Courtesy of the Hill Country Community Journal
Faith and the Cross-over
By Doug Mitchell
Tivy senior Jonathan Perry is best known around Kerrville for his exploits on the basketball court, having capped a four-year career as a varsity player by helping the Antlers advance to the Class 4A, Region IV championship game during the just recently completed season.
Perry appears set to continue his career at the collegiate level, having averaged 18.9 points per game en route to being named the District 27-4A Most Valuable Player while leading Tivy to a 30-6 record and its farthest playoff advance in 40 years. It would come as no surprise if Perry, a 6-foot-5 guard, was consumed with the drive and commitment to advance his career to the next level, as countless of high school athletes before him have done.
Those who know Perry best, however, know there is a stronger driving force behind the player, something more important to him than basketball or the materialistic world that defines the high school social scene.
Moments after the Antlers finished a hard-fought, overtime victory over Pflugerville Hendrickson in a Feb. 26 area round playoff game in Fredericksburg, and the postgame questions had been asked, Perry approached and asked to make one more point about the contest.
“I’d like to thank the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for making this possible,” Perry said. “Without him, none of this would be possible.”
Such statements have become routine, especially from professional athletes, but less so at the high school level. Most mainstream media is leery of responding to such statements, or even printing it. Religion makes some people uncomfortable, especially in situations perceived as non-religious such as an athletic competition.
Tivy teams pray regularly before events, and Perry is recognized by teammates and those around him as a faith-based individual. Tivy coach Brian Young has seen it up close from his star guard for the last four years.
“He walked the walk,” Young said of Perry’s faith-based approach to life. “That’s the bottom line. The whole time he’s walked the walk, not talked the talk. I mean that from every aspect — person, basketball player, and Christian.”
“People always accepted him for who he was,” Young added. “A lot of the kids are the same way, but Jonathan was more of a witness. It didn’t matter if you were the most popular athlete as school or a regular student, Jonathan treated you the same, and to me, that’s a Christian aspect.”
Parents Rick and Holly Perry have brought up their children with a strong Christian foundation, but Jonathan himself had to choose to accept Jesus into his life. It’s a path he said he’s actually chosen twice, and one that’s helped him through rough times.
“No. 1 would be my faith in Jesus Christ,” Perry said. “Ever since I was younger, my parents influenced me with Him being No. 1. Even though I struggle with things from time to time, He still maintains the No. 1 spot in my life.”
Quiet by nature, Perry is not vocal in asking those around him to follow his example. But when asked to witness about his experiences, he is happy to share the message.
“It’s difficult, because they don’t all share the same feeling about religion and Jesus Christ, but that’s when you have to lean on Him in those tough times,” Perry said of being Christian in a high school setting. “It’s relying on your actions, more than what you say, when your actions speak louder than words.
“There’s reasons why people ask me why I’m quiet, because I’m at home with my family on weekends, not at parties, and think I’m mad because I’m quiet and not talking about those parties, don’t join in on those conversations.”
Perry is the first to admit he’s not perfect, experiencing issues that took him away from the path for a time.
“I accepted Jesus Christ in my heart at 9 or 10,” he said. “I was actually baptized again after I went through struggles of my own two years ago. I had been through struggles with friends, some pretty big ones, and it helped being able to talk to the pastor at Southern Oaks Baptist Church, Joe Taylor.
“It was a really big time in my life,” Perry said of recommitting to his faith. “It helped me get back on track, to what was right, and what I had grown up with my parents teaching me all those years.
“It’s always hard, there are temptations everywhere. It helps having faith in JC like I have, not have to go through the temptations most do. Without Him, I know I’d be out there drinking and partying all the time, because it’s the popular thing to do.”
The unwritten code among athletes is you don’t pray to The Almighty to let you win, rather to help you do your best. It’s a code Perry says he adheres to.
“I’m asking him for strength to do his will,” Perry said. “If it’s meant for us to win, great, it’s His will. I’m not the only one praying that day. If it’s meant to be, it turns out. You can learn more from losing than winning. I know we did against Seguin (the team’s only District 27-4A loss this season).
“Coach Young says a prayer before game, and I say a prayer before the game, with a few others. Afterward I say a prayer for letting me be able to play, and being out there with my friends.”
It’s a path Perry acknowledges plenty of people have helped him with. Spiritual advisors have included his parents and siblings including older brother Keith, a former Antler and player at Howard Payne University, Taylor at the family’s church, coach Grant Palmer and wife Beth, and Tony and Karen Rose from Calvary Temple Church.
He credits his athletic development to coaches Don Eddy (former UTSA head coach), Dan Selwin, John Roberson, Max Ivany, and Luke Heinz, physical trainers Jose Flores and T.J. Garza, and especially Young, for instilling discipline, passion, and work ethic for the game.
“I’m extremely proud not only of his dedication to the sport, but his stand for his beliefs in Christ and his walk with the Lord,” Rick Perry, who is at every one of Jonathan’s games, said of his son. “As he said, he’s had his struggles, but gained his footing, and always comes back to his foundation. “You can tell kids what to do, but they make their choices, and Jonathan has made good choices,” Rick added. “He’s also very teachable and open to his parents to speak into his life, and that’s been a huge factor.”
While Perry mulls his choices for collegiate ball, he is sure he would like to pursue a career that involves not only basketball, but helping others, and sharing his faith if it allows.
“Being in a small community, there’s a focus on athletes at Tivy,” Perry said “I try to be a role model for kids, and it keeps me accountable. I don’t want to be caught with MIP or something like that. “I’d love to do something with kids once I’m done with basketball, coaching or training some way in a community like this is a way of giving back. So many kids don’t know what’s out there for them. If you work as hard as you can, anything’s possible.”