Be uncommon. Be committed.

That is the challenge that Head Coach Thomas issued to the Fredericksburg Christian Varsity Football team this year. It became their driving force, particularly for Brian, one of the team captains.

Brian Tinnell, class of ’19, has been playing football since his freshman year, along with 14
other seniors who have been on the team together for all four years. Brian said,

“It’s been awesome having all of us on the team together, and it helped when we went through some hard years.”

Brian’s freshman season was one of those hard years, when the team closed with the dismal record of zero wins and eight losses. Even though it was discouraging, Luke Sellers, the FCS athletic director, assured Brian that if he stuck with it, they would do great things one day.

Brian remembers that conversation well — and especially the motivation it gave him to get
better.

Throughout his childhood, Brian’s parents, Lauren and Mark Tinnell, had encouraged him to
build on a foundation of hard work. “My parents taught me to do everything to the best of my ability,” he said. “Academics came first, because we couldn’t play sports if we didn’t keep our grades up.”

But perhaps more important, his parents instilled in Brian a mindset that he still
incorporates into his daily life, expressed in a family motto:

“Hard work beats talent
when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Brian doesn’t take for granted the opportunity to play football. He explained, “As a kid, I had always wanted to play football, but I did not get the opportunity until I was a high school freshman, due to the fact that I had epilepsy. But by ninth grade I had been seizure-free for years and was finally cleared to play.” Once he was given the opportunity, Brian focused on hustle and perseverance to make up for missing those early years of practice.

In Brian’s sophomore year, Billy Thomas became FCS’s head coach, and even though the season was logged in the record books as a losing season, Brian considered it a victory overall. Brian said, “The Lord was using these difficult years to teach us about commitment and never giving up.”

The team began attending football camps each summer down in Bath County. First thing every morning the team gathered together for a time of devotion and prayer, led by Coach Thomas.

Brian shared, “He’s always been more focused on who we are as people, rather than who we are as football players.”

Those football camps were tough. But according to Brian, it was there that the Lord began to shape the team. “We were in the intense heat of summer, practicing three times a day, isolated without cell service, but we began to bond as a team and grow together.

This year they reaped the results of all that growth and hard work. The varsity team ended the season with a stellar record of 11 wins and only one loss. They advanced through the playoffs, and with a victory over North Cross School from Roanoke, they won the state championship.

When Coach Thomas was asked about Brian he stated, “The words integrity, determination, influence and drive describe Brian perfectly, as a person and as a player. He lives out his relationship with the Lord in his daily life.”

Through all the team’s grueling workouts and hard-fought games, the Lord developed
friendships and bonds that will remain strong far into the future. Brian talked about the football family they had built. “I really believe we will stay connected for years to come. We have shared a lot together, and we are family.”

What’s next for Brian?

Once he graduates in May, he is headed to Liberty University to major in
criminal justice. His dream is to work for the FBI, following in the footsteps of his grandparents.

Brian knows that fulfilling this dream will involve a lot of hard work and determination. But
between his faith, his family and his football team, the Lord has been preparing Brian for this next challenge his entire life.

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