By Stephanie Gardner
The exciting match between the New England Revolution and the Colorado Rapids showcased the Rapids’ consistent effort and skill, proving that they are a team to watch as they make their way to the playoffs. The fact that the final twenty minutes was just as intense as the beginning twenty proves what a strong team the Rapids have become. A goal that occurred in that final twenty made it a night Wells Thompson would never forget.
It was into the second half, when Thompson (photo) was substituted in for the Colorado Rapids. His family and friends had flown in from North Carolina to see him play against his former New England Revolution teammates. At the 82 minute, the ball was passed up to Thompson, and as he touched it, and turned, he shots and scored with three defenders near by. Making the final score 3-0 Rapids.
The story does not end there, however. After his goal, Thompson does what numerous players have done. He pulls off his Rapids’ jersey to reveal another shirt. He had been wearing it for two months, waiting for an opportunity to share it with fans. This shirt displayed the message “John 3:16”. The ref walked over to Thompson, when the celebrating was winding down. Thompson looked knowingly at the ref as he pulled out the yellow card.
90soccer asked Thompson about the John 3:16 shirt. “An equipment manager, Carlos, made if for me a few months ago.” He explained, “I put it on in the locker room after a game, and had people asking me ‘who’s John?‘ A lot of guys were teasing me, asking me if John was my boyfriend.”
So what is John 3:16? It’s a verse in the Bible that says, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life.” This is the message that Thompson wanted to share during his unforgettable moment.
When people have scored goals and lifted their shirt to share a message, it is usually a message close to their heart. In the World Cup, Andres Iniesta honored his friend and teammate, Dani Jarque in this way. So why is John 3:16 the message Thompson wanted to share at the time of his first goal as a Colorado Rapid, at the expense of getting a yellow card?
“I grew up going to church, and both my parents are Christians. I accepted Christ at a young age. In 7th and 8th grade, though, my life took a turn for the worst. I got involved in drugs and alcohol, and pretty heavily with the law. In 9th grade, it was just out of control. I wasn’t going to school, wasn’t playing soccer.
“My parents decided to have an intervention. The hired two guys, who came in, handcuffed me, and threw me in the back of a black Tahoe. They took me to a school for troubled teens in New York, where it was based on religion, faith, and the 12 steps. Things began to come together at that school. I think my faith started to grow there. When I got back home after an 18-month stay, I went back to a local school and played soccer; but I got back into drugs and alcohol. Yet, God continued to call on my heart.
“As a junior in college, I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. That is where I really gave my life to Christ, and now have a personal relationship with Jesus. When I got back from the trip, I went to my parents’ home and just wept for an hour. It was the joy of finding Christ, since I realized all that Jesus has done for me. He died for my sins. Every year God continues to draw me closer to Him, and help me fall more in love with Him.”
Thompson’s faith has opened his eyes to the needs in the community. He shares, “my favorite part of being a professional soccer player is that I get to help people out, and give back.” The hardest part, he explains is “being away from home, my family, my girlfriend, and friends that have been there for me through it all.”
When discussing being traded earlier in the year and now playing for the Rapids, Thompson comments, “I wanted the move. Sometimes people just need a change. I am so grateful for my time there, and I made friends for life. I just needed a change, and am really glad I got to come here to Colorado. I love the guys on the team, and the coaches are awesome. Also, I love to hunt and fish.”
The Rapids’ players are glad Thompson is here as well. It is very evident that what happened in Thompson’s heart back in college impacts every area of his life even now.
This week the Rapids hope to break the curse of visiting teams losing against Real Salt Lake. Thompson observes, “Expect a hard fought match. I’ve been learning about it myself, a lot of past between these two teams, and rivalry. Last time, I played in Salt Lake, they defeated us 6-0. Myself, I just want to go out there and make a statement. We are playing well, and coming together as a team. The guys really believe in each other. That’s fun, you know, playing together with guys that believe in each other and want to fight for each other.”
As for taking off his shirt again during the game, Thompson doesn’t plan on getting any more yellow cards intentionally. He will, however, continue to find different ways to share the message that changed his life on and off the pitch.