I have written numerous articles about John MacArthur that document his serial lying, abusive leadership, and craving for greatness. The man should not be in Christian ministry. He has taught truth but lived many grandiose lies. Those who disagree have not examined the evidence.
Dustin Faulkner has written an excellent article entitled Examining John MacArthur’s Football Claims (Sep. 2, 2019). I’d encourage everyone to read it. I am using his research but writing to make plain the audacious lies MacArthur has told regarding his football career. I’ve also added research of my own.
I have never seen a Christian leader make up so many legendary tales about himself as John MacArthur. This is a pervasive and long-standing pattern. In this article, I am focusing on his claim to be an All-America halfback highly recruited by numerous NFL teams including the World Champion Cleveland Browns.
Bob Jones University
John MacArthur played sports at Culter High School in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated in 1957 and went to Bob Jones University (BJU) in Greenville, SC for two years. BJU did not have any athletic teams including a football team. He was in a “horrific car accident” after his freshman year and “had to lie in my bed on my stomach for about three months.” He played no competitive sports during his two years at BJU. They had no sports teams.
Los Angeles Pacific College
MacArthur says he left Bob Jones University to play football at Los Angeles Pacific College (L.A.P.C.) which was starting a football program. It was a very small Christian girls college in east Los Angeles that opened up to male enrollment the year he transferred.
He states the school “recruited me like crazy for football.” At the same time, he supposedly turned down “an opportunity” to play at the nationally recognized football powerhouse University of Southern California (USC).
MacArthur gives the impression he was offered a scholarship to play at Los Angeles Pacific College but the program had no money. No one was “recruited…like crazy” with scholarship offers. This quote from the 1960 yearbook comes from the captain of the football team.
“From every viewpoint this has been a pioneer year; Jim Brownfield has been a pioneer coach. Working under shortages of time, finances, number of players and countless other handicaps, he patiently forged through, leading us to a winning and thrilling season. … No man has had a greater hand making the beginning of football at L.A.P.C. a resounding reality than Coach Jim Brownfield.” (Don Robertson, Captain)
MacArthur’s first year at Los Angeles Pacific College was his junior year in college having transferred from Bob Jones University. He was one of the worst players on the team. He played in two games and ran the ball one time for three yards. He was awful compared to the five other running backs. Moreover, his junior year the team only played give games. He wore the #97 jersey. Here is the evidence. It comes from the 1960 yearbook on page 71.
Scouted By Professional Teams & Goes to Washington Redskins Training Camp
During these two years at Los Angeles Pacific College, MacArthur claims he had “some opportunities to play professionally both in football and baseball” and “was scouted by some professional teams and I talked to them and I went to the Washington Redskins football training camp.”
Here’s the evidence. It comes from an interview MacArthur did when he was 40 years old. There were no issues of memory loss or confusion. Nor are they the embellishments of an old man in decline. The bold print is mine for focus.
Personal Interview with John MacArthur June 15, 1979 Pages 1, 2, 3
Well, I pretty much was raised in the southern California area, and so I attended [Culter High] school here. I spent my time in college, early in my college years, two years at Bob Jones University and then completed my college education at Los Angeles Pacific College. …
I came to college days and I became very involved in athletics. And in the times that I was involved in sports I received a tremendous measure of fulfillment and thought for quite a while that I’d like to be a professional athlete. I did have some opportunities to play professionally both in football and baseball. …
And in the midst of that athletic career, I reconsidered a childhood dream to be a professional athlete. And I opened myself to that. I was scouted by some professional teams and I talked to them and I went to the Washington Redskins football training camp.
MacArthur was not “very involved in athletics” at Bob Jones University because “they didn’t have any athletics.” He is making these claims based upon his two years at Los Angeles Pacific College.
First, he says he had “opportunities to play professionally in football and baseball” – not simply to try out but to actually play.
Second, he “was scouted by some professional teams.” That means professional scouts came to watch him play at L.A.P.C. For example, Washington Redskins scouts traveled across the country to California to visit a know-nothing football team in an obscure conference to study MacArthur’s two year “athletic career.”
Then based upon their scouting, he was invited to the Washington Redskins training camp. He didn’t go to watch. He went to participate. This supposedly occurred between his junior and senior year.
Here is more evidence from an interview he did with Phil Johnson twenty five years later in 2004. For decades MacArthur has been fond of telling his staff, church, college and seminary students, and followers these legendary tales.
John MacArthur’s Life Testimony
February 9, 2004 Pages 7-8, 9
PHIL: Right. So, you went to college. You went to a Christian college.
JOHN: I did. My dad wanted me to go to Bob Jones University. I didn’t want to go; I wanted to play football and baseball and basketball, and they didn’t have any athletics.
PHIL: Was it difficult giving up sports? I mean that was a priority for you.
JOHN: Well, that was very difficult. It was very difficult. I mean I – in my high school days, I basically, you know, lived to compete and –
PHIL: How many sports did you play?
JOHN: Well, I played – in high school – football, baseball, basketball, and I ran track; I was a sprinter.
PHIL: And from what I hear, you did excel in football.
JOHN: Well, I got a – I got a lot of scholarship offers in basketball, football, even baseball. And I –
PHIL: So, you turned down scholarship offers in order to go to a school –
JOHN: Right, with no athletic program.
If MacArthur “got a lot of scholarship offers” to play collegiate football he would have dominated as a running back on the L.A.P.C. team. Remember, he played in two games and ran the ball one time for three yards his junior year. Five other running backs on the team far exceeded him in every statistical category.
Furthermore, he claims to have turned down lots of college scholarships in football, basketball, and baseball as a premier high school athlete. Surely, he could have contacted those schools if he wanted to play sports again. Instead, he went to L.A.P.C to play football at a historic girls school in a new program with only one coach. That makes no sense.
Also notice Bob Jones University “didn’t have any athletics.” MacArthur played no competitive sports during his first two years in college. And yet he claims the University of Southern California recruited him and tried to get him to transfer to play football his junior year.
More evidence from the same interview.
John MacArthur’s Life Testimony
February 9, 2004 Page 9
PHIL: So, after two years of Bob Jones University what happened?
JOHN: Well, the short version is I transferred to Pacific College for a number of reasons. One, they had recruited me like crazy for football, and they would take my – the second reason, they would take my credits from Bob Jones, which were not transferable to anyplace because they were a non-accredited school.
PHIL: So, you didn’t have to start over.
JOHN: I didn’t have to start over. I had an opportunity to go to USC [University of Southern California] and play football there, but they wouldn’t take any credits. And so I said, “I can’t go back and do my whole education.”
So, they [L.A.P.C.] wanted me badly to play football. They had developed a pretty extensive football program. They had a great basketball program and baseball program, but they wanted me to participate in everything, which is what I had wanted to do.
These are false statements. Los Angeles Pacific College did not have “a pretty extensive football program.” It was just starting. It was an unknown college program. It was bottom of the rung competition in a Division III conference. MacArthur is exaggerating to make it sound like it was a football powerhouse similar to the University of Southern California.
Los Angeles Pacific College may have recruited MacArthur because they were desperate to field a team but it was not because he had an illustrious record. He had not played football during his freshman and sophomore years at Bob Jones University and he supposedly had a life-threatening injury after his freshman year (more on that in a subsequent article).
Most importantly, the University of Southern California is not going to recruit someone at Bob Jones University who hasn’t played football for two years.
Attends Washington Redskins Training Camp After Junior Year at L.A.P.C. (1960)
After his three yards on one carry in two games junior year at L.A.P.C., MacArthur claims he attended the Washington Redskins training camp.
This evidence comes from an interview he did with Rick Holland in 2009.
January 25, 2009
RICK: And you almost went pro in football.
JOHN: Well, I had the opportunity. I went to a training camp for the Washington Redskins after my junior year of football. And later on I received letters on whether they were going to include me in the draft and all of that. And by the time I graduated I said, “I’m not going to do that. I know I’m not going to do that.” So I said I wouldn’t be interested at all. By then I was fixed on going to seminary.
This is an extraordinary lie. MacArthur was not recruited and did not attend the Washington Redskins training camp after his junior year. He is making it all up. That is why he has never produced any of the “letters” about drafting him.
A “Stack of Letters” from Pro Football Teams – Senior Year at L.A.P.C. (1961)
During his senior year at Los Angeles Pacific College, MacArthur claims he received a “stack” of letters from professional teams asking him to play for them. He instructed his coach, Jim Brownfield, to tell all of them he was not interested. He was going to seminary.
John MacArthur’s Life Testimony
February 9, 2004 Page 11
PHIL: Did you get it out of your system – the sports? …
JOHN: I’m just in my college – my last college year of football . …So, I told my coach – I have – I still have a stack of letters somewhere in a little scrapbook from the football – pro football teams – and I just said, “You know, tell them I’m not going to – I’m not going to play. I know where God wants me.”
To date, no records of his senior year have been found. “Official copies of student records, transcripts, and diplomas would all be lost when the college was bulldozed in 1965.” One cannot overstate how miniscule and unknown the football program at L.A.P.C. was in its second year. Yet MacArthur claims he has “a stack of letters” from “pro football teams.” Not from one team but from many teams!
In 1961 there were 8 teams in the American Football League and 14 teams in National Football League (the two leagues merged in 1970). But not even 22 letters amounts to a stack. In any case, he puts himself forward as one of the most coveted players in college football.
He also instructed his coach to “tell them” he was not going to play in the NFL. That conveys “pro football teams” were talking to his coach.