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Posted: February 4, 2011 5:47 a.m.

UGA football coach to speak

Few speakers can command the attention of a group of men like a well-known athlete or coach.

When a coach is a man of faith, his words can carry great weight. When that coach is one as respected as University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, many people will listen to what he has to say.

Richt will share his testimony of how he came to faith in Jesus Christ at a men's event at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, at Eastridge Community Church in Covington.

His appearance is part of the church's "One Month To Live" spiritual challenge. Eastridge is challenging members of its church family to live as though they had only one month left to live. Church members are meeting in small groups and discussing scripture that relates to Christ's last 30 days on earth.

In addition to Richt's testimony, the evening will feature Richt's son David playing piano and performing two songs, as well as worship with members of the Eastridge Community Church worship team.

"Mark Richt is a Christian and people know this about him," said Gary Thompson, pastor of Adult Ministries at Eastridge. "We asked him to speak and use his influence to inspire and lead our men into a deeper walk with Jesus Christ."

Richt was born in Omaha, Neb., in 1960, but spent much of his life in Boca Raton, Fla. He graduated in 1978 from Boca Raton High School, where he was a starting quarterback. At the University of Miami, he was backup quarterback to future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. Other teammates included Vinny Testaverde and Bernie Kosar.

After college, Richt spent a few years as volunteer quarterbacks coach at Florida State University under legendary coach Bobby Bowden. He spent a season as offensive coordinator at East Carolina University before returning to Florida State as a paid quarterbacks coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1994.

At Florida State, Richt sent six quarterbacks into the NFL and coached two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward. FSU won national championships in 1993 and 1999.

In 2000, the University of Georgia offered Richt the head coaching position. In 2001, he became the first UGA football coach to win eight games in his debut season since 1920.

In 10 years at Georgia, Richt has a 96-34 record, with nine winning seasons. The Bulldogs won Southeastern Conference championships in 2002 and 2005, and Richt was SEC Coach of the Year both years as well. He is one of only seven SEC coaches to have won two titles in his first five years as head coach and one of five SEC coaches to have recorded four consecutive winning seasons.

Richt and his wife, Katharyn, live in Athens with their family. They have four children: sons Jon, David, and Zach, and daughter Anya. The Richts adopted Zach and Anya from the Ukraine, and they shared their adoption story on ESPN's College GameDay in 2008.

Richt's Christian faith is central to his life. He has taken players on multiple mission trips and has spoken extensively at churches and to the media about his faith. He has also accompanied other coaches on trips to the Middle East to support servicemen and women stationed there. Richt is also known throughout the sports world for his emphasis on integrity and character education.

"Mark Richt is respected by everyone," said Thompson. "He has a great passion for Jesus Christ, and this is seen by the way he lives and coaches."

Judge Sammy Ozburn, an elder at Eastridge, wrote Richt two years ago asking him to speak at the church. Because of the coach's limited schedule of appearances, it took that long to get him to speak there.

"Coach Richt has a very limited schedule and we were excited that he accepted our invitation," said Thompson.

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