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Coach “Bear” Bryant, and the Packers, Transformed My Life

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 10, 2023 3:01 am

Coach “Bear” Bryant, and the Packers, Transformed My Life

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 10, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, ere’s Rich Wingo with the story of how his time under the legendary Alabama coach refashioned his character, and then how his time with the Green Bay Packers redefined his faith. 

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To learn more about Nissan's electric vehicle lineup, visit www.NissanUSA.com. And we continue with our American stories. Up next, a story from Rich Wingo. Wingo played football at the University of Alabama under legendary coach Paul Bear Bryant. Bryant is considered by many to be one of the greatest college football coaches of all time.

Wingo also played five seasons for the Green Bay Packers from 1979 to 1984. Here's Rich Wingo with the story of how his time under Coach Bryant and with the Green Bay Packers transformed his life. I was raised in northern Indiana, Elkhart.

It's right on the Michigan line. Coach Bryant recruited me. I was looking to go to, had committed to Notre Dame, and Coach Bryant, I just felt it was too far from home and actually committed to Notre Dame. And my father, I came home from that visit that weekend, and my father said, That's a great school.

You get a great education. He said, But Rich, I don't want to see you come through that back door until Christmas time. Because I was 20 minutes from Notre Dame. And when he was 17 and left high school, he went and fought in the World War. He wanted me to separate. And so after that, you know, hurt my feelings, you know, honestly. And I told my high school coach I wanted to visit Alabama because they had recruited me. And I did. I came down here. It was February.

It was 70 degrees and beautiful. And I left 13 below in Chicago. But I wanted to be a part of something special. Coach Bryant said if I wanted to be a part of something and work hard, pay a price, I was welcome.

If I didn't, put me on a plane and send me home. Well, Coach Bryant, I don't think, liked me too much. One day at practice, a week before our first game, I was a starting middle linebacker and he kicked me off the team, kicked me off the field. And I met him in his office that night after practice. And he told me he thought I was a good player. He thought he was a good coach, but he just wasn't sure if he wanted me on his team. It broke my heart.

Crushed me. He told me that I was satisfied and content with where I was. And he said, I want people around me that are sold out, all in, committed. And he said, Rich, you're not. I was starting the year before as a sophomore, but that's not what he was taught. He said he could take people less of an athlete. He said, I can take those guys and I can win championships with those guys because they want to get a little better every single day.

And he was spot on. And by the grace of God, the next day he took me back. He told me that we'll pretend like nothing ever happened. And in fact, everything happened. I was the first person on the field, the last to leave, the one that was in every drill, gave it everything they had.

In the weight room, in the film room, that day, the next day, the next day. Over a period of time, I came from a place of content to committed. And it's because he cared enough about me to push me, to take me to a place that I didn't want to go. And I'm so thankful that he got me there in the years at Green Bay, the seven years I played at Green Bay. I mean, you know, I would always look back on that. And that was the difference in my football and probably my life as far as effort. So Coach Bryant had a huge impact on my life. But one thing I do worry about today, you know, I couldn't imagine being a coach today with having the ability to know that if I get on this player, because he desperately needs someone to tough love him and make him do things that he doesn't want to do.

I mean, that's what coaches do. That he has the opportunity to never come back. He's going to the portal. He's going to transfer tomorrow. And he's being paid. He can leave whenever he wants to leave. I mean, I'm sorry, but when I was 18, 19 years old, I was very immature.

I do stupid things. And we don't like to be told what to do at that age. I couldn't imagine coaching today. You know, when I was there, we lived in a dorm. They paid for our food. We paid for our education. We felt blessed that we were getting a free education. We had to work for it. But what an honor. And today, I feel like these young people feel entitled because they're made to feel entitled. And I think it's just that I wouldn't raise my sons that way.

You know, if you really love someone, the greatest thing, the best thing you can do is make them do things they don't want to do. That's the beauty of sport. But see, today, if he were to kick Rich Wingo off the team his junior year, starting inside linebacker, I would have had my nose in the air, and I would have gone to the portal.

And I would have gone to someone, just given up, and missed the greatest lesson that I could have learned. It was my fourth year at Green Bay. I had it made. Married to my college sweetheart, starting middle linebacker for the Green Bay Packers.

Man, that was my life's dream. God, I mean, you know, does it get any better? But about halfway through the season, there was something terribly missing. And it had nothing to do with football.

But football didn't fulfill. And I came to a place in my life where I just said, there's got to be more to life than this. And I was searching.

And really searching. And God stationed a man in my life. His name was John Anderson.

And he was an All-American outside linebacker for Michigan. And he was my roommate for seven years, when we would travel on the road. And he was in charge of chapel services. And he would always invite me to chapel. And seldom would I ever go.

We'd get in town on a Saturday afternoon. We'd meet and have chapel, and then play the game on Sunday. But seldom did I go, just because I knew what was right, but I always chose what was wrong. My parents did a wonderful job. My dad was a deacon. My mom taught Sunday school.

I mean, listen, I was raised in the church. I knew what was right. It's just that I chose to do.

I wanted to live my life. And I was lost. You know, the Bible says that the evidence of your salvation is by the fruit.

And I was bearing no fruit. I walked the aisle. I checked the box. I was baptized.

I checked that when I was 12 years old. But I was just lost, as lost could be. And Andy invited me to chapel. We were playing the New York Jets in New York. And he said, Rich, come.

There's going to be a famous baseball player, New York Yankee, Hall of Famer. And so I thought, well, I'm searching. I'll go.

So I went. I don't even remember his name. I just remember one thing that he said. He said he envisioned Judgment Day being like this. And he said that he stepped through a turnstile. And Jesus Christ was seated on his right. And Satan was seated on his left. And he said Almighty God was on this unbelievable throne. And he said it was just, he said the words I couldn't even express, I couldn't even look at.

He had my attention. And he said when it was my turn, this huge semi-truck backed up. And Satan stands up, opens the tractor trailer doors, and it's packed full of computer printout paper. The truck, you know, remember how computer printout paper was? It was all connected.

And the smallest print. And he said that Satan grabbed the end of it and he started reading. And he said he's reading the filthiest, sickest, most perverted sin you and I have ever heard. And he said in front of God, and he said in front of Jesus who gave his life for this sin. And he said all of a sudden I realized that what he was reading was my sin. Those were all, that truck is packed full of my sin. And now he's really got my attention. And he said that, he said in front of God, and he said it just goes on and on.

The sins of the mind, the sins of the mouth, the arrogance, the flesh, the filth, the lust, the anger, the pain. He said it's all. And he just goes on, he's loving it. And God finally interrupts him and looks at him and he said, what about it? And he said before I could just say, Father just cast me to hell.

Because that's what I deserve. He said Jesus stood up, put his hand on the Father and said, Father, he's with me. And I remember sitting there in that New York hotel meeting room saying to myself, Jesus Christ would never stand for me. I'm a, I'm a joke. I'm a liar. From the world's view, I was a good guy. I didn't do drugs, I didn't cheat on my wife, but I would have.

Because I was searching. And I couldn't wait to get out of there. I'd like to tell you I gave my life to Christ. I was too prideful, too arrogant. I didn't want my teammates to see me. And three weeks I ran from Almighty God. And I found myself in an empty Green Bay locker room one night.

The last guy there, I don't know how, I don't know why, I don't know where the managers, I don't know where the trainers were. I was just in my locker and I was just sitting there saying. I mean, I'm the middle linebacker for the Green Bay, I'm the signal caller, I'm the quarterback of the team.

And I could care less about the game. And I just begged Jesus Christ. I said, man, if you are real, come into my life, change me. Take control of my life. No longer am I the authority of my life that you be the authority. And then I put my faith and my trust in you.

And he did. I mean, I was one of those guys that was radically changed. I mean, people thought I got a concussion or something. You know, I was the talk.

Did you hear about, did you see where, you know, I was that guy. Amen. And a terrific job on the production and editing by Greg Hengler. A special thanks to Rich Wingo for sharing his story. And a shout out to 1819 News and their media company in Alabama. And my goodness, that story about Bear Bryant and that confrontation.

Bear says, I want people who are sold out, all in and committed, and you're not. And as Wingo told us, everything changed. Rich Wingo's story of Bear Bryant and the faith journey of Rich Wingo here on Our American Stories. Now is the time to experience America's pastime in a whole new way. Major League Baseball has teamed up with T-Mobile for Business to advance the game with next-gen 5G solutions. Going deeper with real-time data visualization, new camera angles that put fans on the field with their favorite players, and even testing an automated ball strike system in the minor leagues. This is the 5G era of baseball. See what we can do for your business at T-Mobile.com now. Major League Baseball trademarks used with permission.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-10 04:28:13 / 2023-08-10 04:34:06 / 6

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