TCU quarterback Andy Dalton leads with play on the field, his prayer off it

January 1, 2011 

The 78th Psalm ends with a tribute to King David: "He (led) them with the integrity of his heart and the skillfulness of his hands."

It's a passage that Greg Dalton instilled in his son, long before Andy Dalton threw his first touchdown pass at Texas Christian University.

Andy Dalton, 23, grew up in a family of strong faith and unconditional love. His unwavering Christianity has only strengthened as he's gotten older. It has provided an inspiration to carry him honorably on and off the football field during a record-shattering career.

He's been the unrivaled face of the Horned Frogs for the past four seasons, and he will finish his storied quarterback career in the Rose Bowl today against Wisconsin. He has won more games (41) and thrown for more yards (10,095) and touchdowns (70) than anyone else in school history.

But Dalton will not only leave a massive football legacy behind at TCU, he'll leave a spiritual mark as well.

Along with 10 other TCU students, he helped create Ignite, a weekly nondenominational gathering. The first Monday meeting was held April 5, which happened to fall on the same day of the NCAA men's basketball championship. The group wasn't sure if anyone would attend.

"Lord, if it's just us in here, it's OK," Dalton recalled the group praying just before the doors of the Brown-Lupton University Union Ballroom opened that night. "He placed it on our hearts to do something like this. And we walked in there and the place was packed. We had around 400 people the first night."

This fall the student-led ministry often has drawn more than 700 students to worship, along with a speaker and Christian rock band. The group's popularity was helped by familiar faces such as Dalton's, and teammates Curtis Clay and Jeff Olson, both of whom are part of the leadership team. Former Frog and current Green Bay Packer Marshall Newhouse also helped in the group's creation.

"In here, they're not football players," said co-creator Kelsey Taylor, a senior from Aledo. "They're just part of the family. They're just solid guys who love Jesus. It's awesome that the quarterback of our football team wants to be involved because he's so busy all over the place."

The goal was to replicate similar groups at Baylor and Texas A&M, which give students a place to gather for worship, without the strict and stuffy church setting. The group slogan is "Come As You Are."

"College is a time where a lot of people try to find themselves," Dalton said. "If you've grown up in a church, college is a time you may branch away from that. We felt TCU had been a little complacent in its faith and having something like this would kind of spark up the campus."

Dalton never experienced that pull away from his faith. He was active in Student Venture at Katy (Texas) High School and played guitar in a Christian band. He credits his parents, Greg and Tina, for leading by example, and showing him the power of faith.

"I see how loving my parents are toward each other, toward my family and toward me," said Dalton, adding that he's been blessed with a controversy-free family. "And that's just a glimpse of Jesus' love for us."

Faith has helped Dalton cultivate confidence and peace, Greg Dalton said, which has helped him deal with the wild swing of emotions as a quarterback. Their son's natural leadership was evident early, Tina Dalton said.

"If there was a kid acting up in elementary school, they'd put him next to Andy and Andy would be in charge of him," she said. "He would do it in a calm, quiet way. Other people saw that leadership early, not necessarily just in sports."

TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick, a frequent attendee of Ignite meetings, and Dalton's former roommate, said the quarterback always has been comfortable in his own skin.

"His faith plays a major part in his life, and everything he does revolves around it," Kirkpatrick said. "He has views and morals he sticks to. That's why he's such a leader on this team. I think it shows on the field."

For much of his TCU career, Dalton has been blessed with many highs and few lows. Since his sophomore year, he has lost only three games, the last coming in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Dalton threw a season-high three interceptions, one of which was returned 51 yards for a touchdown, and the Frogs lost to Boise State, 17-10.

The loss has been a personal motivator for Dalton to help lead TCU back to the BCS Promised Land.

Another verse from the bible has stayed with Dalton ever since he heard former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite repeat it after winning the Holiday Bowl in 2001: "Humble yourself and under God's mighty hand he will exult you in due time."

"That's been something I've taken and made part of my character," Dalton said. "The most rewarding thing for me is people coming up and thanking me for being a great character guy for their kids; for being a class act off the field. That is the kind of person I want to be. It's very fulfilling."

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service