Conversion  is LSU star’s  greatest feat 

By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

LSU running-back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was considered the “heart and soul” of the LSU offense during the Tigers’ run to the national championship at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 13.  

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Deacon David Dawson, left, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the 2018 Easter Vigil Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baton Rouge, where Edwards-Helaire entered the Catholic faith. Photo provided by Deacon David Dawson  

 

Edwards-Helaire was a spark in the Tiger’s 42-25 title victory over Clemson, rushing 16 times for 110 yards and catching five passes for 54 yards. He has entered the NFL draft and is considered one of its top running back prospects.  

But what Edwards-Helaire considers his best move is not entering the endzone for a touchdown but entering the Catholic faith with a goal of heaven in mind. Seminarian Deacon David Dawson helped usher the star running back in for that victory through the RCIA program at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baton Rouge.  

Deacon Dawson was deacon assistant at Sacred Heart when he first came to know Edwards-Helaire during his sophomore year at LSU as he attended Mass with his girlfriend’s family.  

“Clyde would come regularly,” said Deacon Dawson. “What I noticed is that he would come up during Communion with his arms crossed over his chest. Even when she (the girlfriend) and the family wouldn’t come he came by himself.  

Reflecting about what drew him to Mass and the Catholic faith, Edwards-Helaire said it was an “escape from everyday life so I could pray.”  

“When I was at Mass, it was as if the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. It eased my burdens and I was able to reflect on my life,” he said.  

“One day after Mass,” Deacon Dawson said “he walked out and I asked, ‘Clyde, you’re not Catholic?’ He said, ‘No sir.’ I said, “ ’Do you want to be become Catholic?’ ”  

Edwards-Helaire said he did but explained that his football practice schedule conflicted with the RCIA class schedule.  

Deacon Dawson received permission from pastor Father Miles Walsh to privately instruct Edwards-Helaire in his home.  

Having graduated from Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Edwards-Helaire had a better knowledge of the faith than many “pew Catholics,” according to Deacon Dawson.  

“I asked, ‘Do you know what the seven sacraments are?’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir,’ and he named them all,” Deacon Dawson said.  

He and Edwards-Helaire had many good theological discussions, some at LSU baseball games. Edwards-Helaire picked Jared Small, who was his teammate at CHS and LSU, as his RCIA sponsor.  

Deacon Dawson keeps in touch with Edwards-Helaire and brims with pride about him as an athlete and Christian.  

“I said ‘Look man, everywhere you go, people are going to be looking at you, not only in football, but as a faith leader. And I am so proud of you right now, how much your faith is extremely important in your life. Usually, when you get into (that level of outward success) your faith gets put on the back burner … I know God had great plans for you,’ ” Deacon Dawson said.  

But even as Edwards-Helaire, who is described as a player short in stature but plays like a giant, eyes the likelihood of more leaping up and spinning over the goal line in the NFL, he believes his faith will keep his feet on solid ground.  

Edwards-Helaire, who visited CHS to speak to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, is vocal about his faith.  

He called his faith the gateway to comfort in his life.  

“I realized through my faith that football is not the center of my life, my faith is … I know that football will not last for the rest of my life, but my faith will,” Edwards-Helaire said.