Leaders in the College Station, Texas Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently invited two world-class student athletes from Texas A&M University to come speak at a fireside for the youth in the stake about how their faith in Christ had been a blessing in their lives. The athletes, Stephanie Malherbe and Trevor Knight, are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but they are devout Christians and great examples of Christ-centered living. Many of the youth invited their friends of other faiths to come to our stake center to hear from these outstanding student athletes. It was a wonderful opportunity for our youth and their non-LDS friends to join together and see how much Latter-day Saints share in common with Christians of other faiths.
Former Texas A&M quarterback, Trevor Knight, doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t love sports. From an early age, he could be found with a ball in his hand and dressed like the athletes he watched on TV. Not only did he love playing sports; he was good at them, too. Really good.
“Me and my twin were bigger kids growing up, and we would have to bring our birth certificates to T-ball games to prove our age,” Knight said. “Some parents would get a little upset because I would hit an inside the park home run, then my brother, who is a little bit bigger than me, would hit it over the fence every at bat."
Knight didn’t only see success on the T-ball diamond, but in other sports as well—especially football. As a sophomore in high school, Knight was named starting varsity quarterback, a big deal in Texas where high school football is revered.
Knight played well that next season and began catching the eye of college coaches and receiving recognition around the state and the country. It turned out to be a pivotal year for him, but not for the reasons you might think.
“I was starting to receive a lot of personal glory,” Knight said. “I was starting to get scholarship offers from Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Clemson, and places all over the country. But it was then that I started to figure out what my faith was and who I was going to be as a person.”
It was then that Knight really committed himself to following Jesus Christ first and being an athlete second, despite whatever ups and downs may come.
“Starting from an early age I've had athletics to provide me with a platform and give me so many opportunities to see His name,” Knight said. “What I love about sports and athletics is that it teaches us about ups and downs because throughout life, in your home or business, you're going to have those moments.”
Surround Yourself with the Right People
Knight entered his junior year of high school with a lot of hype and high expectations surrounding his team, but things didn’t work out exactly as planned and his team missed the playoffs.
“We didn’t play well that year and we weren’t having fun, and I’ll tell you why—it was about the day-to-day interaction with my teammates,” Knight said. “We didn't have great leadership. For example, after running out on the tunnel before a game, instead of kneeling in prayer and truly having brotherhood, everyone was jumping around trying to get hyped up in other ways like maybe cursing. We weren't doing it the right way.”
The following year Knight and his teammates decided a change was needed. They wanted to be unified in all areas of life.
“We wanted to have a brotherhood and a culture for Christ on that team,” Knight said. “We started a Bible study and guys started coming. Throughout that football season, I made relationships I'll have for the rest of my life, not because we were teammates or classmates but because we believed in each other and we had that connection in Christ. We ended up going 12-2 that year. It was one of the funnest years of football of my life.”
Courtesy of AP Images
Knight continued to create a culture for Christ and lead his teammates on and off the field at the next level. At Oklahoma and then at Texas A&M, he organized mission trips to Haiti during Spring Break and invited other student athletes to join him. In 2016, Knight took his fourth trip to Haiti--and 28 other Aggie student-athletes joined him.
“The impact that he’s had on the team and in regard to service to the community has been impressive,” Sumlin told 12thman.com. “It’s been a short time – about 11 months – but his impact will be felt at Texas A&M for a long time. He came in first as a teammate and then became a leader. He helped unite our team and the athletics department as a whole. It wasn’t just the football team that went to Haiti, it was a group of student-athletes from a bunch of different sports at Texas A&M. He’s had a huge impact, and it’s very powerful for someone that’s only been here for a short time."
“I love the image of an aisle,” Knight said. “If you're walking down the middle of the aisle of life, ideally you want to be straight, but life is going to throw you those curve balls. It's going to knock you to one side or the other. I like to envision my aisle of life with Jesus and those people I surround myself with on either side so that when I'm getting knocked off one way or another, they are right there pushing me back in.”
After completing his senior year of high school, Knight planned to enroll early at the University of Oklahoma and prepare with the team during spring practices. However, shortly before he was scheduled to leave for Oklahoma, Knight’s father, George, was diagnosed with cancer.
“My parents stopped me and my two brothers at the top of the stairs. My dad, with his head down, said, 'We're going to fight it,'” Knight said. “I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but then he told us he went went to the doctor that morning and they told him he had cancer.”
It was a moment Knight will never forget and one that set the course for his life thereafter.
“Right there, that was the defining moment in my life,” Knight said. “I had to make a choice: was I going to be mad at God, or was I going to use God for good and get my dad through that situation? I had never really seen adversity in my life until that moment. Right away, I felt like I just needed to be there for my dad, and I told him I'd be there no matter what.”
Knight continued to prepare for Oklahoma where he planned to enroll early. However, the football team had a scholarship restriction that spring and the Sooners didn’t have a spot for him.
“At first I was upset. I had sacrificed a lot of things to be in a position to enroll early,” Knight said. “But, instead of going up to Oklahoma, I got to be at home with my dad that whole semester, sit with him at every chemo treatment, and be there by his side when he needed me most.
“Today my dad is cancer free, and I’m truly thankful for that time we had together. Where we got to form this relationship and have such incredible conversations through that time. God had a better plan and really came through. I just praise God for that.”
At Oklahoma, Knight redshirted his first year and took the opportunity to invest in his teammates.
“They didn't respect me for who I was on the field because I wasn't playing with them,” Knight said. “But, I got to be intentional with them and really learn about who they were as people.”
The next year Knight won the starting job and helped lead the Sooners to a 11-2 record and was named MVP of the Sugar Bowl upsetting No. 3 Alabama after throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
The next two seasons, Knight was a captain for the Sooners despite losing the starting job and playing off and on due to injury.
“Going through the ups and downs of playing really well at times and playing really badly other times was hard,” Knight said. “I had a knee injury and was even carted off the field at one point for a neck injury. I was just battling this emotional roller coaster that life throws at you, but through all of that I continued to push everything up and give Jesus my trust.”
It was another defining moment for Knight in his life as he chose to follow the plan the Savior had for him—even though it wasn’t easy. He found a new home at Texas A&M.
Courtesy of AP Images
“I was leaving Oklahoma, a place that I love,” Knight said. “My brother was there and I was comfortable there, but I wanted more and I knew that God had more for my life. I took the leap of faith and came here to Texas A&M and it's been such a blessing.”
Dive into the Word
Knight has relied on the scriptures for guidance throughout his life and believes they are a key to finding happiness. One of his favorite scripture verse can be found in James 1:2 (NIV).
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds."
“That's a promise to us there that we're going to go through hard times and it's how you respond that matters,” Knight said.
Another favorite verse of Knight’s is found in Proverbs 3:4-5 (NIV).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
“I believe that the word has the answers to everything that we need to go through in this life,” Knight said. “If we truly make our best effort in waking up each and every day, reading the word, and applying it to our life—it is going to help you. Live with joy in your heart and you'll be able to start seeing things in a different light and it will truly bless you day to day.”
Knight’s story is one of ups and downs, but he has always trusted in God and done his best to glorify Him.
“Looking back on my college career, it’s been perfect,” Knight told reporters after his final game this year. “A lot of you would think, ‘Why is it perfect?’ It’s because I’ve been fortunate enough to go through the ups and downs and have a faith that’s helped me through that.”
There is more to Knight and other student-athletes than what you see them do on the field, around town, or even in the classroom. Despite the turmoil that life brings we can be happy each day by striving to know our Savior.
“A couple of weeks ago, our chapel speaker said, ‘Be grateful in the good times and faithful in the hard times.’ That has stuck with me and resonated with me because it fits in with my story,” Knight said. “If we just trust God, no matter what happens day-to-day, when we wake up, He's going to set our path straight. When times get hard, you need to be faithful in knowing that God is going to pick you up, and if we keep our eyes focused on him—he's going to get us through it.”
Andrew Devey graduated from BYU with a degree in communications and is now a marketing professional living in Utah. He is part Texan by marriage, but still longs for Big Sky Country, where he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also a sports junkie and dessert connoisseur. He is married to Lisa, and what he loves most is being the father to his son and twin girls.