Each year, Uncommon Sports Group recognizes eight USG members living out the organization's core values of living called, being committed, and getting connected. Each award coincides with a core value, and the winners chosen for each award represent that core value in their careers within the sport industry. Along with an award for each core value, USG awards two USG members with an Uncommon Leader award, which rewards an individual living out all three of USG’s core values in their careers in the sport industry.
Our “Called” award winners exemplify living a life focused on the great commission and bringing glory to God. As professionals in the sport industry, the award recipients obey Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Our “Committed” award winners exemplify living a life in pursuit of becoming more like Christ. Despite the challenges of working in the sport industry, these award recipients emulate Paul’s words in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Our “Connected” award winners exemplify a commitment to Christian community and accountability. It is challenging as a professional in the sport industry to make time for community, but these award recipients have made it a priority. Ephesians 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Lastly, our “Uncommon Leader” award winners exemplify a life that represents all three of our core values. In their careers and personal lives, they have lived Called to the Great Commission, Committed to discipleship, and Connected to Christian community.
Below are the 2023 Uncommon Award winners and short testimonies from each of them on their experience with USG and their respective awards:
Rasheed Flowers- Called Award Winner- University of Kentucky Professor in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Promotion
It was such an honor and privilege to be an Uncommon Award winner. Ever since learning about [Uncommon Sports Group] through my sister, I knew this was a great organization to be a part of. I’ve enjoyed my time as a member greatly. Being able to network with others, serve on mission trips, and go to conferences and events with other like-minded sport industry professionals has been an enormous blessing! Being a part of the organization reminded me of the importance of standing out and being different in how I live and work. USG has also provided the tools and support to live a called life.
While being at a secular higher education institution, I know God’s light can shine in many ways: By the way I speak with staff, students, and coworkers and by the way I act toward them (with compassion, kindness, and integrity). I try my best to get to know students and show them I care about them way more than their grades in the classroom. I tell them personal affirmations to take to heart at the beginning of the semester (you will be a great student, you will make it through the semester, etc.), and at the end of the semester, I let them know I hope they saw the way I cared for them more than just what they learned in class. I make myself available for the needs of students. In our department, I work to get involved by serving. I also congratulate coworkers on recent awards and successes. The hope is that by living differently, people will be pointed to God.
This award is a great encouragement to continue to show the love of God not only in word but in deed. I am committed to reflecting Him in this great calling He gave me!
Taylor Jackson- Called Award Winner- Assistant Coach with Boston Red Sox High-A Affiliate, the Greenville Drive
I recently read a passage in 2 Timothy where Paul talks about God’s calling. He says, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel… I am convinced that He is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1: 8-10; 12b).
I am very grateful to have received the “Called Award” from USG. I think this verse is a great passage on what our calling as Christians is. The calling God has given us has nothing to do with us but everything to do with Him and His glory. His own purpose and grace through Christ Jesus is what gives us life. Our hope is in Jesus, not in our own works or in ourselves. Our calling is of Christ and for Christ, not for ourselves.
Working in professional baseball, I have faced many challenges this season with our schedule and the daily environment. It is an industry, like most, where the “self” is a constant focus for development and advancement. It is easy to get caught up in this system when you are not consistently being filled and renewed by the things of Christ. I want to walk with Christ daily, yet I often get busy and do not keep Him at the forefront of my mind. I want to stand firm on Christ, what He has called us to, and the values He has given us, especially in the midst of the sport industry.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to give a Bible to a coworker, along with a note, and I am praying that they will come to know Christ. I think praying and looking for opportunities for boldness in sharing Christ is important, although I cannot say I have done a great job at it. But, I can rest in the hope Paul mentions in verse 12, knowing God will “guard until that day” what He has called me to and trusted me with. He has called us to shine His light in this world, and I am praying for the means to do so wherever He has called me.
Conrad Chow- Committed Award Winner- Basketball Analyst with Pro Insight
I am extremely grateful for Uncommon Sports Group and honored to be a recipient of the “Committed” Uncommon Award for 2023. I became a USG member in 2021 after walking with USG Engagement Associate Noah Weiss and USG Senior Engagement Associate Michael Carpenter through the USG Academy with Team 27. The USG Academy is an 8-week virtual training course designed to enrich sports industry individuals in both their spiritual and professional development.
One of the key takeaways from completing the USG Academy and being involved in the USG Community is how the Lord desires a relationship with us and commands us to live out an “uncommon” lifestyle as depicted in Romans 12:2. For me; this means that God is empowering us to take a sense of urgency and commitment in furthering His kingdom here on Earth as we await His eventual return. In turn, I realized that in my anxious seasons of waiting, God was calling me to more. Rather than remaining stagnant and disappointed when my goals and aspirations were not being fulfilled, He urges us to continually seek Him, trust Him, and serve in His name wherever He has planted us at the moment.
Proverbs 16:3 states, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Over time, the Lord has instilled in me a mentality of faithfulness such that I soon recognized many mediums that I could become committed to His purpose. During the past year, I had the opportunity to say yes to serving on a USG mission trip in Kenya, teaching sports to kids and guiding the next generation of coaches as well as assisting as a [USG Academy] Shepherd for Team 35.
Further, it has been a blessing to commit to my local church in Reno, NV, by mentoring students through our youth leadership program, helping lead worship on the keys, and making disciples in the community. As I go out into various basketball gyms scouting prospects and interviewing players, I am constantly reminded of this entrusted platform I have to glorify the Lord and be a light to others who share the same space. I am deeply humbled to be recognized for the “Committed” Uncommon Award, and I thank USG for being instrumental in my growth and commitment as a follower of Christ while navigating the sports industry.
Hannah Conlisk- Committed Award Winner- Guest Services Coordinator at AT&T Stadium/Dallas Cowboys
I am so honored to receive the Committed Award from Uncommon Sports Group. It’s truly a testament to the Lord’s work and not mine. He has been kind to show me that His plans are best, He has my best interest in mind, and I can trust Him in my daily journey. I have enjoyed the privilege of diving into Bible studies, book clubs, and conversations with like-minded brothers and sisters across the country, through USG, who are daily devoting themselves to following the Lord. I continue to be transformed by the Lord through avenues of community and fellowship, and that is why I continue to dive into new opportunities to do life with others!
I am thankful for the opportunities the Lord has opened through the ministry of USG and how kind He has been to allow me to be a part of His mission through my passions and gifts in the sports industry. Working in this industry is not easy, and I daily stumble and follow the patterns of this world rather than of God, but I am continually amazed to see how God chases after me, and USG has been a big part of that. I’ve developed great friendships, been challenged in my faith, and been convicted in discussions through different ministry opportunities at USG, and it’s so cool to be able to be a small part of that!
I want to continue to strive to be consistently on mission for the Lord daily in my workplace and the opportunities He sets before me. The Lord continues to teach me that to follow Him is a daily pursuit and that in dependence on Him I can endure all of life’s challenges!
Again, I am honored to be recognized for the Committed award but ultimately want to thank God for the amazing ways he continues to use me and for the doors of community, friendship, and fellowship He has provided for me!
Paul Conner- Connected Award Winner- Account Executive at Seminole Boosters (Florida State University)
When I first learned I was being given the USG Connected Award, as I was being surprised with it; my first thought was can I take this [award] on a plane? However, my second thought was how grateful and blessed I am to be a part of this community and how I felt before I found [Uncommon Sports Group].
Prior to USG, I was interning for Florida State. It was the culmination of everything I had worked for, everything my three generations of die-hard FSU family members had worked and sacrificed for. But that's not what my soul felt. I felt tired, scared, anxious, and mostly alone. It felt like my three Christian friends at FSU (Alex, John, and Will) and I were fighting this impossible battle to be a Christian and to work in sports. So we prayed for help. We actually prayed for a group of believers to find community with, for people to prove to us this was possible and to help us. A month later, we found USG! USG is God answering my prayers that day and so many other days following.
It is impossible for me to separate my appreciation and thoughts on this award from my thoughts and feelings for USG, the USG Staff, and the USG community. When [my friend] first told us he had heard about USG, I thought it sounded too good to be true. Little did I know it would be greater and more fruitful than I could have imagined and one of the biggest blessings in my life.
I am passionate about this group and building connections within it because of what the Lord has done for me through this group. USG has transformed me. I can say without exaggeration that joining USG has been one of the single best and most impactful decisions of my life. This group is truly one of the foundation pieces of my life and my faith. I know Jesus and the Word in ways I never could have imagined only because of this group. I have made so many special connections here, have seen so many special places, and have felt such joy.
My advice to anyone, whether they are in USG or thinking of joining, is to go all in on this. Pour your heart into this group and its members. Bloom here, grow here, cry here, laugh here, love here. Know Him and grow closer to Him here. The Lord will overflow your cup with this group and this community.
Lastly, thank you to all of the USG Members who have let me into their lives and shared their hearts with me. Thank you to everyone that let me visit them and to everyone who came and visited me. Thank you to the USG staff for always, and I mean always, being there for me. Thank you all for inspiring me to be better, to know Him and His Word better, to be who He made me to be.
Ashton Hopp- Connected Award Winner- Ole Miss Women’s Basketball Graduate Manager
A desire I have daily is to be connected to the Father and connected to others. Not because I am this perfect person, it's because for 21 years of my life, I played the victim - and ever since knowing Jesus, I realized I have ownership of my life. So here’s a part of my story:
I had always longed to be in a relationship. This left me with a void that others couldn’t fill because humans will fail you at some point, often, probably. I was bitter, afraid, and longing for more. I lived by this lie that no one actually loved me or would love me.
When I encountered Jesus and His word in 2019, I realized that He was the only One and still is the only One that can complete me. His love surpasses any love that I could face on this Earth. And, He also designed me to be in relationships with others, so I needed to face my hurt head-on and fight. Real Kingdom relationships are messy, hard and are meant to point you back to Jesus.
The truth is, God has more for your life than sitting in a pew on Sunday or a small group here or there. We were meant to be in everyday relationships, doing life on life, pouring into others, and having people pour into us. Being connected means having something more than a Sunday faith.
For 2 years, Jesus, through people, showed me and challenged me to build true friendships and community in Lawrence, KS. I was investing in other people's lives, laying down my preferences, and putting myself out there… Which is honestly pretty terrifying. I had never really laid down roots before. Always transferring colleges when things got hard.
The women and men I met wanted to do life with me because they cared about my well-being as an image bearer and not as a student manager for the basketball team. I had always had people that wanted to be around me because of my success, yet these people wanted to be around me because they believed that God had a purpose for my life.
Fast forward to 2022, when I marry the love of my life, Zachary. The next thing we knew, we were headed to Mississippi to work at Ole Miss leaving behind all the community we built.
The truth is being connected to others, and Jesus propelled us to be sent out to change the world in a new location.
Here I found myself again. How do I make new friends as a 24-year-old, freshly married, working all the time in basketball, with hardly any off days? I felt that being connected to others was so far away. That’s when being connected to Jesus became the strongest force in my life.
This award was honestly of so much encouragement to me. It has been a battle cultivating the community where I am, being new, the youngest in my workplace. It was like God said, I see you and your efforts, Ashton.
At times, I felt so lonely. Maybe it would be better to leave. I am sure glad we didn’t leave. God has been at work. With the basketball team. In our church. In my life. There is story after story I could tell that puts the faithfulness of God on display. This year was uncomfortable and challenging. God worked in that space.
I hope to extend connectedness to others because I know what it feels like to think you are alone and that people don’t want to be around you. The truth is God has people right in front of you. That want to fight for your life with you. We just need to get out of our heads. I want the people interacting with me to see that Jesus has much more for them. It is not just for me; it’s for them too.
As we grow with Jesus, we realize that it’s less about us and more about bringing new people along with us.
Luke Unverferth- Uncommon Award Winner- Account Executive, Business Development at Phoenix Suns
As a career in sports progresses, getting that thrilling sale, big promotion, or being entrusted with more responsibilities and projects are all exciting moments that can define a career in this industry for many. These things can be flagpole achievements but also leave us waiting for that next opportunity, recognition, or sense of professional progression.
I’ve gotten a small taste of some of these privileges in my young career thus far and have noticed that the excitement is fleeting. While good in their own right, something much more fulfilling has been building relationships with coworkers and taking an intentional approach to the people I interact with daily. Lately, I’ve looked to be the easy-going friend for the new employee, someone who offers social plans or brings you to church if you haven’t found one yet, and hopefully, a friend who can bring you a smile when things aren’t quite going your way.
Jesus was quite clearly a people person or in the ‘people business’ as he carried out his ministry. Whether you are naturally introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in the middle as an ambivert, I’m convinced that we all have unique ways to connect with others. We should look to get outside of our contort zone to serve those around us.
I’m honored to be named an Uncommon Award winner, as it centers around being Called, Committed, and Connected. These are core pillars for anyone who follows Jesus, and it’s a battle to cling to each faithfully. I believe this motto can be carried out practically by an intentional and relationship-driven lifestyle by going the extra mile to love our neighbors. We see our coworkers more than family, for example, so this is a great place to demonstrate such a mindset within our day-to-day; this is the approach I’ve tried my best to take, so I’m grateful to be recognized for it.
Alexis Conaway- Uncommon Leader Award Winner- Director of Volleyball Operations Graduate Assistant at Louisiana State University
When first told about the USG award, I was caught off guard. I did not realize USG even presented awards, let alone imagine that I would be selected for one. Beyond the surprise, I felt incredibly honored. This organization is full of godly men and women seeking to grow God’s kingdom throughout the world of sports. I am simply grateful to be one small part of the body. Although it has been less than a year since becoming a member, the USG community has truly become another family to me.
I am all-in, and perhaps that is why I received the award. I did not do anything extravagant to earn it. Rather, I recognized how much I needed and appreciated support while working in college athletics. USG provided believers to come alongside me and encourage me as I began my career, and now I desire to do the same for others. The more I give, the more I end up receiving.
One way I got to experience this was by serving as a Shepherd for an Academy team. I initially viewed it as an opportunity to invest in new members, but I ended up feeling so encouraged as I connected with individuals facing challenges similar to my own. I also met with current members who happen to work at my University. We did not know each other, but thanks to our connection with USG, all it took was one meal to build meaningful relationships. This summer, I attended the CWS conference, which truly felt like an extended family reunion.
Finally, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Israel with 12 other members and experience deep community serving and seeking the Lord together. Ultimately, throughout my time with USG, I’ve been learning to embrace the specific calling God has placed on my life and stay committed to it and, ultimately, to the Lord, no matter what the world says. That is only possible by remaining connected to other believers. I am so grateful to USG for recognizing this need and providing brothers and sisters in Christ across the country and even around the world to navigate life. I hope to welcome as many people as possible into the family so we can all live called, committed, and connected together and continue to bring light into the dark!
It was a pleasure to honor each of these individuals for exemplifying the core values of our organization as they seek to be Christ-centered leaders within the college and pro sport industry.