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Life—More Than Football

with | August 26, 2009

When the hotshot college football quarterback loses his job to a young upstart named Vinnie Testaverde, can anything good come out of it? For Mark Richt, future coach of the Georgia Bulldogs football team, it was the best thing that ever happened to him. Join us and learn how Mark Richt put away the god of football and surrendered himself to the one true King.

When the hotshot college football quarterback loses his job to a young upstart named Vinnie Testaverde, can anything good come out of it? For Mark Richt, future coach of the Georgia Bulldogs football team, it was the best thing that ever happened to him. Join us and learn how Mark Richt put away the god of football and surrendered himself to the one true King.

Life—More Than Football

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August 26, 2009
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Mark:  I guess I was baptized as a baby, and I went through confirmation and that was about as far as we got.  I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God.  And then after that, it was just football that kind of became my god.   I suppose you could say, it basically became my life and what I believed in the most.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 26th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine.  Football is a fun sport, but it makes for a lousy religion, and a lousy god.  

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  If you had the choice to interview a division one head football coach or a movie star, which would you pick? 

Dennis:  Oh, no question!

Bob:  No question?

Dennis:  No question!

Bob:  I mean I am talking about good solid Christian folks; either direction.  You’d go…

Dennis:  Oh still no question!

Bob:  You’d go with the…

Dennis:   Head coach.

Bob:   Really?

Dennis:  No doubt!

Bob:   Well, what if you could interview somebody who is both a head football coach and a movie star?

Dennis:  I’d think of Mark Richt.  He’s a movie star.

Bob:  That’s right!

Dennis:  You starred in a movie, right, Mark?

Mark:  I wouldn’t go that far.  I was in a movie.  I think I was in there maybe three minutes with “Facing the Giants,” was the movie that I was invited to be a part of.  I enjoyed every minute of it and ‘gosh’ I have probably watched that movie 10, 20 times now, I have to see what I look like.

Bob:  When you got a call from the guys at Sherwood Baptist and they said, “We would like you to play a role in our movie….”

Mark:  Well, what happened was they mailed me a copy of their first movie which was “Flywheel.”  They asked me to watch it.  I watched it, privately; actually on an airplane ride I stuck it in a computer and watched it.  I was moved by it.  Loved it!  Then I said, I am going to show this to my family.  We loved it!  That was kind of the end of it for awhile. Then I went to a ‘Bulldog Club’ in Albany.  Sherwood Baptist Church is in Albany, Georgia and then I got approached by…

Katharyn:  Alex

Bob:  Alex Kendrick?

Mark:  Alex Kendrick!   Anyway, Alex came to see me.  I was right at the head table and he walked up and he said, “How’d you like ‘Flywheel?”   I said, “I liked it!”  It has probably been a month had passed or something, and then he said, “We are going to do another film.  Would you be interested in playing a small role in it?” I said, “Yes, I think I’ll do that.” 

So I flew … just one day they sent a plane and I flew to Albany.  I did the locker room scene during the day; we waited until it got dark, and did the scene in the stadium.  That was it.  I was in and out of there in about five, six hours and then it was probably another two years before the movie actually came out.

Bob:  But they didn’t call to see if you wanted a role in the next movie?

Mark:  No, they didn’t ask me about “Fireproof.”  I am very limited….

Dennis:  Do you think it is over then?

Bob:  The acting career is over? 

Mark:  I did get invited to another one, but I had to turn that one down.

Dennis:  Let’s ask your wife, Katharyn, “Do you think his acting career is over, Katharyn?”

Katharyn:  Oh, I think if that is something he wanted to do he could definitely be very good at it.

Mark:  The encourager!

Dennis:  Well, in case our listeners don’t know who Mark Richt is, and his wife, Katharyn, he mentioned a ‘Bulldog Club.”  If you are still not tracking with us, it is the Georgia Bulldogs!

Bob:  This has nothing to do with kennels or with dog show stuff?

Dennis:  No!   He plays a little football at Georgia, and our listeners know, I am a Razorback!  I wore a Tennessee tie in here today, so I was nearly rejected in the headquarters here of the Bulldogs when I walked in.  Mark was named the SEC coach of the year a couple of times.  His record is he has won 80 games in eight years.  He averages 10 wins and 2 losses in the SEC.  That is remarkable! 

Mark:  It is tough to do.

Dennis:  Absolutely remarkable!  For a number I have admired you as a leader and a coach.  I have had the privilege of meeting Katharyn a few minutes ago.  There is a lot going on in your lives that we just want to talk about.  I want to start with you, Mark, just about where you grew up.  There was a little competition, I understand, in the family that you grew up in.  Is that true, did you grow up competing?

Mark:  Well, we did!  We competed for food, mostly.  I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and ended up in Colorado by the time I was about seven and by the age 13 moved to Boca Raton, Florida.  I went to high school there.  I’d say we were pretty competitive in everything we did, whether it is basketball, football, or whatever it might be.

Bob:  Where did you fit in the family?

Mark:  I was number two son.  My older brother, Lou, was two years older than me.  My younger brother, Craig, was two years younger than me.  Mickie, or Michelle, is my sister and is two years younger than Craig.  And then Nichole, or Nicki, is about four years younger than Mickie.  So we had five. 

Dennis:  You moved to south Florida and you were noticed by the University of Miami as a quarterback and ended up going there.  Having to sit on the bench …

Mark:  I did!

Dennis:   …at the University of Miami.  I know you have a hard time believing this coach, but I played a little basketball…

Mark:  Okay.

Dennis:  …in high school.  I sat on the bench.

Bob:  So you played very little.

Dennis:  I played very little basketball.  Very little basketball!

Mark:  I can relate to that.

Dennis:  It really hurt to sit on the bench.

Mark:  Oh, I know it does hurt. Especially becoming a coach after the fact and living through all of the things that you live through as a head coach and  having to make all the decisions you need to make.  Everything Coach Schnellenberger did made a whole lot more sense as I became a coach.

Dennis:  You had a stint in the NFL and then ended up going to Florida State University and becoming a coach there.

Mark:  Right!

Dennis:  I just want to talk a moment about your spiritual background up to that point at FSU.  What kind of home did you grow up in, what were your spiritual roots?

Mark:  We grew up in a family that went to a Catholic church. I guess I was baptized as a baby.  I went through confirmation and that was about as far as we got.   When we moved to Boca Raton, we quit going to church.  Then after that just football kind of became my god; I suppose you could say,  it basically became my life and what I believed in the most.   I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God. 

I had a college roommate named John Peesley; he was only a summer school roommate.  The regular season roommates were different than the summer school roommates.  Something happened to John.  John was a year older than me and probably better at the night time games than I was; he had a reputation for that.  And then something changed with him, he became a believer.  He had accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior.  So, here he is fresh off of that experience and I am in the room with him and he is spending time with me reading God’s word and sharing what had happened to him.  I saw a miraculous change in this guy.  The thing that I saw that attracted me the most was the peace that he had that he never had before.  I was really attracted to that. 

Dennis:  You did not have that peace?

Mark:  Oh no!  I was a mess!  As the clock was ticking towards school starting again I was really contemplating on becoming a Christian and having what he had.  Three things really stopped me. 

Number one; I believe I was really concerned about what all my friends would think; my regular roommates and my girlfriend, what she might think.  I was thinking…I was really more concerned about what they thought than what God thought. 

Another reason why I didn’t do it is because I felt like in order to be a Christian, if I am going to claim to be a Christian, than I am going to be perfect from that point forward.  And the third reason why I didn’t become a Christian at that point I was still very self centered.   I still wanted, to possibly be a pro quarterback..  I still wanted what I wanted.  And I was afraid that if I turn my life over to God than He might send me off on a mission trip somewhere and I’d never come back.  I was really afraid that I wouldn’t be able to have what I wanted. 

So I put it off until I did go to Florida State and in the year 2 of my graduate assistantship a young man by the name of Pablo Lopez, who was a big tackle, I think he was a sophomore, destined to play NFL ball a beautiful athlete and a wonderful kid.  He ended up going to a party on campus, to make a long story short, he got shot and killed. 

The next day, Coach Bobby Bowden, had a team meeting, players only.  I happened to be there because I was taking roll and making sure the doors were secure.  Coach Bowden talked to the team about Pablo and about what had happened and that he didn’t know Pablo well enough to know where Pablo was spending eternity at that moment. 

To make a long story short, he shared his faith, he shared about the gospel of Jesus Christ and that at age 26, Coach Bowden gave his life to Christ.  He understood that he was a sinner and that God was real, He created us, and that Jesus was His son.  Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for his sin, and allowed him to be cleansed spiritually.

Dennis:  He actually pointed to a chair to an empty chair.

Mark:  That’s right!  He got to the end of sharing the gospel and he said, “Men, you guys are 18 to 22 years old, ya’ll think you are going to live forever.  Pablo thought he was going to live forever.  He pointed to Pablo’s seat and he said, “Pablo used to sit right there and now he is gone.”  If that had been you last night instead of Pablo, do you know where you would spend eternity?” 

Here I am in the back of the room hearing what he is saying to the players; all the seeds that were planted in the dorm room, back in Miami, really came to fruition.  I was like, I know where I am going, and it was not a very good place.  So, Coach Bowden invited the players to come see him if they wanted to come talk about it.  He said, “My door is always open.”  So, the next morning I walked in there and said, “Coach, I want to accept Jesus.”  I prayed and he prayed with me to receive Christ right there in his office.  

Dennis:  And you were how old at the time?

Mark:  I was 26.

Dennis:  The same age as Coach Bowden?

Mark:  Yes sir!

Dennis:  You know, Coach, as you were sharing that I thought, right here in the middle of the broadcast; what I’s like you to do is just invite a listener who is listening right now; because there is a lot of listeners, listening, and there is some… because of this economy, because of hardship things they are facing, and their lives are a mess. They would like peace as well. 

I don’t want to wait to the end.  I want to get to it right now!  Would you just share with a listener what they need to do right now and lead them in a prayer similar to what you did in Coach Bowden’s office?

Mark:   Sure!  I think the main thing is that where the peace comes from is knowing that once we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior; our spirit and soul which is the only part of our being that is going to live forever, is cleansed and that will never change.  A lot of times we get confused because we become Christians and we know we are a new creation, but we still sin. 

Well that is because we live in our flesh. 

But the thing that is made perfect is our spirit and our soul.  That is for all of eternity, so I know that no matter what happens on this earth when I take my last breath, I know I will be with God for eternity.  That is where the peace comes in because there is going to be hard times.  That is just part of life!

Bob:  And this life is just really the pre-season.

Mark:  God allows hard times so we can mature as Christians and so we can be prepared for what great things He has for us down the road.  I see that as I look back on my life.  All I did when I saw Coach Bowden is I said, “Coach I give up!  I give up trying to do it in my own strength and my own power and I need Jesus.  I am tired of fighting it.  I am tired of faking it and I truly want to have that peace that my friend John Peesley had and that you have, and hopefully Pablo had.”  So, he just asked me to pray and I guess we could pray right now.

Dennis:  Yes!

Mark:  And he just basically said, “Dear God, I love You and I know that You created me.  I know that You created me and I know You created me for a purpose and that is to fellowship with You and to praise You.  I want to accept Your Son.…the gift of Your Son Jesus’ death for the forgiveness of my sins where I can be with You for all of eternity.  Amen!”

Dennis:  The person who yields their life to Christ at that point, He doesn’t cast them out.  He doesn’t turn them away!  He welcomes that person in because no one is perfect.  We all need a Savior.

Mark:  That is why we had the Ten Commandments, people think the Law was given to …’ If I can obey these Laws then I get to go heaven.’  And in some ways that is true, but the bottom line is none of us can go through life without sinning.  We all fall short!  The Law was given to help us understand that we are in need of a Savior.

Dennis:  And a little bit later, Bob, will share with our listeners; those who made that commitment to Christ, a free book that we will give them that will explain more of that relationship and some very basic, fundamental things that they need to do.    What you are saying though, Coach; I want to make sure I heard you right, that when the camera is on you and you are yelling at a referee or the umpire…

Mark:  I’d never do that!  I rarely do that!

Dennis:  You do!  I have watched you.

Mark:   Every once in a while.

Dennis:  Not often!  Not often!

Bob:  It is intense conversation!

Dennis:   It is intense fellowship!  Truthfully, I am kind of kidding you about that point, but one of the things that I admire about all of you coaches in football today is the camera is on you all the time. 

Mark:  Yeah they do!   They can’t wait to catch you.

Dennis:  If the camera was on me and I was doing my job, oh my goodness, how much forgiveness would I need?  So you do better than I would do, trust me.  But the point is you know you are forgiven.

Mark:  Oh yes!  Well I don’t know if it is a sin to yell at officials, because it depends on what you are saying to him.  It is just like when you coach….

Dennis:   You are correcting a wrong.

Mark:  Exactly!  Or asking a question? You might be asking a question.  Just like I tell our players you know, sometimes when we yell they think we are yelling at them; we are barking out instruction quickly because we don’t have time to stop the practice, put our arm around you, and whisper in your ear and say, “ Hey son, why did you do that on that play?”   You have got to coach fast and go on to the next point.  You just got to get over it.  But when I do sin, that sin of coarse was forgiven at the cross.

Dennis:  You know I am going to ask you to do something special, here; I know Coach Bowden has had a profound impact in your life.

Mark:  No question about that.

Dennis:  What I want Bob to do is I want Bob to share how they can get a booklet we are talking about.  And then in a moment, what I am going to ask you to do is I want you to come back and I want you to give a verbal tribute to Coach Bobby Bowden.

 Mark:  I would love to.

Dennis:  Now some of our listeners don’t know who he is, so before Bob shares, tell them a little bit of who he is and kind of what some of his accomplishments are as a coach. 

Mark:  Right!  First of all, most people who know Coach Bowden know that he is the second ‘winningest’ coach in the history of college football behind Joe  Paterno just by a couple of games.  And they are still battling it out to see who will end up with the most.

Dennis:  do you have a prediction? 

Mark:  Not to be morbid, but my prediction is it will go on until one of them passes and then the other guy takes the lead and he know there is no way he can catch up and then he will retire.  That is my guess. 

I know him as a man who is a much better man than he is a coach.  This is very, very difficult to do.  He loves his Lord first and foremost.  He loves his family.  And then he loves his coaches and players. I got to feel that love; I got to experience that love. 

As a young coach just getting in the business, I could not have been under a better man because he was going to do things with the utmost integrity.  So really everything I learned about coaching, especially head coaching; I wouldn’t say everything because there were other experiences from other coaches, but the great majority of what I learned is from Coach Bowden and I am very thankful for that.

Dennis:  Okay.  We will come back in a minute and do that.

 Bob:  Let me jump in here because as you said a few minutes ago, Dennis, we do have a book that we’d love to send to any listener who in listening to today’s program you have said, “I want to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.” 

The book we want to send you is Pursuing God.  It spells out more clearly for you what it means to be a follower of Christ and how the relationship that begins with a prayer grows into a vibrant strong commitment to Christ.  Again, the title of the book is, Pursuing God and if you prayed to trust Christ as you were listening to Coach Richt, all you have to do is call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and say, “I would like a copy of that book.”  That’s 1-800 F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word TODAY and asks for a copy of the book Pursuing God and we are happy to send it out to you at no cost. 

Again, our toll free number is 1-800-358-6329.  Contact us to get a copy of the book Pursuing God and let me encourage you to get a copy of the CD’s of our conversations this week with Coach Richt and his wife Katharyn.  This may be something you would want to pass along to somebody you know who is a Bulldog fan or just a college sports fan or just a sports fan in general.

You may also want to get a copy of Coach Tony Dungy’s book, Quiet Strength.  In that book Coach Dungy lays out his experience not only at the pro level, but he also talks about his faith, his walk with Christ, and the values that have guided his life.  We have got copies of the book Quiet Strength in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center as well. 

Go online to FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information about all the resources we have available.  Again, our web site is FamilyLifeToday.com or call toll free 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Again when you get in touch with us someone can let you know about the resources that we have available that we can send out to you. 

Let me also encourage you, if you have access to the internet go to our website FamilyLifeToday.com and if you have a few minutes, we have posted on our website what we call our “Take Five videos.” 

If you have got five minutes you can go and view some videos that will share some stories about how God has used the ministry of FamilyLife in the lives of some couples over the last several months and we would love to share those stories with you.   You will find them online at FamilyLifeToday.com.  I hope those videos will be especially encouraging for those of you who help support this ministry financially.  We are listener supported and your donations are making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of couples all across the country and around the world.   We have just shared a few of those stories in these videos, but we do want to say thank you for your financial participation in this ministry.

We are approaching the end of our ministry year here at the end of August, and if you are able to make a yearend contribution to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today we would appreciate it. We are hoping to end this financial year in as positive of financial situation as possible, so we hope to hear from as many listeners as we can.  You can make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation.  And let me just say thanks in advance for your support of this ministry.  Dennis?

Dennis:  We have had the privilege today to talk with Coach Mark Richt and his wife, Katharyn.

Bob:  You didn’t get to say much did you Katharyn?

Dennis:  No, she didn’t.

Katharyn:  That’s okay.  I don’t mind.

Dennis:  We are going to get to your story tomorrow.  It’s going to be fun.

Katharyn:  No, it is okay.

Dennis:  Wouldn’t it be fun?  Coach Bobby Bowden had a great impact in your life that we talked about spiritually.  I want our listeners this because all of us have been given people in our lives that we need to influence for good and not for evil. 

Coach Bowden was an influence for good.  He was a spiritual man in your life.  What I would like you to do is just to imagine Coach Bowden sitting across the table from you and for you to look him in the eye and for you to give a couple of minutes of what he has meant to you as a man.  Just address him personally.

Mark:  Well Coach Bowden, and I would still call you Coach Bowden, I would never call you Bobby Bowden, like a lot of people do because of the respect I have for you.  I just want to thank you for blessing my life.  You gave me the first opportunity to coach at the college level.  You allowed me to coach QB’s when everybody thought you were crazy to let a graduate assistant coach do that. 

Then most importantly you led me to the Lord and my life truly changed from that point.  It was your example; it was your environment that you provided for me and my family that really attracted me to that end.  You were bold enough to preach Christ that day after Pablo died.  Pablo didn’t die in vain in that regard.  I just also want to thank you for all the years I got to spend at Florida State in a very stable environment in a very unstable profession. 

You blessed me and my family and now even as I move forward to be head coach at Georgia, you are still with me.  I don’t call you as often as I should, but I can always reflect daily on how you handled situations and quite frankly, there was a couple of times I thought you handled things improperly, to be honest with you.  And then after being head coach and sitting in this seat and living through some of the experiences I have lived through, I can understand completely why you did some things you did.  I have even more respect now than the day I left. 

 

Bob:  FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

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