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‘Jesus is first’ for senior wide receiver, offensive player of the year Lauderdalecomment (0)

August 22, 2014

By Bill Sorrell


‘Jesus is first’ for senior wide receiver, offensive player of the year Lauderdale

Drew who?

That is the question Southwest Baptist University (SBU) senior wide receiver Derwyn Lauderdale asked new head coach Craig Schuler after Schuler pointed at him during their first team meeting and kept talking about Drew Lauderdale.

“Finally Derwyn asks, ‘Who is Drew?’ It is still a running joke,” said SBU coach Rickey Hunley.

Opponents in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) learned Lauderdale’s name in 2013 when the 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound Texan with big hands led the league with 86 pass receptions.

With the Bearcats coming off a 1–10 record in 2013 and moving to the Great Lakes Valley Conference, Lauderdale expects more.

“Leading the MIAA in receptions and having a losing season, it doesn’t match. I think everyone has big expectations for me,” said Lauderdale, a preseason All-American.

Hunley noted, “He had one of the better seasons you could ask for at the wide receiver position. I think he would trade all personal accolades to have a conference championship and that will make him even more dangerous.”

On his wrist, Lauderdale, who became a Christian at 13, wears a WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do”) bracelet.

“Jesus is first. Jesus means everything to me. Being a Christian is a big, big deal,” he said. “Everyone wants to know what’s your purpose in life. God makes everyone different. I think my purpose, my platform, is to show others that no matter what happens in your life, with God’s purpose you can still push through.”

‘Hungry to make it’

Raised by a single-mother in Houston, Texas, Lauderdale, 23, has pushed through despite being told as a high school freshman a punctured kidney would end his football career. At the Bolivar, Mo., college he has persevered by working 13-hour weekend and 9-hour weekday shifts at a Bolivar center for autistic and behavior-challenged children to pay bills and help support his mother Gwen Gamble. 

Antion McBee, a junior defensive back at SBU and Lauderdale’s roommate, said Lauderdale’s work ethic “resembles somebody who has never had a lot and is hungry to make it and support his family.”

Lauderdale and his mother talk for an hour daily, with some phone calls coming at dawn. He writes her name on game-day tape and a tattoo of her name is on his arm along with a butterfly. He also has his late grandmother’s name, Janie Gamble, with a rose and RIP tattooed on his forearm and birds reaching up for the clouds with the words, “With struggle comes success.”

“I’ve struggled all my life,” said Lauderdale, who still keeps the card his mother sent him when he turned 21. She wrote how “special I am, how blessed I am and how proud she is of me and how far I came,” he said. And when in Houston he visits his father Derwyn Lauderdale Sr. “My father is part of my life. We still communicate. It’s not a big bond, but it’s there,” he said. 

When he is around his two elementary age half-brothers and half-sister on his father’s side, “It is always a joy. They are happy to see me. They know my phone number by heart. They call me every chance they get. Every time they see a purple team (SBU’s color), they ask my dad if that is me on the TV screen.”

Lauderdale has three full brothers and a sister. Devin Lauderdale, his younger brother, is a wide receiver at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

“Lion-hearted” is what Derwyn Lauderdale calls himself. “No matter what is going on I know I can overcome. I can outlast anyone. You can’t knock talent. You can say something about size but can the man put up against me compete with me or catch as good as me? Just give me the opportunity and we will see who comes out on top. I have tweeted, ‘All I need is God and an opportunity.’

“My favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ You can do whatever it is you want to do. I also like another verse, ‘If God is for me, who can be against me?’ (Rom. 8:31). My mom put me onto that one. She told me anybody can be against you but as long as you have God, you will always overcome that.”

With his jovial spirit and constant smile, Lauderdale, who has been selected by teammates as a captain for the second straight season, keeps players “loose” and encourages them to cultivate their spiritual walk.

SBU assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Robert Clardy said, “Derwyn is not shy about showing his spirituality to his teammates. Before games, Derwyn gathers every wide receiver and myself and leads a prayer for our unit. Derwyn is also very humble for everything he earns. He is quick to give all credit to his teammates and the glory to God.

“Derwyn shows his faith in the way he treats his teammates,” Clardy said. “Derwyn treats people the way he wants to be treated and that’s with utmost respect. Derwyn has been through a lot in his life and has so many life experiences to share with our younger players.”

‘Faith keeps him grounded’

Coach Hunley said, “He discusses his faith openly; whether it’s praying after a touchdown or sending inspirational messages through social media. He often encourages his teammates to seek God’s counsel.

“In a world where most young people are shaping themselves based on the latest fad, Derwyn’s faith keeps him grounded,” Hunley said. “He leads verbally and by example and his faith is the message.”

Lauderdale, who was third-team all-conference in 2013 and SBU’s offensive player of the year, had 1,056 receiving yards and six touchdowns, averaging 12.3 yards per catch and 96 yards per game. He was fourth in the conference in punt returns with 15 for 136 yards and one touchdown. He was ninth in all-purpose yards with 1,322, a 120.2 yard average.

Family is why Lauderdale “depends upon God for everything” he said. “My greatest hope in Jesus is that He blesses me to make it to the NFL so I can take care of my mom. I keep bugging Him about it. I make sure He hears that prayer every night. I give honor to God because He is head of my life. He has helped me get this far. He gave me the talents that I have. Without Him there is no telling where I would be now.”

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