More than a hype man, Vial shares his passion for ministry in Liberty’s athletic arenas
Andre Vial’s schedule as an emcee and public address announcer for myriad Liberty University and outside sporting events is so crowded during the school year that he uses a spreadsheet to coordinate all of the games he can cover in one weekend.
A junior youth ministries student by day, Vial transforms into “Hype Man Andre” at night for a wide variety of Athletics and Club Sports contests, as well as Lynchburg Hillcats Minor League Baseball games and sporting events at Jefferson Forest High School in nearby Forest, Va.
On Feb. 19, over the spring semester’s first College For A Weekend (CFAW), Vial juggled facilitating halftime and intermission interviews and fan participation games and contests for the 2 p.m. women’s basketball and 7 p.m. men’s basketball games against Stetson before bouncing over to the 5 p.m. men’s lacrosse game against South Carolina and the 10 p.m. Division I men’s hockey game against Jamestown.
“He is super busy all the time, but he is phenomenal, an awesome guy, and we are very blessed to have him on staff,” said Kaleb VanDePerre, Club Sports Assistant Director of Marketing Promotions. “He runs all of our intermissions and a lot of our game-night promotions and fan engagements. He’s so comfortable on the mic and engaging with the fans. He’s loud and professional and he has a lot of fun with it.”
Vial’s outgoing personality shines through when he takes to the Liberty Arena floor during men’s and women’s basketball or volleyball games, or the LaHaye Ice Center ice during men’s hockey games, or the Liberty Lacrosse Fields for men’s or women’s contests.
“I have always been an extravert, on the louder side,” said Vial, who was inspired by the PA announcer he grew up listening to at Danbury (Conn.) Whalers hockey games, a minor league affiliate of what is now the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. “As an emcee, you’ve got to be exciting, and to ab-lib well, letting your personality be out there. Fans watching could be doing anything else, so you’ve got to fight for their attention, to keep it exciting and high-energy.”
With so many sports on his spreadsheet and promotions on his plate, he tries not to get too hyped up himself, but to be led by the Holy Spirit as he encourages crowd interaction.
“Learning how to stay calm and cool versus times where you have to be excited is the key,” Vial said. “I’m getting to know when to turn on and off ‘Hype Man Andre.’ Most games, I’ll use the national anthem as a time where I’ll say a quick prayer, asking God to use me and then, it’s just a switch that goes on. It’s hype time.”
He has little trouble getting fans to stand to their feet for T-shirt tosses or to participate in games such as “Chuck a Puck” during hockey intermissions and “Fan Cam” experiences during media timeouts at basketball games. He is also responsible for choosing random fans to compete in everything from dunk contests at basketball games to Bubble Soccer at lacrosse games and human slingshot bowling challenges at hockey games.
“This year, I have been focusing in on the intermission games and making sure that they are executed well, using experience from Lynchburg Hillcats and Liberty Basketball games to make things more fun and lively,” said Vial, who won the Student Service Award at this week’s Club Sports Choice Awards.
Since the Lynchburg Hillcats’ home opener at Calvin Falwell Field on April 12, and through the rest of the spring and summer months, Vial is in his second season serving as Fan Experience Coordinator and occasional PA announcer for the Cleveland Guardians’ Low-Class A affiliate, “doing promotions and games, and making sure that everyone that comes to the park has a fun time, a memorable experience, and that they will come back,” he said.
As much as he can work a crowd, Vial realized after his parents divorced when he was 10 that there are things beyond his control, and he has learned to give them over to God.
“I am the type of person that tried to make agreement among everyone, to make all the puzzle pieces fit together,” he said. “At that point, I realized I was not in control and fully surrendered my life to Christ. I said, ‘God, You’ve got me. Whatever you want me to do, I’m Yours.’”
He originally wanted to go into sports broadcasting before being called into youth ministry on a winter retreat with his home church’s youth group as a sophomore in high school. He figured he would not have time to work in the sports industry while being in fulltime ministry, but when he arrived at Liberty, the Athletics Department had an open tryout for a men’s basketball emcee and he auditioned for it.
“In my dorm, I prayed, ‘All right God, if this is something You want me to do, You make it happen,’” Vial said, noting that he got the job, opening the door to more opportunities with the Hillcats as well as in Athletics and with Club Sports’ DI men’s hockey team. “That has been a constant from God, and the plan He has for me. If God wants me to do it, He’ll make it happen.”
When he’s not at a Liberty or Lynchburg-area sporting event, Vial serves in a similar role as a student leader at Bedrock Community Church in nearby Bedford, Va., where he often plays drums, keyboards, or bass guitar for the worship band and has been given opportunities to preach as well as provide spiritual counsel to the youth.
“My main passion is for youth ministry and I am hoping to become a youth pastor,” said Vial, who grew up in megachurches in Connecticut. “I am very involved in Bedrock Community and I have been balancing the two in a way — using my platform in sports to come up with stories to share with students, as well as using my experiences in ministry to reach out to the sports world.”
He may seem like a rock star at the sporting events he works, but remains as humble and down-to-earth as any of his peers on campus, and manages to relate to the 50-70 youth in his church on their level.
“It’s more about building a relationship, and it’s mostly by being intentional and having meaningful conversations,” Vial said. “I try to talk to them and just try to come across as real. I don’t want to be considered a celebrity. That’s all God out there. I want to be known as a youth pastor that just happens to emcee. One thing I’ve been learning a lot about, in my relationship with God, is the relationships He (Jesus) had with people. When they get to know you, and you get to know them, I personally believe that’s the best way that the Gospel message gets communicated.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer