Clockwise from upper left: Jeff Siemon, Trudy Semrau, Joel Jennings and Dave Bergstedt
The Minnesota Hall of Faith recognizes individuals who model high character — emanating Christ in all they say and do — and have made a significant impact through FCA. Here is your 2017 class, who you can meet Oct. 15th at our homecoming event at Grace Church:
Jeff Siemon wasn't a believer at Bakersfield High School in California, where he was a standout linebacker and quarterback. But he met the Lord after tearing three and a half of the four major ligaments in his left knee as a freshman at Stanford University.
"It looked like football was over for me," Jeff recalls. "Even after his retirement, the Stanford doctor said it was the worst knee injury he'd ever dealt with. God really used that in my life, to show me how tenuous things like football — and things we place so much value in — can come and go."
Jeff largely ignored his girlfriend when she shared her faith in high school. But after the injury, while she attended the University of California at Davis, she shared once again, prayed for him and Jeff received the Good News.
"That was a minor miracle," he says.
Then a staffer with Campus Crusade came to his dorm room to see his roommate, who wasn't interested. Jeff, however, was. He attended a Christian camp that summer. He was able to continue playing football, helping Stanford win two Rose Bowls then becoming the 10th overall pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 1972 NFL Draft.
In Minnesota, Jeff connected with FCA staffers and board members, even starting a Bible study group with Viking teammates.
"(FCA) had a significant part in the spiritual growth of many players on the team," Jeff says. "I believed in FCA's mission."
Jeff was invited to join Minnesota FCA's board, and he accepted and served in that capacity for 15 years.
"Being a professional athlete, I had a platform, and I was happy to use it as God provided opportunities," Jeff says. I just love the organization for all these many years, and watched as God has uniquely used it, particularly with young athletes locally and around the world. It’s got a unique way of touching a cadre of people, who may otherwise not be touched by the Gospel."
Lastly, Jeff wants to remind young athletes something he didn't discover until college.
"The ability to play the game and succeed is a gift from God. It's not something you did for yourself," Jeff says. "You may have worked hard, but the talent is a gift from God. I was not a believer in high school, and I had a lot of accolades and victories. But they did not fill my cup. I was largely empty during those years. It wasn't until I came to faith in Christ that I could fully appreciate the joy and talent God had given me."
Trudy Semrau has had a unique, lifelong connection to FCA, though she grew up on a rural farm in North Dakota. Her father, Ron Teubner, read about a sports ministry breakfast in Bismarck, about three hours south from his farm. James Jefferey, FCA's executive director, was the featured speaker.
At the breakfast, Ron met the volunteer FCA State Director, Walt Sherman, and he encouraged him to attend an FCA camp. Then, at that camp, Ron committed his life to Christ. After being very active and establishing a friendship with Walt, Ron took over as State Director in North Dakota, traveling around the state furthering the impact of FCA's ministry. As Trudy recalls, "as a family we would go to FCA functions, so as a junior high and high school student I was part of the FCA movement in the 70s."
Trudy with her daughter Lexie, mother Edair and father Ron
Trudy headed to what is now the University of Northwestern, St. Paul, to play basketball and volleyball. She was there for a year, then transferred to North Dakota State and had the opportunity to be a part of a solid FCA college huddle there. Trudy returned to Minnesota a few years after graduating from NDSU for a camp. Then, while at camp, she heard Minnesota FCA was looking to hire staff.
"What I didn’t realize is that the hire was a part-time secretary," Trudy says.
"That's how I got my foot in the door," she adds.
Trudy was the first female FCA staffer in Minnesota.
Over the next 16 years, Trudy served in several capacities, including work with female coaches and athletes.
Trudy says she was "humbled and overwhelmed" when Minnesota FCA state director Tom Ness recently informed her that she had been selected for the Hall of Faith.
"It brought back a flood of memories," Trudy says. "I was able to be a part of some great experiences and ministry opportunities in Minnesota working alongside Mark Tiemann and Randy Jensen."
Naturally, Trudy immediately called her father upon receiving the news.
"He was the first call, and he was pretty proud," Trudy says. "I will always be grateful for FCA's ministry and influence on lives. Because of it, I was raised in a God-honoring home and at a young age committed my life to follow Jesus."
Joel Jennings, a New Jersey native, was transferred to Minnesota for a large company he worked in the 1970s.
"Well, three years later, I had been tricked into believing this was a great place to live," Joel says. "I got a different job, and I chose to stay in Minnesota."
One of the reasons he stayed, though, was because of the growth of his faith.
"If you asked me if I knew Christ, I probably wouldn't have understood the question," Joel says. "It was an intellectual acknowledgement of Him but not a heart acknowledgment."
Eventually, Joel saved Gopher Sport from bankruptcy, and he served as CEO until handing off the reigns of the business to his son Todd.
A gymnast at the University of Wisconsin, Joel says he didn't know about FCA until becoming involved here.
"Because (Gopher Sport's) focus was recreation, athletics, and physical fitness, it was a natural partnership to be interested in FCA," Joel says. "I went to a number of events, and I was eventually invited to join the board."
He served on the board for 14 years, including three as the chair.
"They say Coca Cola is a great brand, or Apple is a great brand — and they are," Joel says. "But FCA is a great brand. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has a great appeal. So I was delighted and privileged to be a part of FCA."
Joel says his favorite memories of serving on the FCA board was when students shared their experience with FCA.
"As you get older, you find yourself often asking yourself, 'Why am I doing this? I'm really busy,' " Joel says. "But those young kids were energetic, and I'd listen to them and sometimes cry. They would reinforce and remind me why."
Over the last 18 months, Joel has dealt with a major health scare, twice having doctors place him in hospice care. Yet he's survived, and he's getting stronger and stronger.
"I had a doctor tell me I'm a miracle to be alive," he says.
Asked about being named to the Hall of Faith, Joel says he's "embarrassed."
"People fuss over us at different times, and deep inside we know who we are — and often it’s not very attractive," Joel says.
Joel says FCA is more important now than ever, pointing to the NCAA scandal that's already cost University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino his job.
"I love the character emphasis FCA has, how you coach sports, play sports," Joel says. "For too long, sports has revered the wrong things and FCA has a message for sports that’s unique, pure and needed today."
Dave Bergstedt grew up in West St. Paul and attended Henry Sibley High School. A standout baseball player, he was a four-year letterman at Bemidji State University, where he was nominated for the prestigious Harry Bangsberg award, given annually to the school's top student-athlete.
After graduating, he returned home and worked part-time at Sibley High School then started as a longterm substitute at Rosemount High School. In December 1973, Dave started full-time at Rosemount... and he remained there until his retirement in June 2012.
A Driver's Ed and health teacher, Dave also coached, at various times, basketball, baseball and softball. In the late 1970s, a fellow teacher asked him if he'd co-lead a Christian group with him.
"I was having similar thoughts," Dave recalls, "so I said, 'Sure.' "
Initially called the "Reach Group," they met with six students at one of their homes. Then they decided to get involved with FCA and transformed the group into a Huddle.
The other teacher left, and Dave continued to serve as the Huddle coach. The Huddle grew and grew, capping at nearly 100 regular attendees.
"It was fun to watch kids grow," Dave says. "It created real fellowship, where kids could back each other up and stand strong together. Teaching was a hobby and FCA was my job."
Dave insists he benefited, as well.
"I had to be in the word a lot more, because I was accountable for what I did. So I had to work harder, and I grew in my faith too," he says.
Dave says he's humbled to join the Hall of Faith.
"Knowing some of the people from the past, they’re really super people," he says. "It’s neat that maybe I’ve helped make a difference in other people’s lives."