Houston Nutt and Dr. Rex Horne, Interim Pastor, Parkway Place Baptist Church.
Houston Nutt, former Arkansas Razorbacks football coach (1998-2007) was recently invited to speak at Parkway Place Baptist Church as a part of their “Defining Moments” series. Nutt grew up in Little Rock where his dad, Houston, Sr., coached and his mom, Emogene, taught English at the Arkansas School for the Deaf.
Nutt recalled Sunday School teachers at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock who had a profound influence on his life. He also spoke about attending Vacation Bible School each summer as soon as school was out, with fond memories of those times.
Nutt told of growing up with three brothers in a home where a love of God as well as sports was instilled in them by parents who gave the gift of time and loving discipline.
What role has faith played in your coaching through the years?
“I thought I was going to go to the NFL or the NBA or both by the time I was nine years of age,” Nutt said of his youthful aspirations.
Giving his life to Jesus at 10 years-old, Nutt shared that he “had a plan to go to the top with Jesus, but it wasn’t to be. On the day of the draft, for the first time in my life, my name wasn’t called.”
It was then that Coach Jimmy Johnson at Oklahoma State University gave him a job that would set the trajectory of his life. Nutt noted that the first time he heard one of the young athletes assigned to him as a resident assistant call him “Coach Nutt,” he knew he was supposed to be a coach.
Nutt told of the experience of shepherding young men who came into the football program from single parent homes, looking for a father figure and a role model. He stated that, “Just last night two of my players were inducted into the Murray State Hall of Fame. The first thing they said was, ‘the difference maker in my life was my coach. I’m the man that I am because of our relationship.’ That’s the biggest reward there is and that’s where God put me—in a position to be around young men.”
On opportunities to witness, Nutt said that when boarding a plane, he would ask if they had their ticket, then ask if they had their eternal ticket, taking advantage of times to share Jesus.
What role does your faith play in your current role as an analyst for CBS sports?
Speaking of his transition from coaching to his current role, Nutt said, “Faith always comes back to, ‘I know He’s always with me and He’s always guided my life and I’ve always felt a peace that He’s always there.’ So, I have a chance to be around college football. This is my eleventh year. I think sometimes He’s put me there because there are a lot of people in my circle who haven’t gone to Sunday School, to Vacation Bible School, haven’t been preached to. I’m there for that reason too.”
What would you want to share with a young man or a young woman who is thinking about going into coaching?
“I truly believe that God has a plan for everybody, even though my plan I thought was to be in the NBA or the NFL. He has a plan for you, and you’ve got to trust that. I would tell a young man that it’s a tremendous sacrifice and you’ve got to have a special wife because it’s long hours. I would say that it’s the greatest profession where you can make such a difference with young people, but it can also be the cruelest profession and it can be hard. There will be down times and there’s going to be suffering. That’s when we have to think, ‘He suffered for us. He gave His life for us.’”
Nutt went on to say, “Go embrace what you love to do. I never felt like I was going to work. It comes back to relationships. There’s nothing like getting a text from a young man that says ‘the greatest four years of my life was at Murray State or Boise State or at Arkansas or Ole Miss.”
You mentioned having a special wife, tell us a little about Diana Nutt.
“We met during our last month at Oklahoma State University, our senior year, on a blind date. She never dated an athlete. She was a geologist. We will be married 40 years next December (2023). She has been the greatest, the best. When the dad is not there, you have to play both roles and she played both roles. We had four great kids, and she did a great job of raising them. She did all the work.”