A former Ohio State Buckeye football player set his sights on the possibility of a good career. Another is a musician who appear destined for the big time.
However, former defensive tackle Joel Penton and pianist Ryan Holliday say they turned away from the road to riches and went down the road less traveled. Today both men are now devout Christians and have dedicated their life to spreading the message of Jesus Christ.
On Tuesday, the pair addressed students at Wapakoneta High School during the day and students and area residents during a talk at the Wapakoneta Performing Arts Center.
Penton, a motivational speaker, and Holliday, a talented keyboard player, travel the country and annually talk to approximately 10,000 people a year, mostly middle school- and high school-aged youth. While they have been spreading the word of God together since high school, the 2002 Van Wert High School graduates embarked on their mission full-time for six years.
“Our goal is to share His word with as many people as we can,” Penton said.
Holliday said the thought of making it big has never really crossed his mind.
“A lot of people will ask me, ‘Are you looking to make it big?’ ” Holliday said. “They are usually surprised with my answer. “I tell them
‘no.’ We are exactly where we want to be right now. For me personally, this is where God wants me to be.”
The event was hosted by the Wapakoneta Community Worship Center, Harvest Church and the Wapakoneta Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
Approximately 200 people, mostly high school students, attended the 90-minute performance. The trip was the third time the pair had come to Wapakoneta in six years.
Wapakoneta FCA adviser Bill Sammons said the effect the two have on youth is noticeable immediately.
“As a teacher, I see the results when they leave,” Sammons said. “Our mission is to reach young kids. These guys have an impact on youth.”
Holliday performed new songs off of his new album, “What We’ve Done,” as well as some hits by pop stars such as Coldplay and Michael Jackson. Between songs, he talked to the students about taking the right path.
“Much of what is out in the world is fake,” Holliday said. “Most of what we take in is lies. There is something we can find that we can hold onto. That is what this album is about. Finding the truth.”
Holliday said it is important to remember that salvation cannot be earned.
“We have all messed up and none of us are perfect,” Holliday said. “Imagine every thought you have had the last week and it being projected up on this screen. It is pretty scary.”
Penton said he owed anything he was ever able to accomplish to knowing Jesus Christ as his savior.
“My parents dragged me to church when I was younger and I thought it was all just church talk,” Penton said, “but when I was alone I found that I was scared and didn’t have all of the answers.
“God created us to have a relationship with him but we have messed that up,” he said. “Two thousand years ago God came to Earth to save you. Jesus came and lived a perfect life, and then died to take our place.”
Wapakoneta eighth-grader Jillian Chiles said she felt the pair’s message was powerful.
Describing herself as a devout Christian, she said it didn’t take away from the message.
“They were really good,” Chiles said. “It makes you happy to hear someone share his relationship with Jesus.”
Penton gave away copies of his new book, “Seven Lies Almost Every Teen Believes,” to everyone in attendance. They incorporated several students into the musical numbers with instruments such as a drum, a cow bell, and a special sleigh bell-interpretive dance number by one Wapakoneta student that brought laughs from everyone.
“I just want people to know we don’t look at ourselves as something special,” Holiday said. “You look at shows on television and there are many talented people. We just want to spread the word of God.”