Faith & Football: Jorell Story ’20 Inspires through Ministry and Friendship

Jorrell Story '20 with Davidson Football Team

Jorell Story finished his football career with the Wildcats in 2020, but his presence has been a welcomed constant for the players who knew him as a teammate and friend, and an invaluable support for those who have come to know him this year as a mentor.

When Scott Abell arrived at Davidson in 2018 as the new head football coach, Jorell Story ’20 scheduled a meeting. The agenda? Story hoped to share his commitment to his faith with the team, to help guide and inspire them spiritually. Abell, who is vocal about his own faith, eagerly accepted Story’s proposal.

Story, a former team captain from the Atlanta area, continues this role today as an unofficial “character coach” for the Wildcats, ministering from the sidelines at every practice and every game.

“I grew a ton in my faith right before I came to Davidson,” Story said. “My faith was no longer about following my parents’ lead; I had to figure out my own path, which was scary but exciting. God created a beautiful community for me when I arrived on campus, with teammates and classmates who were also serious about their faith. I was inspired to become the best leader and best football player I could be.”

Many people in Story’s life, especially during his time at Davidson, suggested he go into ministry. He was never sure about the idea until friends and mentors introduced him to Campus Outreach Charlotte, where he found a home after graduation. The organization works with students at 11 campuses throughout North Carolina and is the avenue through which Story is connected to the Davidson football program.

“Ultimately, I think I want to coach and teach at the high school or college level, but my current role allows me to engage with people in a way I’m passionate about,” Story said. “I can use my calling to help others.”

Story, who as a student was a Crutchfield Family Scholar, George Labban, Jr. Scholar and Jerry B. Blackstock Scholar, joined the team in a coaching capacity at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when his leadership was an especially welcomed addition to a team facing unusual circumstances.

Jorrell Story as a Football Player Holds Ball and Talks to Referee

As a player, Jorell Story took on a role of spiritual leadership for the Wildcats. He continues in that capacity through Campus Outreach Charlotte.

“We talk about the mental part of what we do as a team,” Abell said. “Having someone like Jorell, who isn’t a family member or a peer, but who has a very specific role on the team, is incredibly important for our players, especially right now.”

Story’s influence on current players is unique to each relationship. He jokes around with them, checks in on how they’re feeling, offers to have one-on-one conversations following practices, organizes Bible studies—however they want to engage is fair game.

“My first goal is to glorify God in everything I do,” Story said. “Growing up, a lot of times I would focus on other identities, like being a football player or a Davidson student, but I’m God’s first, which means more to me than all other identities combined. Students can connect with me in whatever way they want or need at the time, and I just want to show them care and love.”

Story understands how students’ faith can be critical when times get tough. He suffered from two concussions fall of his sophomore year, which put his football career at risk and made his already rigorous Davidson coursework even more difficult. He was still adjusting to being away from home and dealing with friendships growing and changing as he became more certain of the person he was, and what he wanted his Davidson experience to be.

“That winter, I went to a New Year’s conference with Campus Outreach, and it changed my perspective for sophomore spring,” he said. “I asked and answered a lot of important questions about myself; I call it my ‘bounce back’ semester.”

For upperclassmen, Story has evolved from a teammate to a coach and mentor. This transition has added depth to their friendships.

“Story is someone I can come to for advice or just to talk, whether that be about school, football, my personal life or my spirituality,” said Coy Williams ’22, a Craig Family Scholar and Reverend Samuel McKiever Wolfe Scholar. “His impact on this team goes far beyond football.”

His ability to relate to players both as a Davidson scholar-athlete and now as an alum speaks to each player’s experience in different ways. Some of his relationships date back to students’ first days on campus.

“When I came on my official visit, Jorell hosted me, so he is one of the biggest reasons I’m here,” said Eli Turner ’22, recipient of the McKinley Scholarship. “As a teammate, he was a leader, pushing us to always be our best. Nothing about that has changed since he’s become an alum.”

Abell hopes Story will remain a part of the program for a long time to come, though he realizes his path will eventually take him on to new ventures. For now, he is as much a part of the program as any other member of the staff.

“I trust him as much as anyone I’ve ever been around,” Abell said, “and I’ll have him as part of our program for as long as he’s able to do it. He’s a part of everything we do, and we are better for it.”