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Koehl: Created to play football
Monday, May 14, 2007
By Bill Sorrell

HOUSTON (BP)--His junior year of high school, under Friday night lights, Wade Koehl’s team of Midland, Texas, was playing Odessa Permian. As his Bulldogs trailed 6-0 at halftime, Koehl had a revelation.

“I grew closer to the Lord through that game,” Koehl said. “I really realized what a worship experience playing the game of football is. It was a real spiritual game for me. I was playing running back. It just clicked. I thought ‘I’m doing this for God. It’s not for my glory, it’s for His glory.’ That’s why I play football.”

Koehl scored on a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter that gave Midland a 12-9 lead. Later he scored on a 67-yard touchdown pass and the Bulldogs defeated Permian 20-9. He finished with 77 yards rushing on 17 carries and 151 yards receiving on six catches.

“I was pretty excited; that was the big Odessa Permian,” Koehl said. “Ever since then, I feel like I’ve got the football side of my faith down. I’m trying to bring along everything else as well.”

Koehl carried that attitude with him to the University of Houston, where he excelled as an outside linebacker. This season he helped lead the Cougars to their first Conference USA championship in 10 years and a berth in the Liberty Bowl.

It’s an attitude he now hopes to take with him to the NFL. Following the NFL draft April 28-29, Koehl signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints. The team’s first mini-camp begins May 12.

“My goal is to keep playing after this year,” Koehl said prior to the NFL draft. “That’s up to God. I’m leaving it in His hands. Whatever works out is up to Him and we’ll go from there.”

Koehl’s father, George, and his mother, DiAnn, attended Hardin-Simmons University. George got a bachelor’s degree in piano performance and a master’s in music composition. He is now the minister of music at First Baptist Church of Midland, Texas.

“He tried to give me a few piano lessons,” Wade said. “I’m probably not the best student. I wasn’t very good at practicing. I’ve been in junior high band. I played alto saxophone. I only lasted a couple of years.”

At First Baptist Church, Wade was in the youth and music ministries for 10 years. He’s been on mission trips to Mexico, Canada, Idaho, El Paso, Germany and Colorado. He was a Vacation Bible School teacher for five years and a DiscipleNow leader. He was a volunteer competitive boxer for “A-Bout-A-Wish,” with “Make-A-Wish” Foundation.

He’s been self-employed in a yard care business for five years and assisted in landscaping for a Midland women’s shelter that his mother operates. He’s served meals on wheels, coached children’s sports teams and visited children’s hospitals.

“If anybody needs someone to go to the hospital and visit people, I’m definitely the first one to go,” Koehl said. “Kids look up to college football players. I like being able to use my platform for God.”

Koehl said that Houston defensive coordinator Alan Weddell coaches by the philosophy, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

“I really like that quote,” Koehl said. “If you show people how much you really care, you’ll get a lot further in life.”

In 2001, he joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and has been a huddle leader at Houston since 2004. Last summer, he was part of the FCA state camp leadership team at Texas A&M. He worked with nine boys. Three became Christians.

During the 2006 season, Houston players helped strengthen the university’s FCA.

“This year we had a tighter-knit team,” Koehl said. “Most of the guys (on the team) have quite a bit of respect for it (faith). Most of them claim to be Christians. I’m not sure how many are. They may not live it out as well as others but they definitely believe there is a God.”

Before every game, Koehl read Psalm 20 (verses 4-5, “May he give you the desire of your heart, and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and we will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests.”).

Other life verses for him are Colossians 3:23, Philippians 4:13 and Hebrews 11. C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” is a favorite book.

“It’s nice to see someone with that intellect fighting for our side,” said Koehl, who reads from Proverbs, a New Testament book and a Christian book during his quiet time.

“Everything needs to be prefaced with prayer, hours and hours of it,” Koehl said. “Jesus did it and we might as well too. God has given me this (football). I am going to do my best to serve Him in it. If I ever stop serving Him, I’m sure He’ll take it right away. I’m trusting Him to take care of things for me.

“I might be made fun of for some of the stands I take but I appreciate that. I don’t think it is a wrong thing. If someone is persecuting you, the Bible says be happy about it. I know I must be doing something right, if I am persecuted.”

Football has taught Koehl more about his relationship with Christ and “how much I need to depend on him.”

He first learned about Christ at home. Wade accepted Christ as Savior when he was 7.

His father is his role model.

“He is always caring and so joyous,” Koehl said. He’s not going to have a bad day. I don’t know how he does it. Both my parents are like that. It’s wonderful. My dad is the friendliest guy I know. He truly cares about everyone and he sets a good example of what a godly man is like. It’s been amazing for me to grow up in the church with him as a role model.”

Wade said that he would want his teammates to say that he is a godly man who cares, who is dedicated to football and to his calling.

Houston head football coach Art Briles said that Koehl is “everything you’re looking for in a man, in a Christian and a player. He’s the total package. There are no ghosts. There is no baggage. He’s the real deal. He’s an excellent role model and an excellent, excellent human being.”

Said Koehl: “My whole life is about being a Christian. That is the most important thing to me. God created me for the purpose to play football. I’ll be happy to keep playing football as long as He gives me the desire.”


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