It was the final day of the Fighting Scots’ trip to Appalachian State University back in mid-July, and the team was fresh off its second morning practice. One by one, the Fighting Scots players and coaches sat in the end zone of the Mountaineers indoor practice facility…save for two players, who remained standing.
Left guard Bradley Baines and running back Jalen McLean, both senior starters for Scotland, each opened their Bibles and led the team in a 20-minute devotion which posed a simple question: Do you know God or know about God?
Considered the spiritual leaders on the team, Baines and McLean met up in the nights before that Sunday morning practice to rehearse the message they would share with the team.
Because in Baines’ eyes, each moment in a Fighting Scots uniform is a moment to honor God.
“Wherever God puts me, I want to make that a mission field and use that field to glorify him through everything,” Baines said. “My faith is the most important thing in my life, and football has been a great avenue to spark conversations with teammates and those around me about the word of God.”
According to father Greg Baines, there’s only so much about Christianity that you can teach a child before they begin making their own decisions, for better or worse. Raising his family in faith, Baines knew his children would eventually reach a point in their lives where they themselves would determine their own personal spiritual path.
“I could’ve forced them to read the Bible and pray every day, but what good would that have done?” Greg Baines said. “Bradley had to decide himself if he believed or not.”
For Bradley, that decision came in elementary school.
“I was probably in the 5th or 6th grade, and while I was a good little Christian boy I didn’t have that personal relationship with Christ yet,” Baines said. “When I realized that, I knew I wanted to change, so I decided then and there that I would commit myself to following God.”
After making this declaration, Baines began searching for various avenues to grow and share his religious beliefs with others. In his seventh grade year, Baines along with brother Gregory and family friend Josiah Boda (Scotland’s former “varsity tennis player of the year”) formed the contemporary Christian rock group Unkut Stones who released a six-song demo entitled “Completely” in 2010. Baines played bass guitar in the group.
Over the past couple of seasons, Baines’ role as a member of the Fighting Scots has created another avenue for the senior offensive lineman to further explore his faith. And on a team which prides itself on having a sturdy religious backbone, being one of the team’s spiritual leaders is a natural fit for Baines.
“The team prays before and after every practice, and usually it bounces around from coaches to players,” Baines said. “We make it a point to pray every single day, and it’s great that something which is extremely important in my life is also important to the Fighting Scots.”
Baines’ openness and knowledge about his Christianity has also created some entertaining moments in the locker room as well.
“If a couple of my teammates are debating about a Bible passage, they always end up asking me about it,” said Baines with a laugh. “It’s no secret that I’m known as the ‘Christian Guy’ on the team, but it makes it all worth it when your teammates show interest in learning about Christ and his message.”
When it comes to his career path, Baines believes that God has countless more mission fields in store for him following his graduation from Scotland High School. His Unkut Stones band mates are both attending Liberty University, the nation’s largest Christian university, and Baines himself has hopes of continuing his academic career there. And perhaps even reunite the band as well.
Shortly after his fateful decision to dedicate himself to Christianity, Baines also settled on his future ambitions: He either wants to become a minister or football coach, citing both professions as opportunities to reach young adults at the most pivotal time of their lives. Baines’ choice to follow Christ came roughly around the time when peer pressures begin to steer children away from their beliefs.
And whether it’s on the football field or in a church, Baines hopes to one day reach kids who also have their own difficult decision to make.
“Teenage years are crucial because that’s when it becomes so easy to follow those around you and get into stuff that isn’t so good for you,” Baines said. “I know firsthand the impact that coaches can have on a teen’s life, and that platform has always appealed to me as something I’d like to do in the future. Of course, I love the game of football too so staying involved with it would be great.”