Hall of Famer Raymond Berry played
for the Baltimore Colts from 1955-1967. He led the NFL in numerous statistical
categories, retiring as the NFLs all-time leading receiver through
1967. His 12 receptions and 178 yards helped the Colts win the 1958
NFL Championship Game over the New York Giants. As head coach of the
New England Patriots, he guided them to an appearance in Super Bowl
XX. Today, Berry speaks extensively to both Christian groups and secular
audiences. Managing Editor Ken Horn visited with Berry recently in New
EVANGEL: How did you come to
I had been playing in the NFL for about four or five years for the Baltimore
Colts. We played in New York for the World Championship against the
New York Giants. It was an overtime game that we managed to win. At
that point in my life I didnt really give God much thought. But
after the game I had an awareness of God that was totally unexpected.
I began to understand that my athletic ability was a gift. The opportunity
to use it was a gift. The question I had was Why? There had to be more
to life than chasing a football.
My friend and teammate Don Shinnick
began to talk to me about Christ. I asked him once, "How do you
go about doing this, Don?" He told me what to say, and I prayed
and said, "God, Im going to trust Your Son, Jesus Christ,
as my Savior, and I mean business about this. But I dont really
know what Im doing." And that is about all I said. And thats
all I meant to say. Before that, I had never had any peace in my life.
I really struggled with guilt. After I prayed and asked Christ to be
my Savior, I experienced peace. I began to realize that I had been forgiven.
My whole life changed. I began to get answers for my questions. I began
to understand that God had a purpose for me. He had a plan for my life.
For the last 40 years I have been finding out what that plan is.
EVANGEL: How did your Christian
BERRY: I had also questioned
what would happen to me when I die. I started reading the New Testament
and found a tremendous amount of Scripture that dealt with eternal life.
I gradually realized that eternal life was a gift that God gave believers.
It was based on His love for us and what Christ did. It was not based
on anything we could do. That was what grace was. Youre saved
by grace and not works. That was a tremendous revelation to fully understand
and have assurance that I knew where I was going to spend eternity.
And it had nothing to do with my being able to earn it. It was all about
I was also searching for the purpose
of life. I began to realize that the Scriptures were pointing to the
purpose in life as doing the will of God. Don had told me the night
he led me to Christ, "Raymond, you dont have the power to
live a Christian life. If you will trust Christ, He will come and live
in you. Hes the power to live it. Your job is to let Him."
I began to understand that the purpose of the Christian life was to
do the will of God. I began to realize God gave me power to do His will
through the Holy Spirit. I could see that in my own strength I could
not do what God wanted me to do. I just had to learn to yield, submit
and obey. It was encouraging to know that I could accomplish what God
wanted me to do because He gave me the power to do it.
EVANGEL: Were there challenges
in living a Christian life while you were in the NFL?
BERRY: I found the challenge
in the Christian life was letting Jesus be Lord. As I began to study
the New Testament, I began to see that man without Gods help is
unable to live a life that pleases God. God sent Christ to the cross
to pay for our sins and satisfy His justice. But His plan included giving
us power to live a Christian life through the indwelling Christ. Christ
really comes to live in the Christian. He is the power to love people,
to forgive people, to carry out Gods will and plan for us. It
is power we dont have. We are not designed to have the power ourselves,
we are designed to have Christs power in us and to submit and
yield to Him. Thats a daily step-by-step process.
EVANGEL: Would you talk about
the importance of the Word of God?
BERRY: As a professional
football player I had a rhythm of six months on the job and six months
off season. It gave me a tremendous opportunity for in-depth Scripture
study. For the first five or six years that I was a Christian I studied
a lot of New Testament Scriptures. I wrote a lot of Scriptures out on
index cards. I would take them with me in the car and review. I really
wasnt consciously memorizing them, but I was ingraining the Word
of God into my mind and beginning to actually commit many of them to
memory. Today when I study Scripture, I really like to write my studies
down. I walk two or three miles several times a week, and I will take
those Scriptures with me while Im walking and look at them and
meditate on them. I have experienced the power of the Word of God. Ive
seen it work in the lives of people and have great confidence in delivering
any message to an audience if the Word is in it. I know that the Word
is going to do its work whether or not they remember one thing I say.
EVANGEL: Did you find many other
Christians in the NFL when you were playing?
BERRY: I became a Christian
in 1960. I wasnt really aware of it at the time, but I can now
see that four to five years prior to that God really began to work in
the NFL. People in the NFL were becoming Christians. Men were being
called to minister to professional athletes and present Christ and help
them grow. All of a sudden there were a lot of guys coming to know the
Lord in the NFL and in professional baseball.
EVANGEL: You also coached in
the NFL. Describe that experience.
BERRY: I never really cared
that much about coaching when I finished playing. But in seeking Gods
direction in what He wanted me to do, I realized that He wanted me to
coach. I had the assurance that God called me to coach and He would
give me the ability. During 20 years of coaching, I saw miraculous things.
I also went through tremendous trials, disappointments, heartaches,
persecutions and attacks. It wasnt a bed of roses. But God was
faithful in sustaining me and enabling me in a whole lot of victories.
Im talking spiritual victories as well as victories on the field.
I grew as a Christian through having to really trust the Lord. I gradually
realized that God was enabling me to stay in a position of humility
so that He could work His work and that I wouldnt get in His way.
I began to understand that I could be thankful when I felt inadequate.
EVANGEL: How did it feel when
you became a member of the Hall of Fame?
BERRY: When I retired, I
knew that my statistical numbers would qualify me for the Hall. The
numbers just say that. But it made me more aware that the only reason
it happened was because God intended for it to. I knew enough about
my abilities and capabilities to know by all rights it should never
have happened. But God overcame a lot of things and He used me. When
God creates influence, He has a reason. Its not for my glory or
my enjoyment. Its for Gods glory and His purposes inevitably.
He is interested in ministering to people and bringing people to Christ.
He has given me influence so I can be a witness for Him.
EVANGEL: Anything else?
BERRY: I stand on Jeremiah
9:23,24: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the
mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows
Me, that I am the Lord" (NKJV). In this passage God tells us where
life is and where it is not. Gods priority is that we have a relationship
with Him. I found a relationship with God more than 40 years ago and
it is still going on.