Photos courtesy of Kevin Brooks / Hoover City Schools.
1113 Nibletts Bible study
Hoover High School Head Football Coach Josh Niblett encourages his players to grow spiritually as well as physically by hosting a Wednesday night Bible study at his home.
For most people, hosting 50 hungry teenagers could be a traumatic event. For the Niblett family, it’s called Wednesday.
For Hoover Bucs Head Football Coach Josh Niblett and his bride, Karon, Wednesday nights have been a staple of their ministry together.
“We began the Wednesday night Bible studies with dinner at Josh’s first head coaching job in Oneonta,” she explained. “Since then, we’ve never stopped. For our children, the Wednesday night fun has always been a part of their lives.”
“I’ve been coming here on Wednesdays all through high school,” said senior tight end Colin Silva. “This is part of the reason our team is such a family. We work hard together, but we spend time together like a family.”
One look around the Niblett home reveals that the team is indeed part of their family. In their dining room, an enlarged, framed picture of the 2014 senior football players hangs proudly on the wall. In other parts of the house, including the coach’s office, his love for his players is made immediately clear by souvenirs and photographs.
For many, the term “Bible study” may sound unappealing — especially after a long day of school and football practice. Anybody who knows Niblett, however, will tell you no one has ever called him boring.
“If you’ve ever fallen head over heels for a girl, raise your hand.” Everyone laughed as Niblett posed the question during the spiritual lesson time, and every hand went up.
“Raise your hands if you have ever told a girl that you loved her.”
Again, all hands were raised amidst a room full of chuckles. Some players called the names of girls whom their teammates might have loved in earlier years. There was no boredom. There was no yawning or looking at watches.
Niblett went on to describe the joy of a relationship with Jesus Christ. He said spiritual peace and strength can extend to excellence in other areas of life, such as family, relationships, school work and athletics.
“Coach always challenges us in all areas of our life,” explained Jaterrius Gulley, a senior defensive tackle. “This is my first year to come to the Bible study, and I wish I had started earlier. I’ve gotten to know coach and his family well, and they have helped me grow as a person and as a Christian.”
For the Nibletts, the benefits are endless.
“We’ve had seven young men dedicate their lives to Christ this season,” Karon Niblett said. “The Lord has used this event to change so many lives. At the beginning of every season, Josh has a meeting with the parents and explains that he cares most about their character, their education, their work ethic and their desire for excellence. If they have those, the football will take care of itself.”
For the coach and his bride, Wednesday nights are just one component part of their joint ministry. In fact, their relationship began because of ministry. Niblett told the story to the riveted group of players.
“I was an assistant coach at JSU (Jacksonville State University), and we had this incredible speaker talk to us,” Niblett said. “He was a minister from a few miles away. I just knew that I needed to hear him preach again. I went to the church and heard another incredible and challenging message.”
Niblett flashed an impish grin as he lowered his voice.
“But there was more,” he said. “I saw a red-headed girl in the choir, and I had to ask her out on a date. I called the choir director and asked him her name. He told me that there were two red-haired girls in the choir.”
The room had fallen quiet, but burst into laughter at the next line.
“Let’s just say that the other one wasn’t exactly as beautiful as my bride. I begged him please not to give the name of the wrong redhead. Thankfully, she grew up with sisters and no brothers, so she neither knew or cared anything about football.”
For Karon Niblett, that quickly changed.
“Yes, I care a lot about football now,” she said. “I know every player, and our family cares about each of them. Our kids play sports, including football for the boys, so we’re all into it at every level.
As the coach himself loves to say, it’s not about him.
“It’s about our God. It’s about being a good steward of the young men who have been placed in my care for a brief season. It’s about teaching them that there is life beyond what they can see right now, and that the decisions they make now can benefit them from now on.”
For the Hoover Bucs, that’s what makes the team a family. For the Niblett family, it’s just a typical Wednesday.