Travis Simpson considered not going.

The former Harker Heights center thought about skipping this year’s Heart of Texas Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Victory Bowl, but he decided to go ahead and go.

He didn’t regret it.

“That was probably the best decision I’ve ever made,” Simpson said. “You get there on Wednesday and you don’t know hardly anybody there. Even if somebody else is from Killeen, you don’t recognize them because the only time you ever see them is when they’re wearing a football helmet.”

But there was more to it than just the game.

The FCA Victory Bowl starts three days before the game is held at Waco ISD Stadium, and it includes community service projects, entertainment, practices, clinics and fellowship.

All that time spent together helped Simpson create new bonds.

“I made a lot of friends,” Simpson said. “Everyone was real welcoming and everyone was real friendly. You could sit down in any group and talk to anyone and hold a conversation with them.”

Saturday’s game was exhilarating.

The two teams went back and forth, and they also had some late-game heroics. It was no surprise to see the contest end in a 24-24 tie.

Simpson played right tackle for the Red team, and while it had been a while since he played the position, he got plenty of work in the practices.

“It was incredible,” Simpson said. “At these practices, everyone flew around and we rarely had to run a play twice. If we did, it was just one more time. Everyone knew what they were doing, and if we screwed up, we knew how to fix it.

“It was the best team I’ve ever been on. One of the guys I was going against at practice, he’s going to be going to a juco and is already receiving offers from four-year schools, and he was killing me. I was still holding my own, but he was working me.”

Jacob Mitchell competed in the FCA Victory Bowl baseball game Friday for the Red team in a 14-4 blowout win in eight innings over the Blue team.

Mitchell drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the first inning, and he also pitched the eighth to close out the contest. He retired the side in order while striking out two.

“It was a very fun week,” Mitchell said. “We got to do a lot of stuff for the community. We did several service projects in Temple, and we got to spend time with kids at the Ralph Wilson Youth Club, and it was awesome.

“I got to hang out with some of the local kids and hopefully provide them a positive influence and give them someone to look up to.”

Going into the week, Mitchell didn’t know what to expect.

“I didn’t have any clue, at all,” Mitchell said. “We just did what they told us to do, and we had a blast doing it. Everyone had a good time, and it was, overall, just a great experience.”

Mitchell pitched to Ellison’s Garet Douglas in the eighth, which actually wasn’t scheduled. Douglas caught each of the odd-numbered innings, but when the decision was made to bring Mitchell in to close the game out, Douglas asked to catch him.

“He arranged it with the other catcher so he could catch me,” Mitchell said. “We talked about it the day before, that he wanted me to pitch to him because the idea was for me to close. To pitch to him to finish out the game, two Killeen kids finishing off the game, that was a really neat thing.”

Regarding the FCA Victory Bowl as a whole, Simpson advised every graduating student-athlete to try to participate.

“If you have the opportunity to go, it’s the best thing you could do,” Simpson said. “You’ll make more friends than you could possibly think of, and there’s just a bunch of people there from different walks of life. You do a lot of things and, even though you’re moving around all the time, it’s definitely worth it.”

Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Previously spent time as sports editor at both the Hereford Brand and the Gatesville Messenger. Graduate of West Texas A&M University.

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