The Jaguars, Champions for Christ, and Money - Again

Times-Union/December 15, 2003
By Karen Bune Mathis

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell, who is expected to be released from the team, said during a recent interview that wherever football takes him and his family, the city remains his base.

"We expect this to be our home," Brunell said of him, his wife, Stacy, and four children. They live in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Brunell, 33, was the Jaguars starting quarterback since taking over the spot during the team's first season in 1995. New Coach Jack Del Rio moved Byron Leftwich into the starting position this year.

During his time in Jacksonville, Brunell and some of his team members founded the Southpoint Community Church. It now meets at 7950 Belfort Parkway but intends to build a sanctuary.

The city has been reviewing plans for the church to build a two- story, almost 80,000-square-foot structure on 150 acres at 7556 Salisbury Road. The church bought the land and continues efforts to raise money for development.

Brunell, who is a director of the church, said the church might break ground in a year or so. He estimates membership at 800 to 900.

He referred questions about construction details to Pastor Russell Austin, who could not be reached.

Brunell said the church began as a Bible study group in his home in 1996. The group evolved into a church that included now former Jaguars Tony Boselli, Joel Smeenge, Bryan Schwartz and others.

As part of the Champions for Christ ministry for athletes, the Rev. Greg Ball of Austin, Texas, had been coming regularly to Jacksonville to lead the Bible study. Ball helped to start the Southpoint Community Church through his parent ministry, Morningstar International.

State corporate records show that Russell Austin, Debra Austin, Ball and Brunell are directors of the church.

Another local tie is business.

Brunell also is an investor in the area Whataburger franchise. FesteCapital, based in Austin, wants to invest $45 million to $50 million to open up to 30 Whataburger restaurants from Brunswick, Ga., south to Flagler County. Brunell threw a pass at last week's groundbreaking for the first Whataburger at 7165 Philips Highway, at the corner of Butler Boulevard. It should open by mid-March.

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