LSU Tigers football team kicker James Hairston has had the thrill of kicking off for his team, hearing fans yell “Geaux Tigers” and taking in the craziness that happens in Tiger Stadium. This humble member of St. Jude Church in Baton Rouge who is from Dallas, focused on the topics of family, faith and football as he talked to the church’s confirmation candidates on Feb. 24 about God’s simple command: “Be still and know that I am God.”
James Hairston, left, spends time after Mass with Ben Domingue, second from right, his parents, Raymond and Nancy Domingue and Stephen Rivers, back, before LSU played Clemson at the Chick-Fil-A-Bowl in Atlanta. Photo provided by Ben Domingue
Through football, Hairston learned that small things make a big difference. His said his mother, Cheryl, taught him the fundamentals of love and to love the Catholic faith. “She nurtured my faith,” said Hairston.
Witnessing his mother’s courageous 18-month battle against melanoma and dealing with the grief following her death also increased Hairston’s faith and taught him that, “you can bounce back and continue.”
With the passing of his mother, Hairston said his relationship with the Blessed Mother deepened. He said one night while lying on the floor of his father’s room, he looked up at the ceiling and prayed, “Mary, I want you to be my mother.” His faith blossomed.
“She’s very real. She’s a real mother,” Hairston said.
The Blessed Virgin guided Hairston to LSU, where he developed a family-type relationship with his team.
Last October Hairston inspired his teammates to defeat South Carolina and keep their chances for a national championship alive when he talked about the loss of his mother and how he considered them his family. Particularly guiding him are athletic trainers Andy Barker, also a member of St. Jude; Jack Marucci, a member of St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge; Shelly Mullenix; and special teams coach Thomas McGaughey.
Hairston is also especially close to LSU center Ben Domingue, a senior, from Lafayette. Domingue said Hairston challenges him to grow in his faith and to see that the Blessed Mother points the way to her son, Jesus. Domingue, a member of Christ the King Church and Student Center at LSU, said of Hairston, “I’ll never forget when James and I finally made that connection that we were brothers in the Catholic faith. It grew from us talking about Mass, and confession times, to the center of the faith in Christ. We not only spoke about the faith more and more, but we then started to pray together before games and then James started attending my Bible studies, where he always was there fully and gave his everything in the studies.”
Domingue, who plans to become a missionary when he graduates and has made a two-year commitment through Fellowship of Catholic University Students, added, “James’ biggest challenge to me, I think, has been for me to live it out … not just in some aspects but in every aspect. He challenges me with his dedication to his family, kicking and school work that I need to live what I preach in every aspect. He has been such a blessing, and I’ve learned so much from him.”
Hairston told the St. Jude youth having faith in Jesus will calm their worries about their future.
“Things are going to be okay, even if they don’t work out the way you want them to,” Hairston stated. “You have a choice to respond in faith.”
When Hairston was in high school, he wondered about where he should attend college, whom he should marry and whether to pursue a football career. “There was a lot going on,” Hairston said.
He said he was excited to come to LSU and that it’s cool to play football with Stephen Rivers, whose brother, Philip, is a quarterback for the San Diego Chargers. Stephen Rivers, who is also a member of Christ the King, is a close friend of Hairston and Domingue and belongs to their Bible study group.
Hairston urged the confirmation candidates during Lent to “set goals and make them big” as a Catholic, referring to the Beatitudes as they do so.
Finding quiet time with God is essential for a vital faith life, stated Hairston. He wakes up early and uses breaks between classes to pray and meditate. He added social media can distract one from prayer, but it can also be used creatively for quiet reflection. He said after playing a boisterous game, he seeks time alone with the Lord.
“Be still and know that I am God,” Hairston repeated.