It’s not often that a high school football coach develops a big time reputation for his intellect and spirituality.
After all, holiness and brainpower don’t seem to go hand in hand with those who teach teenagers to put helmets and pads on and then violently collide with one another.
But intelligence and a lifelong commitment to pastoral leadership is what friends and family of retired Payson High School teacher and football and track coach Pete Greer recognize in him.
As a high school biology teacher, he possessed the knowledge and wisdom it takes to explain complex scientific principles to his students in a meaningful way.
On the field, he had the “football smarts” to detail seemingly foreign techniques and strategies to young players, some of who were playing the sport for the first time.
Longtime football fans will remember it was Pete who in 1991 helped salvage the freshman football program when it was scrapped by the school board due to budget cuts. His volunteering to singlehandedly coach the junior varsity, freed up his assistant to coach a freshman team.
Pete also is a devoted Christian man with deep-seated beliefs and faith in the teachings of Jesus.
If ever the beliefs of a Christian and a biology teacher would seem to clash, it would occur when the subjects of creationism and evolution arose in the classroom.
Evolution can be contentious concept and there are those who believe that creation science or intelligent design should not be taught in science classes.
Pete, however, handled the two subjects objectively and with the polish of the finest of high school science teachers.
“I wrote what both were on the board, we talked about them, studied both and I let the students decide for themselves,” he said.
Evolution was explained as a change in the inherited traits of organisms through successive generations.
Creationism was expounded as a religious belief that life, the earth and universe is the creation of God.
“It’s taking the Bible literally on the historical account in Genesis,” Pete said.
History has proven that the two subjects can turn controversial in American classrooms as evidenced by the Scopes Trial decision of 1925, the 1968 Epperson v. Arkansas decision and in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.
So, as a public school teacher, Pete had to walk a fine line ensuring he taught both beliefs fairly.
But in retirement, Pete has had a free hand in a ministry calling and during a recent 11,770-mile trip, he traveled the country talking to hundreds of people, both young and old, about his belief in creation science.
In making the journey, which began May 25 in Seattle, he and his wife Jeanne Ann joined fellow free ministers Dr. Rick and Susan Oliver who had been on the road for more than a month teaching the word of God.
“Rick was the main speaker and the organizer of the trip,” Pete said.
Pete fondly remembers that all along the journey, there “were people who couldn’t thank us enough for bolstering their faith through the presentations.”
Young people also approached him, some the age of those he taught at Payson High School, “Who expressed a desire to learn more and perhaps became a speaker for creation science.”
Also along the way, he recalls six teenagers “accepted Jesus as their savior” and remembers one of the highlights as being the way God worked, especially on the road delivering the ministers from several dangerous situations.
After leaving Seattle, Pete and his companions made ministry stops at churches in Fargo, N.D., Grand Rapids, Minn., Bethany, Mo., Oletha, Kan. Indianapolis, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and other towns and cities.
“It was the first time I had been to some of those,” he said.
In Wilsey, Kan. and Omaha, Neb. he made guest ministry presentations at youth camps.
“In Wilsey, a man came to hear us and donated (to the camp) a modular building, a tractor trailer rig and furnishing from a restaurant he was closing,” Pete said.
In Coeur d’Alene, Pete and Oliver hooked up with Russ Miller to speak on creation science at a church conference.
“All three of us are from Arizona and this was the first time we were able to work together,” Pete said.
In looking back on the long trip across America, Pete says one of his goals along the way was to “re-establish the authority of God’s word” and hope that his teachings helped clear up doubts or misunderstandings his listeners harbored about biblical creationism and the word of God.
There’s little doubt that if he was as successful in that challenge as he was as a biology teacher and football coach, the mission was accomplished.