In a conversation with a Bellarmine parent and orthopedic surgeon, he talked about an encounter with Bellarmine alumnus, John Gaines B’06, back before Gaines graduated, “What a guy. When he was at Bellarmine, I saw him for a football related injury, and I told him, ‘You’ve got to come back to Tacoma, this community needs you.’ And I knew he would, because that’s the kind of man he is.”
Gaines certainly has a reputation as not only a great person, but an excellent athlete, and perhaps one of the best Bellarmine has ever seen. His senior year, he was captain of the basketball, football and track teams, and he excelled at each. Many remember him most for his skills on the football field. His speed and tenacity made him a really great running back. He played with passion and a love for the game. This passion was fueled by more than just a game, but rather from his desire to emerge from the depths of his past and become great.
Many people know his story. It all started when he was seven years old. His mother, a chronic drug addict, died from a stroke. He was young, vulnerable to the drug and crime in Hilltop of Tacoma, and struggled mentally with depression and learning disabilities. At 11, he started playing football, and that gave him hope that he could be successful. He continued to play until he came to Bellarmine as he continued to thrive in athletics. As an active member of the diversity club, he also wanted to work toward social justice, as he still does today. Gaines went on to play football on a scholarship at East Central University in Oklahoma. As captain his senior year, the team went on to win a championship.
Gaines talked about how big sports were in his life. “Sports have helped me lay a foundation for life. From sports I have learned that adversity is normal, but it is through those hardships that normal people are prepared to accomplish great things.”
This shows how important sports can be for many young people, just as an outlet, and in Gaines’ case, a way to go to college. And just as any other successful person, he had his motivations: “My city motivated me. I was tired of seeing people (especially friends) end up in jail or dead. I did not want to end up that way, so I started playing sports as an outlet.”
Many people also know John for his company, PUSH, Pray Until Something Happens. When asked about where he got the idea for the name: “PUSH started as a group text message to guys like Avery Bradley, Abdul Gaddy, Ben Hannula (Bellarmine guys) and some of my other close friends. I would text them inspirational stuff everyday and at the end I would say “Keep Pushing” as a reminder for them to continue to pray, push, practice, persist, etc…until something happens.”
PUSH certainly has become a mantra for John as both an athlete, student and motivational speaker.
In a conversation with Gaines’ PUSH partner and cousin, Antonio Mclemore, he talked about PUSH and what it means in context of kids today. He talked about how many kids they talk to don’t have dreams because they come from tough family environments and were told that dreams aren’t worthwhile. “It’s all about giving kids permission to dream. The people who always seem to get left behind are those who come from bad family environments. Some are financially less fortunate, some have parents that are addicts, some are orphans, and some just live in a bad neighborhood. Many of them don’t have parents that believe in them. So we try to approach PUSH from a Christian perspective and speak hope to the least of God’s children.”
Mclemore cited James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
He talked about the importance of having something to PUSH for, something to cling on to, and it all starts with prayer. And for many young kids out there, Gaines’ inspiring story and words serve as an answer to their prayers.
Gaines certainly has changed lives of many, and has transformed into an exceptional man, all thanks to adversity and his willingness to PUSH through it. As he explains, “I am an ordinary man, but the hardships I experience help me accomplish extraordinary dreams.”