XENIA — For Lorenzo Romar, his journey toward being affiliated with the Athletes in Action organization began with his mom returning from the grocery store, and he and his brother clamoring through the grocery bags for the TV Guide during his childhood years growing up in Compton, Calif.
University of Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar and gold medal Olympian Alyson Felix were inducted into the Athletes in Action ministry’s Hall of Faith on Saturday, in recognition of their outstanding character, leadership and faith.
“I grew up having a passion for the game of basketball, … a sick passion. A not healthy passion for basketball,” Romar told the more than 200 people in attendance for Saturday’s Night of Champions banquet, which was held at the Schindler Banquet Center on the Athletes in Action campus. He told about how he and his brother would root through the grocery bags in order to find the TV Guide.
“We wanted to know when the Lakers were on, when the Dodgers were on, when was UCLA playing basketball?” he said. “And I saw that UNLV was on TV playing some team listed as ‘AIA.’ I knew UNLV was pretty good, so I watched the game. And I thought to myself ‘Hey, that Athletes in Action team is pretty good. If I don’t make it to the NBA, maybe I’ll play for them.”
When no scholarship offers came his way after high school, Romar enrolled at Cerritos (Calif.) Community College and, in his words, “worked his tail off” until he was offered a scholarship to play collegiate basketball for the University of Washington.
“I get to Washington and I average six points a game and three assists as a junior ….. not real good numbers,” Romar said, drawing laughs from the crowd. “My senior year, I blew that out of the water! I averaged nine points a game.”
He decided to think about his basketball playing future, and began sending out demo tapes of his games. He sent a videotape to AIA, but sent the wrong one to them. He’d played a great game and a horrible game against the same team that season.
“I thought I sent Athletes in Action the tape from the great game,” he said, drawing more laughs, “… I sent them the other one. Needless to say, I didn’t hear from Athletes in Action.”
That summer before the 1980 NBA draft, a friend of Romar’s was working out in the California area with a team called Athletes in Action. Romar asked whether he could come down and workout with the team as well.
“I figured I’d sent them the wrong tape, but if they saw me in person I was gonna convince them,” Romar said. “And if I don’t make the NBA … (more laughs), they’ll pick me up.”
He was drafted, as the 141st pick in the seventh round of what was then a 10-round NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors, but it wasn’t until years later, and stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons, that he began a seven-year career with Athletes in Action.
“If I had my own personal Hall of Faith, Athletes in Action would be in mine,” he said. “Because 0f the wonderful things that this organization has done for me.”
Felix’s mother, Marlean, accepted on behalf of her daughter who was competing in an international track and field meet in Shanghai, China.
“I’d just like to say thank you, Athletes in Action, for recognizing our daughter for the most important quality that we think she has, and that any individual who loves God should have,” Marlean Felix said. “We have no greater joy than to see her walking in the truth. We thank you for acknowledging that in her life, and may she continue to be a testimony to others, as she falls short and as she picks herself back up by God’s grace and represents Him. May she do it well, and my you be honored for recognizing that in an individual. Thank you so much.”
According to the AIA, the Hall of Faith award is presented annually to one male and one female from the world of sports who best exemplify outstanding character, integrity and faith—whether on the field of competition, in the home or in the community. Previous “Hall of Faith” inductees include sports legends Bart Starr, MVP of Super Bowl I and II; Anthony Munoz, NFL Hall-of-Fame member; Clark Kellogg, CBS Basketball Lead Analyst; Coach Kay Yow, former head coach North Carolina State; Madeline Manning Mims, four-time Olympian; and Tamika Catchings, 2011 WNBA MVP.