Conversation: Bill Glass
The value of a role model
Bill Glass graduated from Baylor University in 1957 and
became a first-round professional draft pick. He went on to play for the
Detroit Lions from 1958-61 and the Cleveland Browns from 1962-68.
At 6 feet 5 inches tall, the 260-pound defensive end became
one of the most dominant pass rushers in Browns history, going to the Pro Bowl
four times and helping the team win the 1964 NFL Championship as well as three
divisional championships. He established franchise records with 14.5 sacks in
1965, plus seven consecutive games with a sack the following year.
Upon retirement in 1969 — after he had obtained a
degree in theology from Southwestern Theological Seminary — Glass founded
the Dallas-based Champions for Life. The ministry has a network of Christian
volunteers, including athletes and entertainers, who evangelize and disciple
at-risk youth and prison inmates. Glass shares his long-term ministry
philosophy in the 2005 book Champions for Life: The Healing Power of a Father's
Blessing. Glass, 72, recently spoke with TPE News Editor John W. Kennedy.
tpe: How has football changed since your playing days?
GLASS: In 1962, with Raymond Berry of the Baltimore Colts, I
was the first to start a chapel service for a team while I was with the
Cleveland Browns. We had Bible studies and worship services on Sunday mornings,
getting the best evangelical speaker we could find in the community where we
played. A number of our teammates trusted the Lord as a result. Now every team
in the NFL has a chapel service.
It was great last year when Super Bowl opposing coaches Tony
Dungy and Lovie Smith were the first coaches to come out strongly about their
faith. They said the Super Bowl was the biggest day of their life —
except for the day they trusted Christ as their Savior.
tpe: Why did you go into ministry immediately after your
GLASS: I had been conducting about six citywide crusades a
year all over the country during the off-season the last three years I played. I
went full time when I retired. I had given testimony at six Billy Graham
crusades, and he challenged me to preach full time.
tpe: What life lesson did football teach you?
GLASS: It taught me the value of teamwork. I wasn't a highly
valued quarterback or receiver. I was a defensive end. Being a grunt on the
line means you have to be a team player. In ministry I've done everything in a
team configuration, trying to get Pentecostals and other Christian volunteers
to cooperate and serve as counselors. The prison ministry wouldn't be possible
without the advance work a local team does.
tpe: Why do former athletes join your ministry team?
GLASS: We have about 25 athletes who work with us as
platform speakers for the Weekend of Champions prison ministry. People like
Bruce Collie, who has two Super Bowl rings, are challenged by the great
opportunity to share their faith in the Lord with inmates.
I find few men or women who ever make any kind of commitment to the Lord except as the
result of a crisis. And everybody in prison is in crisis. We've seen hardened
criminals really change. We had 50,000 decisions for Christ last year in
tpe: Why is it important for dads to express love to their
GLASS: I had a father who really blessed me by expressing
how much he loved me. But he died of Hodgkin's disease when I was 14 and that
left a terrible hole in my heart. But I had a coach in high school, Bill
Stages, who knew what it was like to be without a father. His parents had been
killed in a car wreck when he was a baby. Every day he would work with me and
teach me how to play defensive football. I was the smallest, clumsiest kid on
the team. He lifted weights with me. He told me I was doing well. He really
became a substitute father for me.
Within a year, I gained 60 pounds and grew 6 inches taller.
I got to the point where no one could block me because of the great technique
my coach taught me. I went on to play pro football for 11 years, with great NFL
coaches like Paul Brown. But that coach in high school taught me more than all
the other coaches put together. He really cared for me, and that's the key.
tpe: Why is it important for even grown sons to receive
affirmation from their fathers?
GLASS: If you don't have it, you probably will end up like a
lot of guys I see in prison. Several years ago I walked down death row in
Parchman, Miss. I asked every man the same question: How did you and your dad
get along? Well, 44 out of 44 said they hated their father.
tpe: You suggest the affirmation needs to be expressed
GLASS: Totally. When Isaac is blessing Jacob in Genesis 27
it involves a hug and a kiss. Jacob was probably between 40 or 50 years old at
the time. My kids are in their late 40s now and they need their father's
blessing even more than when they were younger. They face a frightening world
with frightening responsibilities.
My boys weigh 280 and 290 pounds and both are 6 feet 6
inches tall. Recently I grabbed my oldest son Billy and told him, "I love you.
I think you're terrific, and I'm so proud you're mine." I was communicating
love, value and belonging. His eyes filled with tears and he said, "Thanks, I
really needed that, Dad." We don't get too old for our father's blessing.
tpe: What's your favorite team in the NFL?
GLASS: I'm still a Browns fan. Cleveland inducted me into
their Hall of Legends in October, which means I must be an old man. I live in
Dallas so I'm kind of interested in the Cowboys, too. I feel like a turncoat
because the Cowboys were the Browns' worst rivals when I played. But I still
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