February 1st, 2013
10:56 AM ET
By Stephanie Gallman, CNN
(CNN) – Ask Dylan Thompson to name his career highlights, and fans might expect to hear about one of his big moments as South Carolina's backup quarterback - like the time he led the Gamecocks to victory over rival Clemson, or when he threw the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left in the Outback Bowl.
But while Thompson said he's proud of his team’s accomplishments as well as his own, nothing really compares to what happened to him off the field his freshman year.
“Being saved and dedicating my life to Christ is actually the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Thompson said.
His desire to spread the Gospel and share his faith propelled Thompson and his mentor, Jack Easterby, to come up with The Bible Out Loud project, an online initiative aimed at getting Christians to memorize and recite Scripture.
After the 27-17 victory over Clemson last November, Thompson felt he was receiving far too much attention. Not that it was undeserved: he threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
But Thompson says the number of touchdowns he scores pales in comparison to what’s really important.
“We need to get the attention back on Jesus,” he said.
The rules for The Bible Out Loud project are simple: Participants memorize one to five verses from the New International Version of the Bible and record themselves reciting it. Then they upload their video to YouTube and copy and paste the link to the project's web site.
Thompson said it's something people can do regardless of their denomination, social status or income, and it puts the focus back where he says it should be, on God’s word.
He recognizes that his status on the football field gives him a “tremendous opportunity to share” his testimony and lead others down the path to faith.
Easterby, who is the executive director of The Greatest Champion Foundation, agrees.
We are hoping to "rally the troops" using well-known athletes’ influence, said Easterby, whose organization, according to its website, uses "the platform of athletics" to "communicate the message of Christ.”
The promotional video for Bible Out Loud features several South Carolina athletes, but they're not named in an effort to keep the focus on Scripture. But diehard Gamecock fans will recognize them, and college fans will likely recognize running back Marcus Lattimore, who suffered a season-ending injury that brought everyone in Williams-Brice Stadium to their feet back in October.
Thompson said he’s even talked South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier into reading a verse for the project.
“He told me he was proud of me for doing it,” Thompson said.
Easterby understands there is often skepticism when it comes to religion, but he stresses the project involves no money and is pure in its intentions. He said Christians often face persecution when spreading their message, but so far backlash to the Bible Out Loud project has been minimal.
“A lot less than I had anticipated,” he laughs.
Most of the responses have been positive, and the project's goal of having an entire video Bible online by the end of the year is well on its way to being completed. Less than three weeks in, Easterby said more than 1,000 of the 31,000-plus verses have already been submitted.
There's been no shortage of variety, either, which is what Thompson said he’d hoped for. Among the videos posted online: a couple standing outside next to a lake reciting Proverbs 12:2-3; schoolchildren in uniform reciting 2 Timothy 2:15; and a boy wearing his football jersey reciting Acts 16:31.
The influx of submissions has let Easterby, who views each video before posting it to the site, be more selective.
“The Bible is meant to be read joyfully,” he said. Easterby has been in contact with submitters who aren’t speaking clearly or loudly enough on the video, asking them to resubmit.
The task of going over the videos with a watchful eye is challenging, but he said he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Easterby said. “Flat out amazing.”
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.