High School Football Player and Convert Shares Gospel through Example

Contributed By Amber Clayson, Church News staff writer

  • 3 November 2014

Octavious James, a running back on the Manatee High School football team, invited teammates to his baptism on May 26. Since then, some of his teammates have been investigating the Church.  Photo by Andy Gregory.

Article Highlights

  • Octavious started attending Church meetings after an invitation from his half-brother.
  • Since his baptism, several friends from school have become interested in the Church.

“When I started attending seminary it was like an eye-opener for me. It made my day better. It made me feel better about myself—that I got up every morning to read my scriptures, and it fit my schedule pretty well.” —Octavious James, convert and high school running back

Octavious James started attending Church about a year ago when his half-brother invited him to Sunday meetings.

Shortly after, he found himself at weekly Wednesday night Young Men and Mutual activities, as well as at seminary on Friday mornings.

But Friday mornings weren’t enough.

Octavious, a football player and junior at Manatee High School, soon began attending seminary daily, despite his rigorous schedule: 6:15 a.m. seminary, 7:45 a.m. school, and 3:00–5:00 p.m. football practice, repeat.

“When I started attending seminary it was like an eye-opener for me,” Octavious said. “It made my day better. It made me feel better about myself—that I got up every morning to read my scriptures, and it fit my schedule pretty well.”

His routine is rare for teenagers in Bradenton, Florida, allowing him to stand as an example to the non-LDS youth in his high school and on his football team.

Octavious plays running back on the Manatee football team, which has won five state championships and receives sponsors from Under Armour, as well as coverage on ESPN.

“I get a lot of questions from players asking why do I get up every morning and go to church,” Octavious said. “Sometimes I bear my testimony to them. Sometimes I invite them to my church when I’m speaking.”

Since his baptism on May 26, Octavious said he has felt cleaner and developed a better character. He is now a member of the Bradenton Ward, Sarasota Florida Stake. “It feels so good to be a part of the Church,” he said.

Octavious’s family, the Matelaus, are also members of the Church. He moved in with the Matelau family when he was in eighth grade. It was because of the example of his new family that he became interested in the Church.

H. Bowen Summer, Young Men president, said he felt privileged to be able to baptize Octavious, who has made a big impact on the ward and been a great example to other youth.

“I had the awesome privilege to baptize him,” Brother Summer said. “His baptism looked like a sacrament meeting, it was so well attended. There were probably 30 nonmembers there, including about 15 high school students and teammates.”

Two of Octavious’s friends from high school who attended his baptism have since become interested in the Church and have begun to attend Church and Young Men activities. One participated in Especially for Youth over the summer, and both have mentioned getting baptized.

Octavious’s dedication and faith have had far-reaching affects in his ward and community. His missionary efforts stand as an example to those around him.

Octavious James with his friends, members and nonmembers, following his baptism on May 26. Photo by Bowen Summer.

Octavious James stands with his Young Men president, H. Bowen Summer, before his baptism. Photo courtesy of Bowen Summer.