Josh Brake, a rising senior standout receiver, recently represented Bucknell in Mexico with the Athletes in Action (AIA) organization. Founded in 1965, AIA is a Christian group with the aim of combining faith-based initiatives with athletic coaching and training.
Brake and his brother, Caleb, a rising sophomore wide receiver at Hendrix College, joined athletes and coaches from all over the country on the organization's eight-day trip to Puebla, Mexico. From there, they visited two universities where they shared their football knowledge, faith, and worked with the local players and coaches.
“We went to two universities,” Brake said. “Monterrey Tech, a division two school which won the championship last year, and UDLAP (English: University of the Americas, Puebla), the division one champions.”
The goal of the trip was for the members to share their knowledge of the sport and their own styles with the local players and coaches, and use that as a bridge to discuss their Christian ideals in an open forum.
“We tried to build relationships with them through football, by teaching them our techniques, our drills, our philosophies, and using those things to eventually talk to them about our faith,” said Brake, whose own Christian beliefs were his main motivation to take such a trip.
He further clarified that the teams they worked with were not random bunches of newcomers to the sport. Instead, they found themselves working with very skilled and talented players.
“They were really good teams,” Brake noted. “The UDLAP team we didn't even help that much because they knew everything they were doing. We were still able to build good relationships with them and they said they were looking forward to us coming down again in the future.”
Brake was even able to come away with some new knowledge of his own from the coaches of these Mexican collegiate teams.
“You often go into another country and think, 'I know so much more than them,' but I ended up learning a lot,” Brake said, who led the Bison last season in receiving with a career-high 445 yards on 33 receptions. “I actually spent two hours with the receivers coach of UDLAP just watching film and learned a lot from him.”
From a football standpoint, countries outside of the United States – even those like Mexico with widespread football leagues – typically relish the opportunity to learn the game from its originators.
“As of right now, there are 63 countries that have developed American football,” Brake said. “So everyone loves when America comes to their country, because it's our sport.”
Brake aims to keep that same motivation and determination for the sport back with him and his team at Bucknell. He is currently one of the roughly two dozen players remaining on campus over the summer for extra workouts, and hopes to attract more to do the same.
“I learned in Mexico that I can share my faith through my actions, just like football. And there is always something you can do to get better in both.”
Brake was a mainstay on a 2013 Bison team that finished with a 6-5 record, good for a second-place finish in the Patriot League. This included a banner 48-10 win over then-No. 15 Lehigh while winning 5 of their last 6 games. Having proven that they can compete with the best, he hopes to carry this momentum with him for his final season in a Bison uniform.
“Whatever I'm doing, I always tell myself: 'One more time,'” Brake said, who is only 97 yards short of 1,000 career receiving yards.
“I have one more shot … and I'd better do it right. We have a chance to win the Patriot League and go to the playoffs. I know we have a long way to go. Everybody is on board with it, though. We can do it.”