Faith Fuels Zach Taylor On and Off the Field


Photo Courtesy of Erik Andrews

Zach Taylor, one of the best quarterbacks in program history, credits his success on and off the football field to his faith. He leads Athlete Bible Study, which meets Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. in the Zechiel House lounge.

Every Saturday before the football team takes the field for warm-ups, College junior and quarterback Zach Taylor writes a new Bible verse on the towel he keeps in his back pocket throughout the game.

According to Taylor, Christianity has been his driving force since arriving at Oberlin two years ago. It’s what gets him through the bad times and keeps him humble during the good times.

“I grew up in a Christian household, but I think I really found my faith once I got here at Oberlin,” Taylor said. “It was my first time being away from my family, so it was nice having Jesus as my rock. The Bible was something I wanted to get to know more.”

In the spring of Taylor’s freshman year, Rachael Andrews, OC ’18, introduced him to Oberlin’s Athlete Bible Study. Athlete Bible Study, which meets Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in the Zechiel House lounge, allows Christian student-athletes to come together and read the Bible, ask questions about it, and discuss how its principles can relate to life at Oberlin.

According to Taylor, around seven or eight student-athletes attend Athlete Bible Study on average, but there have been times when up to 18 people have shown up. Over the past three years, members of football, men’s basketball, men’s lacrosse, baseball, swimming and diving, women’s basketball, women’s soccer, and women’s lacrosse have made an appearance.

College junior and women’s basketball player Mackenzie Michaels said Athlete Bible Study is a much-needed breath of fresh air for her.

“It allows me to step back from my busy schedule and take an hour to refocus on what is important,” Michaels said. “It fosters a community that goes across teams and denominations. We pray together, reflect together, and are there for each other.”

Despite participation from many teams, it’s the football team that spearheads Athlete Bible Study.

College junior and defensive lineman Justin Godfrey said Athlete Bible Study is an invigorating way to connect with others.

“It’s just a really great place to relax and be around people who are like-minded,” Godfrey said. “It’s a place where we can bounce ideas and beliefs and stories off one another.”

College senior and wide receiver Ryan Gleeson said Athlete Bible Study quickly became an important part of his college experience sophomore year when he started attending.

“Not only do I go to grow stronger in my faith, but it is also a great opportunity to open up and have an honest conversation about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through that week with people who truly care,” Gleeson said. “It really helped me find a great community of friends.”

Select members of the team pray before each game, and, like Taylor, they write Bible verses on their cleats and taped wrists.

“[Christianity] plays a big role on the team because it’s very unifying,” Taylor said. “We all come from different backgrounds and places, but we’re united under that same belief that Jesus Christ died for our sins. It brings you closer, having that emotional connection to each other. You have these tough football players who are willing to express their emotions. It makes us better teammates and friends.”

While the players on the football team who identify as Christian are proud of their faith, Taylor said he understands that many students at Oberlin are not religious, and he is OK with that.

“I’m very aware of the rap that [Christianity] sometimes gets on this campus,” Taylor said. “It’s true that it’s not widely accepted here, but that’s totally OK. People are free to believe what they want. It has become important for me, though, to have a community for people who share my beliefs so that [we] have a safe place to connect and express [our] worries and anxieties. Nobody should ever feel like they have to keep something inside.”

However, Taylor wants to make sure that people know that Athlete Bible Study is a place for everybody, not just Christians. While part of the meeting does involve reading the Bible, a large portion of the meeting is dedicated to expressing feelings and discussing things that are happening at Oberlin and around the world. In fact, Taylor said he believes that Athlete Bible Study has made him a better person in all aspects of his life.

Part of Taylor’s success in the classroom and on the football field comes from his ability to prioritize. While many student-athletes go out on Saturday nights, Taylor chooses not to. He said he enjoys hanging around his teammates but equally enjoys relaxing in his room by himself and watching Netflix.

“[My faith] helps me to remember my role as a person,” Taylor said. “I know that I’m here at Oberlin so that I can make a better future for myself and my family, and there’s a lot riding on me succeeding here so that when I finish here I have the means to support a lot of people.”

Over the summer, Taylor participated in a six-week internship at the Summer Biomedical Sciences Institute at Duke University, where he took classes to prepare for the MCAT and medical school. He also shadowed at the Duke University Hospital. With aspirations to become an orthopedic surgeon, it’s no wonder that Taylor takes advantage of any free time he has to relax.

Outside of leading Athlete Bible Study and being a three-year starter and two-time captain for the Yeomen, Taylor volunteers frequently with Buddy Up Tennis and is the co-chair of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

On the field, Taylor is on track to becoming the best quarterback to ever play for the Yeomen. As a sophomore, Taylor set the single-season school record for total offense in just nine games with an accumulation of 2,525 yards. In the last game of the season, against the Allegheny College Gators, Taylor threw a North Coast Athletic Conference single-game record 550 total yards to secure a 63-37 win.

“My faith is at the root of everything I do — it is my identity,” Taylor said. “When I wake up and remember that God loves me and is proud of me no matter what, it makes things a lot easier to handle. In terms of making me a better athlete, it just gives me a great outlook on what I can do.”