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Richard LeCounte Walks by Faith

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Like most journeys, Richard LeCounte’s trek to the top of the high school football world has been filled with unexpected twists and turns along the way.

“I’m just blessed to have the abilities that God has blessed me with. I just thank Him every day for it, and I wake up and try to compete my hardest to glorify Him.”
~Richard LeCounte

Watching Richard LeCounte on the football field, you would think that everything has always come easy for the prospect many experts consider to be the best in the country for the class of 2017. After all, everything about LeCounte’s game screams natural athleticism, from his blazing speed and ability to turn on a dime, to his elite ball skills and surprising physicality in run support from his defensive back position.

His rare physical attributes are so apparent to coaches at the collegiate level that he has already accrued an exorbitant amount of college offers. While most of his peers are looking ahead to the possibility of earning a driver’s license, LeCounte already has an astonishing 19 college scholarships on the table from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Ohio State. All of this, of course, has taken place before he has even finished up his freshman year at Liberty County High School in Hinesville, Georgia.

To think that LeCounte’s journey has been one without trials and tribulations, however, would be doing his incredible story a horrific disservice.

When LeCounte was just an eleven-month old infant, it appeared that his story might not even make it to present day. A prolonged series of fevers led his mother and father, Erika and Richard LeCounte, Sr., to take him to a nearby pediatrician for testing.

The initial tests were inconclusive, and the LeCounte’s headed home in hopes that their son’s bouts with illness would ultimately subside on their own.    

“One day I took him home from the hospital in Savannah and he just turned for the worst,” LeCounte’s mother recalled. “He was convulsing and throwing up, so I called 911. I took him to the hospital in Brunswick and they immediately sent him to the hospital in Jacksonville, but he was still having seizures. They were really violent seizures for almost a period of a year.”

The LeCounte’s spent the better part of that year on a whirlwind tour of various hospitals in the region. Though Richard was receiving treatment, his health issues continued to surface, most notably when he would fall asleep.

His parents were naturally disheartened by the sight of their son’s pain, but they never ceased to pray to God and trust that He would deliver Richard from his medical condition.

“The doctors had told us that he could be totally normal or that he could have reoccurring seizures, but they never showed back up,” Mrs. LeCounte stated. “I feel like God healed him.”

Although Richard’s condition, by the grace of God, had completely gone away, his parents knew that some lifestyle changes would need to occur in order to ensure that he maintained his clean bill of health. A healthy diet was obviously priority number one in the list of physical changes, but the family also wanted to promote a lifestyle of exercise and overall physical wellbeing.

Growing up with five older siblings, Richard never had difficulty finding fellow participants in athletic endeavors. While his status as the youngest sibling in a large family helped form his intense competitive drive, he displayed from an early age that he already possessed the prerequisite athletic talent to be a standout performer in a number of sports. Football and basketball, the sports at which he currently is noted as an elite prospect, obviously came very easy to him, but Richard was also a passionate baseball player and, as his mom tells it, an impressive acrobat on the family trampoline.

Noticing the athletic potential of their son at an early age, the LeCounte’s knew that Richard had a good chance to develop into a star athlete by the time he reached high school. As a devout Christian family, however, their primary focus was not on the physical development of their youngest son, but rather on his spiritual development and his personal relationship with God.

“One of the things that my husband and I learned early on was the importance of praying,” commented Mrs. LeCounte. “We were just really concerned about making sure that we were bringing him up in the Lord. His faith was our number one thing, and we always tried to remind him that God healed him and that He is the person who gives him his strength. Even now, when people in the world are bragging on him, he knows that he has to give the glory to God.”

It certainly is difficult not to brag on Richard when you watch him dominate the competition on the gridiron at such a young age. In his first season at the high school level, he finished with nearly 100 tackles and five interceptions in helping lead the Panthers to the Georgia High School Association Playoffs.

But despite the fact that his recruitment has blown up since the start of his freshman campaign, he still takes the time to reflect back upon the values and lessons taught to him by his parents. Most importantly, he realizes that his accomplishments on the football field are not due to his own abilities, but to the gifts bestowed upon him by God.

“I’m just blessed to have the abilities that God has blessed me with,” Richard recently stated on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. “I just thank Him every day for it, and I wake up and try to compete my hardest to glorify Him.”

Already a steadfast believer, Richard’s faith has only continued to be strengthened through situations which arise on the gridiron. In particular, he points to an event which occurred at the 2014 Eastbay Youth All-American Game in San Antonio, Texas, as a major part of his testimony.

“My first day of practice during the week, I ended up hurting my back,” Richard recalled. “I couldn’t walk or run at all, and we were so caught up with time that I didn’t have time to go to the hospital. The whole time, I was in the ice bath saying, ‘I call do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. I just believed that I would be able to get back on my feet and overcome that setback.”

In a matter of just a few days, Richard went from not being able to run at all, to playing at 100 percent health. Such a quick turnaround with his health defied the initial prognosis of the athletic trainers in attendance, and allowed Richard and his family to experience firsthand the healing powers of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the most amazing part of Richard’s All-American Game story is not that he was able to recover in time to participate; it is that he ended the contest as one of the game’s top performers. Playing against some of the most elite competition that the country has to offer, Richard finished the game with two kickoff returns for touchdowns and five tackles. 

The scripture which he repeated over and over when attempting to recover from injury in his hotel room in San Antonio, Philippians 4:13, is now firmly entrenched as Richard’s favorite verse in the Bible. Delivering a powerful message to all Christian athletes, it is a verse which confirms the overwhelming power which believers possess through their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the source of their strength.

“I love that verse because it lets you know that anything through God is possible,” Richard continued. “No matter what the obstacle is, if you just trust and believe in Him, He will help you get through it.”

Like most journeys, Richard LeCounte’s trek to the top of the high school football world has been filled with unexpected twists and turns along the way. It has been the two consistencies in his life, his faith and family, however, which have allowed him to blossom into the special young man that he is today.  

In today’s athletic climate, it certainly is refreshing to see a prominent athlete like Richard LeCounte unashamedly take a stand in pronouncing his faith in Jesus Christ.

It is a faith which has allowed him to develop into arguably the top football player nationally in his class. It is also undoubtedly a faith which will continue to reap blessings from the Lord as he continues in his walk.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.