For two-thirds of a century, United Methodist men in north-central Kansas have flocked to Beloit for a night of worship and inspiration. The 67th annual North Central Kansas Men & Boys Rally drew about 600 people March 7 from a six-county area to Beloit High School.
“It’s been in Beloit forever because we used to be the district office,” said Kevin Marozas, a member of the Beloit United Methodist Men and one of the event organizers. “The district office moved to Concordia and then Salina, but we’ve always kept this in Beloit.”
The evening began with dinner at the church, followed by the worship and praise at the high school.
Originally called the Men’s Rally, boys were added to the event long ago. And while the event has kept its name, it’s clear from the poster and publicity that women and girls are invited as well.
“It’s kind of a cool tradition that we’ve enhanced over the past couple of years,” Marozas said.
That enhancement came with the addition of speakers with names familiar to Great Plains sports fans. This year, the speaker was Kevin Lockett, a Kansas State wide receiver who broke the Wildcat record for touchdown receptions in the same 1995 game where Coach Bill Snyder set the K-State record for most wins.
The rally doesn’t play favorites in the college intrastate rivalry – last year’s speaker was Wayne Simien, a former Big 12 basketball player of the year for the Kansas Jayhawks.
“If I said nothing else and left, that would be an upgrade,” Lockett joked with the crowd, dominated by purple T-shirts and jackets.
Marozas said attendance this year was up over the past few years, which had averaged 400 to 500. Turnout spiked in 2013, when 1,100 people turned out to hear former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Gary Spani and Collin Klein, a former K-State quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist, at the city auditorium.
Lockett joked with the crowd about how organizers booked him for the event three years ago. Marozas said that, indeed, plans have been made for speakers until 2019.
“Next year we’re looking at a baseball guy,” Marozas said.
Lockett, newly appointed CEO of the Olathe-based Kansas Bioscience Authority, talked about the decisions that are constantly made in life and how one wrong decision could ruin plans for life.
The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native talked about his high school sports career and how he had kept a promise to himself not to touch drugs or alcohol.
He kept that promise until his senior year in high school. His basketball team – which played against future NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway in tournaments in Las Vegas, Memphis and Springfield, Missouri – had lost a tournament game, and the players obtained beer for a party in their hotel room.
After his first, two-second swig of beer – “it really didn’t taste that good,” he recalls – his coaches busted the party and asked for a show of hands of those who had been drinking.
Despite his teammates trying to keep his innocence, he raised his hand to confess. Suspended from school for two weeks, he discovered that Snyder was ready to visit him the next week on a recruiting trip to Tulsa.
“How’s this gonna play out?” he wondered.
A snowstorm swept from Manhattan to Tulsa, Lockett said, delaying Synder’s visit for three weeks. Lockett said he confessed to the indiscretion after signing a letter of intent with KSU.
“By God’s grace and His mercy, he gave mean opportunity,” Lockett said.
Once in college, Lockett said, he looked upon the team’s pregame chapel services as a “good luck charm” rather than devotion to God.
“Even though I wasn’t soaking it up like a sponge,” he said, “there were pieces that found a resting place in my life.”
By the time he got into the NFL, first as a second-round draft pick with the Kansas City Chiefs and then the Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, “God was after me in a tenacious manner,” Lockett said.
The people he was around the most, whether it was in the weight room, during practices and meetings or going out for dinner after games, were “all big believers” who inspired his faith and challenged the depth of his Christianity.
“Just because you have accepted Christ, that’s not the end,” Lockett said. “That’s the beginning.”
Audience members found Lockett’s talk, including recaps of some of the practical jokes he’d played over the years, inspiring.
“He found out he needed Him to get him where he needs to go in life,” said Pete Falcon of Sylvan Grove, Kansas.
“It was awesome,” said 9-year-old Parker Isbell of Beloit. “It was cool how he talked about following Christ.”
Marozas said the Men & Boys Rally is a tradition that won’t be fading away any time soon.
“I think we’re fortunate in north-central, rural Kansas that we can see God in our lives every day,” he said. “We want that. We crave that. I think that shows when so many people show up for an event.”
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