ODU Athletics

Minium: LaRussa Interview set for Monday on 700 Club Interactive About Decision to Leave ODU Early for Christian Ministry

February 17, 2019
By ODU Athletics

By Harry Minium

Blake LaRussa’s decision announced the day after Christmas to bypass his senior year of football at Old Dominion in order to enter Christian divinity school caught the attention of officials at the Christian Broadcast Network in Virginia Beach.

I made contact with reporter Shawn Brown, who was amazed that a college football player, and a star quarterback to boot, would give up a season in the spotlight because he felt called by Jesus Christ.

"I love football. I've always loved football,” LaRussa said in December.

"But this is something that I just feel God wants me to do. And it's something I want to do. Waiting another year to start just didn't make sense.

"ODU's coaches have been so supportive. They've really been wonderful throughout this entire process."

Brown and photographers Jason Gill and Kenny Griffin came to ODU in January and spent most of the day interviewing LaRussa, head coach Bobby Wilder and quarterbacks coach Ron Whitcomb. They toured the L.R. Hill Sports Complex, where ODU’s football team trains, and also saw the site where Foreman Field has been torn down and is being replaced by a new S.B. Ballard Stadium.

The interview will make its first appearance Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. on the 700 Club Interactive on the Freeform Network (Cox cable channel 19), a pay network owned jointly by ABC and Disney that caters to young people up to age 34.

The network can be seen in 94 million homes.

And that’s just the start. LaRussa’s interview will also be shown on the 700 Club, which has a potential audience of more than 110 million homes, CBN News Watch and a sports show hosted by Brown called Going the Distance. Dates for when LaRussa will appear on those shows have yet to be announced.

ODU quarterback Blake LaRussa prays with CBN reporter Shawn Brown before a January interview at the L.R. Hill Sports Center. 

LaRussa and ODU will also receive a lot of exposure internationally as his interview likely will be televised by CBN International in 138 countries with a potential audience of 360 million.

Brown said he was touched by LaRussa’s decision.

“I’ve never heard of any college football player doing this,” he said. “He’s giving up a lot to follow the path God has asked him to walk.”

Story on LaRussa's decision to bypass his senior year

LaRussa wasn’t just any player. A former walk-on, who was raised in Chesapeake and attended Bishop Sullivan Catholic in Virginia Beach, he made the team and won a scholarship but appeared to have little chance to play after losing his starting position in the second game of the 2017 season.

Then, on Sept. 22, 2018, he came off the bench in the first quarter and helped lead ODU to the most memorable victory in Monarch football history.

LaRussa completed 30 of 49 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for another TD, in ODU’s 49-35 victory over No. 13 Virginia Tech. The nationally televised game was one of the biggest upsets in the history of college football and ODU's first victory over a Power 5 school.

It was rated the top upset of an ACC school in more than four decades.

For a week, ODU appeared on virtually every national TV sports show and was the subject of features in nearly every national sports publication. His brother, Bryan, spoke for underdogs everywhere when he posted a Tweet that said:

“They told my little bro he couldn't play D1. Blake LaRussa took a walk-on spot, earned a scholarship, and just upset #13 #Hokies with 494 passing yards and 4 TDs. Don't let anyone tell you what you can't do.”

Bryan LaRussa Tweet

LaRussa wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He finished second in Conference USA with 274.1 yards passing per game and third in the league with 3,015 passing yards.

He was the only ODU player to be named an honorable mention All C-USA choice.

He’s not sure yet was he’s been called to do, but says it’s not to become a traditional minister running a church.

Blake LaRussa passing against Virginia Tech. 

"I don't feel called to become a pastor," he said. "I want to go into evangelism. That's what I feel called to do, to spread the word about Jesus."

 LaRussa often used his profile as the team's offensive leader to spread the word. It was common for him to give credit to Jesus Christ during interviews, just as he did following the victory over Virginia Tech.

“Not hard to stay humble cause it wasn’t me,” he said via Twitter. “God moved mountains on Saturday.

“I hope everyone would look at this and realize that Jesus is real and that he loves us and that he has a plan for each of us.

“It was all him on Saturday.”

Brown and LaRussa began the interview, appropriately, with a prayer. Then, over the next hour or so, Blake went much deeper into his background, his faith, the trials he’s had in his life and its triumphs as he answered questions.

It will be interesting to see how CBN synthesizes all that down into a story of just a few minutes.

Regardless, Monday will be a very good day for ODU and LaRussa.

A very faithful, caring young man will be seen by millions, perhaps tens of millions, as he explains his reasons for giving up college football.

And the show will expose ODU to millions who may not know about its football program or the school itself.

.Contact Minium: hminium@odu.edu

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