summer, I started to meet with John Saucier. We would meet about once every two weeks to discuss the Bible and where I was in my relationship with Christ.
Growing up in a moral family and having had attended church when I was little, I just assumed that I was a Christian. I knew nothing about accepting Christ into my life. During these bi-weekly meetings, John asked me one simple question that I’ll never forget. He said, “Rob, if you were to die today, would you go to heaven or hell?” I looked at him with a blank stare! I thought to myself…. Why is this guy asking me if I’m going to heaven or hell! “I’m a good kid. I grew up on good morals and haven’t done anything worth going to hell over. Sure, I have drank a few beers here and there, but who hasn’t.” Surprisingly enough, I didn’t have a definite answer to his reasonably easy question!
John asked me another question. “Rob, do you feel that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior and died on the cross for our sins!” My answer was a quick yes. I might not have known that one had to accept Christ to be saved, but I did read the Bible on occasion growing up. I could have told you all about people like Noah, David, and Jesus.
A couple of weeks went by before John and I met again. When we met he asked me if I had accepted Christ. My response was no! Two more weeks went by and John asked me again if I had accepted Christ. My response again was no! “John…I said…how do you go about accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior?” I truly didn’t know how to make this life long change. John’s next response was, “if you truly believe Christ to be your Lord and Savior, then all you have to do is pray to God and ask for the forgiveness of your sins. Asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
That morning before John and I left breakfast, I asked John if we could talk about something. I said John…it is really weird to see what has happened to me over the last few months. I mean, “I have had three amazing coincidences happen to me. I went on to explain, how he had called me, AIA showed interest in having me play basketball with them, and I met this wonderful Christian woman, all in a matter of two weeks. John went on to explain to me that what I was experiencing wasn’t a coincidence, but it was GOD trying to tell me that it was time to surrender my life to him.
That very night, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior!! I went home and got on my knees and begged GOD to forgive me for all of the wrong and evil things I had done in my life. I asked GOD to come into my life and take control of everything. I wanted His help in all aspects of my life. By far that is the greatest night of my LIFE!
I wish I could stand before you today and tell you that I saw angels and there were lights flashing when I accepted Christ, but there wasn’t any of that. But one thing I did feel is a huge burden lifted off of my chest. I no longer had to run around seeking acceptance for my peers, coaches, parents, and teachers. I had found the best friend of all…Jesus Christ. He loves me for who I am and He loves me right where I’m at.
After returning from the AIA mission trip to Croatia and Bosnia, I had to head back to Indiana for my senior year. Once again, I wish I could tell you how awesome everything was when I got back. I wish I could tell you that I all of a sudden started every game and averaged twenty points and ten rebounds. Unfortunately, none of that happened during the return to my senior season.
My senior year was a true challenge. I had to return to school and face all of my friends, teammates, and coaches, with my newfound faith in GOD. I found it one of the most difficult, yet awesome experiences of my life. I wanted to stand firm on what I believed in… This meant that I was going to possibly alienate some so-called friends. My senior year seemed to fly by.
Before I knew it graduation had come and gone. I had several decisions lying in front of me. What should I do with my life? The opportunities to play basketball seemed meek at best. My so-called agent got me a gig in Iceland. Iceland, I thought, what in the world would I want to go to Iceland for…it is freezing there. Well, to make a long story short, my playing opportunities came to a screeching halt.
My next option was to go work for the New York Yankees. Coach Knight is a good friend with George Steinbrenner, so he was going to give me an opportunity to work with the Yankees. From July to October, I tried to reach George Steinbrenner to see when I should to drive out to New York to meet with him and see if I was qualified to work for the Yankees. During these four months of unsuccessful calls, AIA called to see if I would be interested in playing with them on their “Fall Tour”.
I originally told AIA that I was unable to play, due to my commitment with the New York Yankees. As time went on and I continued to unsuccessfully connect with the Yankees (you would think they were playing to win a World Series or something!), I called AIA and asked if they still needed a center for their “Fall Tour”. AIA told me that they would love to have me come play with them on their tour.
In hindsight, it was awesome to see how God continually delayed my departure for New York to give me time to play with AIA. Another added bonus, was the fact that AIA had five Big Ten teams on their exhibition schedule, and one of those five teams just happened to be Indiana.
When the “Fall Tour” began, I wasn’t playing the best basketball. I had knee surgery in April and was doing my best to get back into shape. It took be several games and practices to get into the rhythm of the game. Everything seemed to start to come together when we played Illinois State University. I had a good game, scoring several points and pulling down several rebounds. Everything started to “Click”. GOD’s timing was perfect, because the next night we had to travel to Bloomington, Indiana to play the Hoosiers.
I was truly excited, yet extremely nervous to go back to Indiana. Having the chance to once again step on the floor that I had spent so many hours on was really cool. I never thought I would step foot on the Assembly Hall floor again. When it came time to announce the starting line-ups it started to get a little tense. When they announced my name the loyal Hoosier loyal fans gave me a really nice round of applause. “I was back, one last time!”
In my prayers before the game, I asked God to use me in that ever way he saw fit that night. All I have to say is “did he ever”. I by far had my greatest game in Assembly Hall. I scored 20 points, while shooting 5 for 5 from the 3-point line. My entire senior year, I only scored 17 points. The game itself was amazing! We played IU extremely hard, pushing the game into overtime. AIA lost the game in the closing 10 seconds on what was a very controversial call.
When the game was over and we finished shaking one-another’s hands, I truly felt relieved. I had done it. I had played the game of basketball the way I knew and God knew I could play. My favorite memory of that night isn’t that I scored 20 points. My favorite memory was standing strong and giving God all of the glory for what I accomplished that night. I did interviews and talked with reporters, praising God for giving me one last chance to bring closure to the game of basketball. I also had the opportunity to share my testimony with about eighty people after the game…including my father and my college friends that saw me go through the changes my senior year.
The true testimony was that Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, had been there for me. Playing along side of me, helping me to perform as well as I did.
Max Lucado wrote a book called, “Just Like Jesus”. He writes that, God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like him! That to me is so powerful! God loves us. He loved me ten years ago. He loved me four years ago, but he refused to leave me in the situation that I was in….
God knows where our hearts are at all time. He wants so much for us…it is up to us to look to him for guidance and direction.
“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
- Proverbs 3:6
2011 – Present. AMGEN. (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Executive Biopharmaceutical Representative
2008 – 2011. AMGEN. Health System Manager
2005 – 2008. AMGEN.
Senior Biopharmaceutical Rep., Oncology
Senior Professional Sales Representative.
1998 - New York Yankees.
Media Relations Intern.
1997 – 1998 Athletes In Action. Team Member.
Shared personal testimony in front of thousands of people after playing in exhibition games against Division I schools throughout the Midwest. Member of lnternat'l basketball team traveling through Croatia, Macedonia, and Switzerland.
1997 Cleveland Indians. Finance Intern
2010 – 2011 Taylor University, MBA.
Business Administration and Management
1993 – 1998 Indiana University Bloomington
Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Health and Physical Education/Recreation
ACTIVITIES AND HONORS
Indiana University Basketball Team 1993-1998
Big Ten All-Star Team (to South America) 1994
1993 – 1998 ALPHA BETA HONORARY
Honorary society for maintaining a 3.0 GPA
1993-1998 ACADEMIC ALL-BIG TEN
Four -time recipient for athletes with 3.0 GPA
1995-1998 SCHOLASTIC ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
For team member with highest GPA
1996-1998 DEAN’S LIST
School of Health, - with 3.5 GPA or higher