In Galatians 5:13, Paul exhorted the Believers in the region telling them,
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
This is truly one of the more thought-provoking verses in the Bible, because it is a calling to remove away the things of our own hearts and, instead, serve others. What makes the verse so challenging to many is that it demands that we do so without any fanfare. That we go out and give of ourselves without the spotlight being on us. There is no big award; no huge pat on the back. Just a simple desire to serve and demonstrate what the love of Christ truly looks like.
For most, this flies in the face of everything that they believe. They live in the quote that says, “It’s not enough to be doing good; you got to be seen doing good.” That is the world we live in today.
There is one young man who is truly embracing the words of Paul and showing the kind of love and humility that Jesus showed when He walked the earth. This young man is not only demonstrating this kind of love and charity out on the football field (of all places) but also around his campus and in a country thousands of miles from his home. He is the true embodiment of Galatians 5:13. He is Drew Neuville.
For Unto Us a Child Is Born – Isaiah 9:6
Drew Neuville was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin. While he was a product of the Dairy State, his mother was actually born in Edina, MN, and he grew up with a love and passion for the state of Minnesota.
His parents, Chris and Andrea Neuville, grew up in a Christian household and had attended Christian schools. As a result, they made a foundation of their faith a primary focus for Drew, his twin brother Bret, and his sisters.
They also encouraged their children to participate in whatever they enjoyed doing. For Drew and Bret, this meant spending many hours on the ice rink and baseball diamond. Both brothers excelled in their sporting endeavors, and became stars in the sports.
In the seventh grade, the Neuville parents decided to let their sons play football. Drew joined the team, but still found that he had a greater passion for hockey and baseball. He was also better at those two sports and, so, the early part of his high school career was spent focused on his true loves.
His love for these sports showed. Drew excelled as both a baseball player and a hockey player. He was the Conference Player of the Year in 2013 in baseball, and was named by the Green Bay Press-Gazette as their Player of the Year. Wisconsin Sports.Net also named him their infielder/catcher of the year. In hockey he was building quite the reputation as well, earning First-Team All-Conference honors in his senior season. At first, football was more of a hobby than a serious passion.
However, in his junior season things changed. A move in position and, eventually, a change in coach created a whole new emphasis for the twin.
“I was an okay high school football player the first couple of years and then we got a new coach my senior year. I moved from playing defensive back over to tight end midway through my junior year and I kind of took off. I played really well there and it was a spot I fit into well. I started to develop more of an interest in football. Then we got a new coach my senior year who brought in a pro style, spread offense so I got to play some slot receiver, and to be able to do some more stuff on the field.”
Drew was loving his new position and when the new coach was hired he embraced the new style of offense with the same grip he has when a pass drops into his hands. Scouts had already been coming out to look at him as a potential recruit as a hockey player, but his numbers on the football field were also garnering him some attention.
At the tight end position he could do it all. At 6-4, 205, he had the perfect size to play the position, but he also had great speed and exceptional hands. He also enjoyed blocking and was quite good at it. In his senior season at Bay Port High School, drew caught 15-passes in 7-games for 255-yards and 3-TDs.
He had made a name for himself and drew a lot of interest to play hockey at larger schools, but it seemed that there was really only one place for him to go, and that was Bethel University.
Anyone Who Loves God Must Also Love His Brother – 1 John 4:21
“Both my sisters went to Bethel and they both liked it a lot. I’m from Wisconsin but my mom went to high school in Edina. My grandparents were from the area so we were really familiar with the school because we were up here a lot. My parents both went to a Christian school and they wanted me to go to a Christian school. I went to a public school and high school, so I thought it would be kind of different. They have a really good football program here at the D3 level. It seemed like the perfect fit.”
Both Drew and Bret decided to come to Bethel. They had both starred in the three sports that they loved to play, but wanted to create a little separation from each other even if they were in the small campus that the students lovingly refer to as the “Bethel Bubble.” This led Drew to play football, while Bret went to play baseball at the school.
Drew became a key member of the Royals football team from the very start. In his freshman season he caught 17-passes for 169-yards and 2-touchdowns. In his first season he was named to the All-Conference team and was really establishing himself as a threat.
While he was performing well on the field, he had to get used to the Bethel Royals football culture. For those who are unfamiliar with it, this is a team that is built around the foundation that love is the reason why they play for one another. As Head Coach Steve Johnson is fond of saying, “We don’t want you to play hard because you hate the guys across from you. We want you to play hard because you love the guys behind you.”
It’s an amazing sentiment that takes some players a little time to get used to. Drew was no exception.
“It was really different for me. I grew up in a public school my whole life, so the coaching style and the way coaches talked was way different for me and from anything I’d ever heard. For instance, our coaches love to say we play hard, we fight for the love of the other guys. It’s not that we hate the other guys from the other team, but we love the guys on our team. My whole life I’ve been playing sports, especially in football, I’ve been taught, ‘Oh you hate that guy across from you. You need to go out and pound him because you hate him.’ So, this is just a completely different mindset. Even my freshman year I would go to meetings with Coach Johnson and as I was walking out he would tell me, ‘Hey, have a good day; love you,’ and I would be like wow, that’s weird. What coach says that? I’ve never heard a coach say that to me.”
While it may have been weird, Drew truly began to understand the power that love can have, especially as a football team. In a sport where toughness is measured by how hard you can hit somebody and coaches will belittle their own players over the silliest of infractions, the culture of Bethel taught him something different and he quickly learned how powerful that could be.
“You’re willing to do a lot more for someone that you love. Love is a much greater motivator. It’s a hard thing to grasp especially as a 17, 18-year-old freshman, because you don’t really fully understand it. But as you get older then you really start to understand it.”
Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:18
The environment established by the coaching staff and the school in general really began to rub off on Drew Neuville. He had come from an environment where your own performance was really what mattered, but now he was at a place where it truly was one for all and all for one.
“We’re not out here playing for ourselves. We’re not out here to make ourselves better, worrying about our stats, our touchdowns. Everybody wants to score and everybody should want to score. They should want to help the team. But at the end of the day we’re all about getting wins, playing together as a team, and glorifying God. It’s a special deal that we can play together as a team and not really worry about some of the other stuff that other teams are doing. We love each other and I want our other wide receivers to catch balls and score big touchdowns just as much as I want to catch a big touchdown. So, if they’re out there and I make a great backside block that springs them and allows for a big play then I’m still having fun.”
With a focus on helping his team to win and his brothers to become better men, Drew became an influential member of the team. He became a guy that his Coach came to admire as a man as much as he admired him for his football talent, calling the tight end, “A truly authentic brother; a guy I want to grow up to be like.”
He was having a huge impact on the team and the school by the way he carried himself, but he was also having a great influence on the field as well. In his sophomore season he caught 19-passes for 259-yards and 2-scores. A year later those numbers jumped significantly, as he made 40-receptions for 469-yards and 4-touchdowns. It was an exceptional performance that earned Drew Neuville First-Team All MIAC Conference Honors.
This season he is performing at a high level again, and is on pace to at least match his numbers from the 2015 season. In four-games this year, the senior has caught 14-passes for 143-yards. Those are really impressive numbers considering that the Royals have been a pass happy offense early on, with five players recording at least 11-catches this season. With all those weapons it is tough to be the focus at any point in a game, but the quarterbacks for the team know where to look when they need a big play.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. – Psalm 127:3
Drew Neuville is creating a legacy of brilliance on the football field that people will remember at the school for generations. He has truly represented himself, the football program, and Bethel University well, but those actions came because two people laid a foundation that has enabled Drew to be an even better character guy than he is a football player, and he is the first to credit his parents for how they have loved him and supported him every step of the way.
“My parents are super supportive. I appreciate them very much as I grew older I like that they come and that they’re here to watch. They have always been there to lift us up when things weren’t going well, and are involved in my life a lot, which I love. They come up here pretty much every weekend to watch football. My freshman year my mom came up every weekend and wanted to pretty much hang out. My dad is my biggest fan. They are incredible parents and I am truly blessed.”
Coach Johnson is absolutely correct about his senior. His parents have supported him and laid such an amazing foundation that he truly is the kind of man that most should want to grow up to be like.
He is truly a man to be admired, but it has a lot more to do with the way that he loves and cares for others than it ever will be about his play on the field. That was recognized two weeks ago when Drew Neuville was named to the 2016 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, a prestigious honor that recognizes only 24 college football players at all levels of the sport for their work off the field. This award has been given to such giants in the football world as Tim Tebow, and four other Bethel players have received the award as well. The award demonstrates Drew’s commitment to serving his fellow man, and also shows how he is another great example of the loving and giving spirit of Bethel University.
To be quite honest, it does not take long to see that incredible spirit in Drew Neuville. The senior always seems to have a smile on his face, and is the first to greet those he comes across. You can see that he genuinely likes people and loves his God even more. This young man may not be going out of his way to garner the spotlight but, with the legacy of love and charity that he has left behind, he will be remembered long after he has departed the school to go and make the world a much better place in which to live.
By Robert Pannier