In his third season as head football coach at North Greenville, Jamey Chadwell is making believers this season. And that, ultimately for Chadwell, is the general idea.

Chadwell's Crusaders (11-2) have played a progressively tougher schedule each season. In their first full season in Division II they are making some real noise in the playoffs. Up next for them is a date on Saturday with perennial Division II power Delta State (8-2).

That they got here is no surprise to Chadwell. He knew what he has on his roster and had a pretty good idea of how his team stacked up against teams on his schedule, so he set what to him was a realistic goal.

"Our goals were Division II playoffs," Chadwell said. "The reason why I say that is we played Lenoir-Rhyne and Mars Hill from the Southland Conference [of which NGU plays a full slate of games within the conference while remaining an independent]. We lost both of those games, one by six and one by a point going for a two-point conversion.

"We felt like we competed well with those teams, and we were told those might be the two best teams in the league going into next year. And we had a lot of people coming back, so realistically we had a shot if we would take care of our business. Now if you'd told me the quarterfinals, then I'd have probably thought you were crazy."

Crazy was and has been the prevailing mindset when discussing North Greenville 's chances entering the season. Despite their good showing the past two seasons, no one expected this -- something the Crusaders have used to their advantage by playing the underdog role for all it is worth. And it has worked like a charm.

"So we kind of used that as motivational fuel to the fire, so to speak," said Chadwell. "We feel like everybody else has pressure on them because we're the little school that's not supposed to be here, so let's go out and play loose. We feel no pressure because we've gone farther than anyone expected us to get. Our team has used that every week to get them motivated for the victory."

That chip on their shoulder was quite evident when they disposed of SAC champ Mars Hill 58-32. Senior quarterback Willy Korn rushed for three touchdowns and NGU scored 35 unanswered points in 11 minutes in the third quarter. Korn also rushed for a season best 92 yards and completed 11 of 13 passes for 172 yards and one score to Sean Wright. Teryan Rucker added 78 and a touchdown and Idris Anderson also rushed for a touchdown. So you can say NGU is highly motivated.

"Most definitely," Korn said. "As players, we don't read all the message board stuff, but our coaches read it and tell us about it. Even in the SAC. None of their fans thought we should be in their conference. They didn't think we'd win a single game in the SAC. Then we beat the SAC champion, Mars Hill, last week. Nobody thought we'd win our first-round game against Albany State. I'm sure no one thinks we're going to win this game against Delta State either. But we kind of relish the underdog status. We like it when they wonder just how did we win the game."

They are doing it with a mix of talent and character and faith, a formula that has served them well. Korn transferred in a week and a half before the first game last season. This was after spending three months at Marshall University, where they questioned his arm strength and moved him to defensive back. This came after spending two years at Clemson where he was a backup quarterback there following shoulder problems.

"The last six or seven weeks you could see why he was the talent everybody thought he was [coming out of high school], Chadwell said. "He has got the best intangibles, the best leadership I have ever been around. All he cares about is going out and winning football games. He got to us just before the season starts last year and within three months he was made a team captain. Just the hardest worker. Always trying to find a way to get better."

In order for North Greenville to get better Chadwell knew he had to make some radical changes. Those changes prompted several players to quit the team. The ones that remained and bought into what Chadwell was trying to do have been the foundation of the team. From that foundation became a very close team that translates their affinity for each other in to wins.

"We've got some talent, but we're not the most talented football team out there," Chadwell said. "But our team chemistry, the way they get along, I think that's where the success comes from. Those guys are so close. They want to do something that has never been done for our university. We talk a lot about being on a journey. They don't want that journey to end.

"We tell them don't focus on the goals so much. Focus on the process and getting to those goals. Enjoy that. Enjoy the practice. Enjoy the time together. Enjoy what we're doing to help you prepare. We try to make that journey as fun as possible. We enjoy it, but we know it is not for everyone."

By that, Chadwell means the stringent rules that the student body must adhere to. That significantly impacts whom he can recruit. Talent alone won't cut it at NGU. Character matters more by a mile.

"We've got some talent, but we're not the most talented football team out there," Chadwell said. "But our team chemistry, the way they get along, I think that's where the success comes from. Those guys are so close. They want to do something that has never been done for our university. We talk a lot about being on a journey. They don't want that journey to end.

"We've been blessed. The Lord has definitely helped us out for sure. He doesn't care if we win or lose, but He does care how we played. But we are trying to play the right way. Trying to do things that represent Him in all we do. It's been a blessing, too because you've got to recruit certain people. It's been a blessing because we've got some guys who love the school."

Those who are there understand the responsibilities that come with going to a Christian college. NGU players must chapel three times a week. Women are not allowed in dorm rooms. There's no alcohol or drugs, period -- on or off campus. If you're caught with any of those things, if you're around it and caught, it's automatic dismissal from the university for that semester. There is a dress code where kids cannot wear hats indoors.

We've got some talent, but we're not the most talented football team out there.
-- North Greenville head coach Jamey Chadwell

"The kids have to buy into that and want to be part of that environment," Chadwell said. "It's not like a military school. There's a lot of freedom. But within that freedom is restrictions. You have to sell that. You have to find kids that want to fit in that environment. If you bring in a kid that doesn't want to fit into that, they're going to be miserable. They'll always be complaining about something and they never reach their full potential.

"When you say you're a Christian, some kids are going to be fired up about it because they are strong believers. We do have some rules that are different from a lot of folks. We have some tell us they want a different experience for their college experience, which is OK."

Chadwell is not pushy about pushing his faith on his players. He's more of a leading a horse to water guy in hopes they will drink.

"Our whole team is not Christians any way," Chadwell said. "Our coaches have to be. We go after kids who want that influence to find out what Jesus is all about. We want to help them come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and savior by the time they leave. If they are Christians, we want to help that process grow."

And how does that helping with the process, and continuing on this journey to a possible title rank with Chadwell? It may come in a distant second. If there was the option to see every player on this team saved, or winning a national championship, Chadwell's response was a no-brainer for him.

"Saved," Chadwell said. "That's an eternal condition. A national championship would be awesome. Would make a great memory and a great accomplishment. But that won't get them closer to heaven. So if I had the choice, I'd choose they all get saved.

"Don't get me wrong. We want to win and compete. Jesus is the most competitive person there is. But we also understand that football is a vessel to give us opportunities to glorify him. The better we're doing. The better we're playing, people are going to find out what North Greenville is all about. Then they find out it's a Christian school."