By John Ed Mathison
I love coaches. I don’t know of any profession that has the opportunity to impact young people’s lives in a positive manner any more than coaches. I know I’m biased because I love sports, but coaches have had such an impact on my life. I’ve heard, “If somebody gets a foot in the door with young people – it will have cleats on it.”
I have been influenced in high school and college by wonderful coaches. I’ve met many great coaches in the junior high, high school and college arena. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at 4 different coaches conferences this year.
A few years ago I was speaking at a coaches conference and met coach Chan Gailey. I was with him recently when he came to speak at the Montgomery Quarterback Club. He is a great example of what an influence a coach can have. I had an opportunity to visit with him and then write an article about him for the Montgomery Advertiser.
Coach Gailey was a 3-year high school All-State selection as quarterback at Americus, Georgia. He played quarterback and was a 3-year letterman at the University of Florida. He was a very successful college coach at the Air Force Academy, Georgia Tech, and Troy University. He led the Trojans to a 12-1 record and the Division II National Championship in 1984!
His success continued in the NFL. He was head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills. He is the only Cowboys coach to make the playoffs every season with his team! He also served on the staffs of Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins.
Coach Gailey is a strong Christian. When asked about the greatest influence in his life outside of football, he immediately responded, “From my mother, father, and most of all Jesus Christ.” He said, “I stand before you today, not as a coach who professes Christianity, but as a Christian who happens to coach for a living. And there’s a big difference in those two!” Read Col. 3:23-24 and Psalm 1:1-3.
Several players from that National Championship Troy team were present for his Quarterback Club speech. They have a great admiration for Coach Gailey and give him lots of credit for their success in life today. He was noted for his impeccable character and integrity. He always coached players as if they were his own sons. He believed in playing winning football, but more importantly helping young men become all that God created them to be.
One of those players was Mike Turk, the current head football coach at Huntingdon College. For about 10 years, I spoke to the Jeff Davis high school football team every week. Mike was a player. He was small, but a great quarterback. Everybody told Mike he was too small to play college football, but he doesn’t listen well!
When Mike graduated from high school, he did not play football his first year, but he missed it so much, he went to Troy as a walk-on. Under Coach Gailey’s influence, he earned a scholarship, became a starter, became an All American, and led the Trojans to the National Championship! I love to hear the stories about that season.
Several of the players shared with me that they are Christians today because of the influence of Coach Gailey! One player said that Coach Gailey had the gift of being a strong disciplinarian, yet was respected by every player. He said, “When he walked in the room, you could hear a pin drop.” He also said that while playing for Coach Gailey at Troy, he never heard any cussing or any conversation inconsistent with living the Christian life. What a witness!
You may not be a coach, but you have an opportunity to make a huge influence in the lives of a lot of people. I challenge you to do in your sphere of influence what Coach Chan Gailey has done in his sphere. If we all do that, the population of Heaven will be different, and life will be better for everyone!