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Five Questions with Sport Illustrated’s Thomas Lake


 Thomas Lake is, at 34, one of the youngest senior sports writers at Sports Illustrated, and he is not shy about the fact he is a Christian. Yet in a world where believers are sometimes marginalized for their faith, he has a lot of credibility in his field, and it is largely due to his remarkable gift at the art of long-form journalism, which brings people and circumstances alive in a way that photos and over-edited television interviews cannot (for example, take a look at his piece “The Boy They Couldn’t Kill“).

Lake was home-schooled as a child and attended a small, charismatic church that his dad pastored. His mom was responsible for his education, a great deal of which involved going to the library, checking out dozens of books, and reading whatever he wanted. When I interviewed Lake, I was particularly interested in how he succeeded in a world that sometimes disdains home schooling and conservative Christianity. His answer was pretty inspiring.

1. You were home-schooled and raised in a conservative Christian family, and you’ve thrived in the secular world. That’s probably not what some people might have expected, based on their stereotypes. How did your parents help you do that?

I’m the third of six children. We’ve got a social worker, a registered nurse, an electrical lineman, a journalist, and two people teaching college. We pretty much all started out at some kind of community college where everything depended on making good grades and making our own way. Even my dad did that — around age 45, he went back to college, and now he’s a college professor. Sometimes we hunted in the couch for enough quarters to buy the $2.99 Monday Night Special medium pizza from our local Pizza Hut. My brother and I delivered newspapers. I was kind of a lazy kid, but I eventually learned that you have to work very hard if you want to get anywhere good. My mother taught me how to pull weeds and how to scrub a frying pan. Also how to read and write. Thriving in the secular world? Generally speaking, it’s still a meritocracy out there. Build your skill, use your talent, and don’t expect any favors from anyone. If you’re good at your job, you’ll probably find people who want to hire you.

2. You’re one of the youngest senior writers for one of the most prestigious sports magazines in the world. I mean, a lot of folks would say that you’re kind of a big deal. How do you stay humble?

I knock over my coffee, spilling it on my pants and various important documents. I see an email bounce back and realize I’ve misspelled the recipient’s name. I lock the keys in my office. I wake up in the morning thinking about the unkind things I did and said the night before. Basically I get humbled about 17 times a day.

3. If you could give believers one piece of advice about how to influence the people in their lives who aren’t believers, what would it be?

Love them. Be the friend you wish you had. Return calls and emails. Admit you don’t have all the answers. Admit there’s more than one way to interpret the Bible. Listen. Listen. Listen. When you see a car on the side of the road, pull over and ask if someone needs help. Carry jumper cables.

4. Which piece of yours are you most proud of and why?

I did a story seven years ago for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. It was called “Costly Mistakes,” and it was about a good man named Tallie Gainer who was the victim of a wrongful arrest. Through a lot of investigation, I helped Mr. Gainer clear his name. I wish I’d written more stories like that.

5. I know this is going to sound like a job interview question, but I’m really curious: Where do you see yourself in 20 years?  Like, where is this already-amazing career headed?

I’m close to finishing the second draft of my first novel. Will it ever see the light of day? I hope so. But it’s a huge risk of time and energy. If it does come out, and people like it, maybe I’ll write another.

Thanks for chatting with Boundless, Thomas — we’ll be some of the first to buy your novel. And for our readers who would like to follow Thomas, you can find him on Twitter @ThomasLake.


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About the Author

Joshua Rogers

Joshua Rogers is the author of the book Confessions of a Happily Married Man. In addition to writing for Boundless, he has also written for,, Washington Post, Thriving Family, and Inside Journal. His personal blog is You can follow him @MrJoshuaRogers or on his Facebook page.


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