Proving power of faith

Published 1:07 pm Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Someday, when I look back on the most thrilling moments of my life, being blessed to write extensively about Tyler “Tank” Whaley’s remarkable, Rudy-like ride as an Ohio State Buckeye will always be near the top of the list, just behind the births of my children — even if I happen to hit the lottery and someday marry a supermodel who loves fantasy baseball and The History Channel.

The former Ironton prep standout and OSU walk-on lineman turned starting Big Ten fullback is the biggest dreamer I’ve ever known. His desire is both intense and contagious. He is proof that dreams really do come true if we are willing to follow them.

At 7 p.m. this Saturday at the Ironton Conley Center gymnasium, Whaley, with help from several of his former Buckeye teammates and a handful of local basketball legends, is drifting into another dream: To speak to local youngsters about Jesus Christ and help Ashland native Amy Compston’s fast-growing missionary project, Amy for Africa, using a charity basketball game as the catalyst.

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And here I am again, blessed to be writing another story about this remarkably driven young man. As a matter of fact, “Driven” is the main concept fueling the event.

Former OSU and NFL wide receiver Roy Hall cofounded the Driven Foundation in 2008 with former Buckeyes teammate Antonio Smith to provide guidance, hope and motivation to impoverished inner city children in Ohio. The foundation’s popularity caught the attention of Whaley, who was searching for ideas to get more kids involved in church.

“The main goal is to get people to come to church,” Whaley, who attends First Baptist Church in Ironton, said. “I don’t care where they go; I just want them to go…especially the kids.”

He discussed the blessings the Lord has given him, along with an intense desire to see others benefit via faith. “I understand why I was blessed with the opportunity to accomplish my goals,” he said. “It gave me a platform to help others.”

Hall and Whaley will be joined at the Conley Center by Maurice Lee (receiver and defensive back for OSU’s 2002 national championship team), Thomas Matthews (redshirt linebacker on 2002 team), Trever Robinson (fullback with Whaley in 2007), and Nick Patterson (defensive back from 2004-08).

Oh, and another local standout who walked onto the Buckeyes football team and forced himself into the starting lineup – Marcus Williams — will also be on hand. Williams accepted a full academic scholarship to Ohio State prior to deciding the football team would be better off if he was on the field. Almost immediately, he proved himself correct.

His love and remembrance of former schoolmate Shane Jones, who succumbed to leukemia in 2002, immediately endeared me to Marcus Williams. Watching the standout Ironton Tiger knock heads in his Scarlet and Gray uniform, wearing a necklace that belonged to Shane taped to his chest, iced the cake.

What do all of these guys have in common? For one thing, every one of them has participated in an NCAA National Championship game. Few people can make that claim; for another, all of them think it is cool to love Jesus Christ. The latter point is the most impressive.

All of these guys want to defy worldly beliefs and define to impressionable youth the awesome power of faith in God.

Joining the Horseshoe Warriors for the event are some local basketball phenoms who wish to share the same message. No introductions need to be made for the Barnes trio (Eric, Ty and Bryce) or for 3-point master Dennis Gagai.

Admission to the event is only $5, all of which furthers the causes of the Driven Foundation and Amy for Africa. After the game, all the players will stick around as long as necessary to sign autographs and talk to kids.

Do yourself and your children a favor and attend this event. Local role models like Whaley, Williams, Gagai and anybody with the last name Barnes are the types of people we want our kids to look up to.


Billy Bruce is a freelance writer who lives in Pedro. He can be contacted at