Progress 2018

Goldsboro News Argus - Progress Edition

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You win in spades by having great ones, Collins often says, but rarely at all without them — which is why he wanted Davis, who had never taken a last-second jumper, recorded a form tackle or scored on a passed ball, to be the new guy. Because God-guys, even new ones, don't let strangers suffer. THE DECADE Buildings with walls aren't necessarily designed for Asunji Maddox — they're just not. He needs room to roam. The decade, as Collins calls him, is bold, bright and plays to the honest edges of conversation with an unrelenting smile and energy that knows only peaks, it seems — no valleys. His mannerisms, which register some- where in the strange space between a chorused rendering of I shall not want and a Ronnie Lott-inspired chin-check, could easily be mistaken — and likely have been, at some point — for the art of false charm. But to fall for such means one isn't really lis- tening. You see, Maddox speaks with passion about all things — as any young minister is usually wont to do — and the topics range from his prep days to his recent marriage to his new home in Tampa, which he clearly cannot wait to fully occupy. Then there's Collins, his brother. He's the guy who introduced himself years ago through a chain-link fence near the track complex at Goldsboro High, and who wound up giv- ing the youngster a ride home from baseball practice when he didn't have one. He's also the guy who drove to visit him at Elon University, offering counsel through good times and bad, and who most recently advised him around the best way to cut a wedding cake — because family is as fami- ly forever does when the groom's very first wedding is his own. And on this day, he's the only subject to give Maddox pause. "Loving the center, if that makes sense," he says when asked to describe his mentor's best character trait. "So often, when people give their life to the Lord… and with that, you still make mistakes… I can talk to him about anything that I may be struggling with, and know that is a safe space — I can trust Will with that." It seems things have always been this way between the two, who first came together after a group of suspicious-types wanted to embargo Collins and his perceived holier-than-thou, do-gooder tidings from the campus of Goldsboro High School. But Maddox, an inquisitive sort who has always reveled in things unknown, quickly broke down the distrust and brokered what would become one of the area's first FCA Bible study groups. From there, the new guy — pun well intended — had it made. Sort of. "I just talked life with them," Collins recalls. "I didn't act like I knew what they felt, or I knew what they were going through… all I would tell them is, I've got a great message of hope." One that Maddox absorbed, and one shared to this day. "I told you a win really needs to be measured in a decade," Collins said with broad grin, clearly referencing a fully-formed Maddox. "He's it." And likely, always will be. THE BALLER His name stirs the air, in the way only a death can, and then prompt- ly takes it from the room — again, in the way only a death does. Kevin Wise. Equal parts game-ready and graceful, No. 9 was Southern Wayne's last great ballplayer, a five-tool kid who — until his untimely passing in February 2012 — seemed a lock to become everything good that everyone ever said of him. Devout. Poised. Willing, always, to be willing. And today, key lit by the cool glow of a solubility graph on the white board of his own classroom at Southern Wayne High, Anthony Williams — the baller — discusses the days gone by with an attentive Collins. "We got in contact," Williams said, "and you told me what you were doing (with FCA). It was right around Kevin's death… and I really thought, man — baseball's fun, it's great, it's cool to win, but what's really important?" he asks. His remark loiters between them, batted about by silent head nods, which is telling — because Williams, the everyday second baseman for the University of Mount Olive's 2008 Glory-Gold national championship outfit, is finally at ease with the vacuum. But that wasn't always the case. Years ago, fresh out of school and bent on amplifying the diamond culture in Dudley, a younger Williams struggled to make sense of life as a first-year coach. His swag, it seemed — which made him everything and prompted his success as a Trojan — was suffocating him as a Saint. "I wanted to uphold my name," Williams said of the time. "And I'd go to extreme measures to recreate what I had been through for these high school guys — which they weren't ready for." There were words, he said, blue ones, and phrases that flew but did- n't quite land the way Rockne's win-one-for-the-Gipper spiel did all those moons ago. Then there was his worst night, in front of Wise and the world, where Mr. UMO — the guy who could seemingly do no wrong on a baseball field — turned the sanctuary of his team's dugout into a pile of crushed block and bruised, barely-there egos. "God's grace I'm still teaching," he says softly. And so it was Collins, among many others — including Wise — who helped Williams gain traction toward being the guy he wanted to be, all the while not forgetting who he was. That guy was important, too — still is. "Will and FCA have really given me the confidence to just do what I do," Williams said, smiling. "I'm a cup, and I have to pour… but then when I get home, I have to realize, what am I really doing it for?" These days, unlike his youth, he does it for everyone. THE MISSIONARY Derek Limbaugh's Instagram account — a modest gathering of snaps that speak to everyday life in eastern North Carolina — contains many posts that one might expect from a 24-year old. There's one of his sister, clutching two cellphones and laughing hysterically, and one of Limbaugh at a buddy's wedding. Further back in his story, he playfully mocks a friend whose fantasy football team didn't make the playoffs and, for good measure, there's one of him wearing a Looney Tunes sweat- shirt. But Bugs and Taz were so three years ago, man. Most recently, the missionary — whom Collins bumped into by chance at Starbucks on the same day he met with Davis, Mad- dox and Williams — has been posting updates of a different sort. A much different sort. "I was never interested in missions," Limbaugh said. "I had no desire to do missions, because at that point… I didn't want to do the typical, go-down-to-Costa-Rica, or whatever, for a week, and half the time we lay out on the beach, and then the other half of the time we're going to serve some… I wanted to go somewhere and really experience the place." And following a meeting with Collins — who then put the for- mer University of Mount Olive pitcher in contact with the FCA's international liaison, Limbaugh was set. Next stop, Israel. "While I was there, I made some close friends with some of the locals," he recalled. "And they started recruiting me to go and teach at a local school in Bethlehem." At which point, his Instagram game changed dramatically. From July to December of 2017, Limbaugh ran the unlikeliest of faith-based gamuts, overcoming a bout of extreme homesickness to visit some of the world's truly remarkable places. On July 18 — wearing an old Aycock baseball shirt, no less — the right-hander stopped in Jericho, where he posted from the Mount of Temptation. Five days later, he was baptized in the Jordan River. And on September 14, it was a picture of a middle eastern sunset — taken from what appears to be a moving vehicle, complete with a mic- drop styled message reply to his post — Drake didn't come up with this. "That's the other thing with FCA that I've experienced," Limbaugh said with a smile. "All the time, we're going out and wanting to serve kids — and we want to pour ourselves out, but we get filled up 10 times more… through them, and other things that God does." Which, in Limbaugh's case, means going anywhere to get the mes- sage. • Will Collins and his FCA cronies — a band that serves student-ath- letes in Wayne, Greene and Lenoir counties, are bought-in guys who, simply put, want to help as many people as they possibly can. One is an unassuming pastor, the other a former collegiate safety who could assuredly still play. The third is reformed and truly knows it, while the youngest of the bunch follows a tried-and-true athletic maxim — have game, will travel. And no, they're not gathered under Collins — who is, at every turn, a normal guy — to try and convert you in a hot minute, or guilt you into becoming a member of some newfangled congregation on the outskirts of religion. They're just here to listen — all you have to do is talk. Friday, February 23, 2018 Goldsboro News-Argus — 13C GENTLEMEN LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY Asunji Maddox Anthony Williams Derek Limbaugh Continued from page 12

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