Payne, Lopez named UTA FCA Athletes of the Year
Dec. 22, 2010
The Fort Worth chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes took notice in their efforts, honoring Payne and Lopez as the co-recipients for the UT Arlington FCA Athlete of the Year award.
"We are proud the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has decided to honor these two student-athletes," UT Arlington athletics director Pete Carlon said. "The leadership they both have demonstrated on the field and in their faith has made them exemplary role models for their fellow student-athletes and all our athletics teams."
Honorees are chosen through criteria that includes personal integrity, character on and off the field, academic achievement, community service and work within the FCA.
Lopez and Payne became the first recipients of the FCA Athletes of the Year partly because of their roles in bringing a chapter to UT Arlington. Assistant baseball coach K.J. Hendricks teamed up with them to jumpstart a chapter when he was hired on a full-time basis last spring.
Hendricks said the award demonstrates the pivotal roles Payne and Lopez played in implementing the FCA at UT Arlington.
"Neither one of them is looking for the recognition," Hendricks said. "They're very humble in what they do. They just walk out there in their faith and try to serve the Lord. In doing so and for an organization like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to take notice of what the Lord is doing through them on this campus is definitely a special thing. It's definitely all glory to God and they would say the same thing."
Payne said sharing the award with Lopez means as much as garnering the honor itself.
"(Bryant) is my best friend in the world," Payne said. "It's really cool to be part of FCA with him. It's so great having that friend to go through struggles with and to be able to go up on stage with him was such a huge honor."
Normally the FCA recognizes just one athlete each year. Hendricks originally told Lopez and Payne they would flip a coin to decide who won the award.
The more everyone thought about it, though, the more apparent it became that the only way to move forward was to split the award.
"We said there was no way because it was an equal effort," Lopez said. "We weren't going to let just one of us have it. K.J. eventually persuaded them to give it to both of us. I feel like me and him equally earn it."
Even before their time at UT Arlington, Lopez and Payne had already developed a close relationship. They played together at North Central Texas College and pair grew close when Lopez became more involved in his faith as a sophomore.
When UTA baseball coach Darin Thomas offered both players the same opportunity to play for his program, they jumped at it.
"Right when we were starting to develop our friendship got same offer from UTA," Lopez said. "We thought that was a God thing. We came here and wondered how we were going to make a difference. We thought it was obvious that God wanted us to do some work here."
Upon arriving on campus, they started down that path by organizing Bible studies and sending devotionals to interested teammates.
Hendricks said the way Payne and Lopez immediately took the lead caught the attention of fellow teammates and athletes.
"This is a body work," Hendricks said. "They walk their talk. People see that and they're watching. They've done that since they stepped on campus here. With that, it's allowed them a platform to share with their friends and other athletes at this school because they see them out living it as well. That enables them to put in this good work for the Lord."
As the Bible studies grew, Lopez and Payne started working to create the UTA chapter of the FCA. They reached out to the entire student-athlete base on Facebook, trying to generate interest.
In less than a year, 40-50 athletes routinely attended the weekly Monday meetings.
"At first it was just baseball guys," Payne said. "Now we get people from every single sport. Every sport has been represented at FCA which is cool because we don't know a lot of people from other sports."
Despite their hard work and efforts, Lopez and Payne didn't know how to react when they first heard about the award.
"I don't like to get honored for it because I don't do it for that reason," Lopez said. "I want to stay behind scenes and let God work through us and not brag about what we're doing. We want to stay humble about it."
Eventually, though, they realized the award would bring more attention to the UT Arlington FCA chapter.
The co-FCA Athletes of the Year came to appreciate the honor. At the same time, they agree that winning an award can't compare to watching others grow stronger in their faith.
"I can't count how many people are coming to FCA with a willingness to participate and learn more about God," Lopez said. "We saw a lot of lives changing last year and it's going to be even better this year with so many people already involved."