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Auburn head football coach Hugh Freeze baptizes player at giant Christian revival event

Composite screenshot of WSFA-TV YouTube video

Hugh Freeze, the head football coach for the Auburn University Tigers, participated in a recent Christian revival event attended by thousands of students, some of whom even came forward to be baptized.

Last Tuesday evening, some 5,000 people, mostly students, gathered at Neville Arena on the campus of Auburn University, located in Auburn, Alabama, about an hour east of Montgomery. Neville Arena normally hosts Auburn athletic events, like men's and women's basketball games, but on that night, people came to worship God in song and prayer at a Christian revival event called Unite Auburn.

The free event — coordinated by Tonya Prewett, the wife of assistant men's basketball coach Chad Prewett — included appearances from the Christian band Passion, Christian author Jennie Allen, and Rev. Jonathan Pokluda, the lead pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.

As the event at the arena began to draw to a close, one of the students in attendance expressed an interest in being baptized. Many attendees expressed a similar desire, but without a tub on hand, fulfilling those desires for baptism seemed unlikely.

Rather than waste time deliberating or quibbling about what to do, several pastors took the event outdoors and led a sizeable crowd to a lake near the Red Barn on campus. With vehicle headlights illuminating the area, hundreds stood patiently on the shore of the lake, waiting for their turn to be baptized and clapping whenever a fellow believer emerged from the water.

Coach Freeze also attended the event and joined other leaders in baptizing interested participants. One of his football players also elected to be baptized that night, so Freeze and another man baptized the unnamed young man.

Hundreds baptized after Unite Auburn worship servicewww.youtube.com

"What was so great about these baptisms is that it wasn’t a planned religious event. It was just a whole bunch of college students moved by their desire to follow Jesus," said student Mateo Arenas. "It took me about 45 minutes to get to where the baptisms were held due to the amount of traffic of people who wanted to go witness the event themselves."

Auburn senior Michael Floyd was likewise overwhelmed by the experience. "I’ve seen Auburn basketball beat Kentucky. I’ve seen Auburn football beat Alabama," Floyd said. "But I have never seen something like I did on Tuesday night."

Jeremy Napier, the chaplain for the men's basketball team who also assisted in baptizing believers at Unite Auburn, estimated that at least 100 of the 2,500 students gathered by the lake were baptized that night, though other outlets have reported as many as 200. "We serve an awesome God who can do amazing things," Napier stated.

"My prayer, obviously, is that all these decisions were genuine decisions and heart change," he continued, expressing hope that the newly baptized will find a local church and continue their faith journey. "It's awesome to do it in this environment, but now is where things get tough."

Tonya Prewett is confident that Unite Auburn was only the beginning. "We see God moving in our local churches, and so [that night] was just a ripple effect of what is already going on," she said.

"It started here," she added, "but it’s not going to stop here."

This season will be Freeze's first year as head coach of Auburn, though he is no stranger to the SEC. He spent four years as head coach of Ole Miss, during which time he was named the 2014 Grant Teaff Coach of the Year by the long-standing evangelical group Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The Tigers are off to a perfect 3-0 start, though their opponents thus far — UMass, Cal, and Samford — have not really tested their mettle. The next four opponents — Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU, and Ole Miss — are much more formidable. As of Monday afternoon, the Texas A&M Aggies are favored by a touchdown over the visiting Auburn Tigers.

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