By Courtney Ingle

Like many athletes, Cordera Eason had his eyes on a pro football career. During his time at Ole Miss, Eason put in the work, and in 2010, he joined the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. In a cruel twist of fate, however, Eason’s NFL career was shorted by an injury in his first game.

Kitchen Tune-Up

This was just the beginning of the twists and turns in the path God used to bring Cordera and his wife, Rankin, together and closer to Him.

Cordera was back in his hometown of Meridian – he’d been released from the NFL after breaking his foot in his first-ever pro game – when he ran into Rankin at a club. They’d both graduated from Meridian High, though different years; they had met before, but this time it was different.

“I grew up in church, but that was about it,” said Cordera. “I didn’t have a strong foundation. But Rankin did.”

Rankin invited Cordera to join her at church on Easter weekend. Cordera initially resisted, but he began to feel God call him closer.

“He started to realize, and he had that void,” said Rankin. “God had allowed him to be in a dark place where he lost everything. His whole life was about going to the NFL, and then he got in. And then that first game, he’s out, and they release him.”

For Cordera, it was almost a crisis of identity. Rankin said she recognized it when Cordera finally agreed to join her at church.

“He was in a really dark place, but nobody knew that, and so I think going through that opened him up to what he felt … that God was calling him to get involved in church,” said Rankin.

Cordera continued to join Rankin in church, and their relationship turned long-distance when he joined an arena football team in Colorado. Cordera played there until he was hurt again – this time requiring shoulder surgery.

At this point, Cordera shifted gears to coaching, and that’s when God opened doors to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

Cordera began coaching PE, Little League, peewee, and middle-school football in and around Meridian. He got connected with Pete Boykin, an FCA mainstay in the area.

“He would come and get me, and I’d go with the kids to these FCA events,” said Cordera. “I wasn’t officially connected, but I was connected to the kids, so I’d go with him.”

Cordera became more involved with FCA and eventually met Jonathan Fulcher, director of FCA Meridian at the time.

“Not long after that, he (Fulcher) reached out to me on Facebook and said he had an opening at Meridian Public Schools,” said Cordera. “He said God kept laying me on his heart, and when I went to interview with him, he had one of my autographs from Ole Miss in his office.”

At this point, Cordera and Rankin had married and were expanding their family.

“And then, just like that, he was the FCA Ambassador for Meridian Public Schools,” said Rankin. For the next four years, Cordera worked with FCA Meridian to bring the gospel to student-athletes.

“Eighty or 90 percent of the time, these kids weren’t in church,” said Cordera. “And I was a perfect example of having your identity wrapped in your sport, not Jesus. That was a big thing I talked about early on and often with all the athletes.”

Not long after Cordera began working with FCA, Fulcher was hired by the organization’s Ole Miss chapter. Once again, some years later, Cordera got a call from Fulcher, saying he felt God calling him to bring Cordera to Ole Miss as an FCA Area Representative.

Coaching and ministry start at home

Photo by Gloria Gill

Connecting with young people through FCA inspired Cordera and Rankin to be more consistent with their own children’s discipleship. With four kids – Mabry (17), Marley (9), Madden (8), and Madrid (4) – the couple struggled to find a time to get all the kids involved.

“We tried to get together as a family at night,” said Rankin. “We had sports, church, school and all, and honestly, it was a little chaotic.”

“But we felt that conviction to really point our children to the Word each day,” said Cordera.

Now, Cordera leads his family in a devotion and prayer every morning.

“It’s not perfect; sometimes, our 4-year-old is still asleep,” said Cordera. “But that’s OK because we’re starting the day off focused on the Word.”

The age gaps between the kids and the pressures of being held to a higher standard in the ministry weighed on Cordera.

“We start the day together with a verse and prayer requests. It is short and quick, but you’ve got to win at home. That’s what I tell the students about their time and what we must do as parents and a family.”

“I think having an older child has really grounded us as parents,” said Rankin. “because you see how fast life happens.”

If you know an Ole Miss student, encourage them to join Ole Miss FCA for Breakfast with Champions on Saturday, April 13, at the indoor tennis facility. The event will feature guest speaker KD Hill and special guest Kyle Wakefield. Doors open at 7 a.m. Register at OleMissFCA.org.

Courtney and her husband, Jeremy, live in Brandon and are members at Park Place Baptist Church in Pearl. They have a daughter, Taylor, and a son, Jacob. Courtney is a full-time homemaker and can be reached at courtneyingle89@gmail.com.

 

Pro-Life Mississippi