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Singletary recounts childhood hurts, goals, renewed faith, forgiveness

OKLAHOMA CITY(BP)–Being a champion involves much more than winning games or even championships; it means serving God totally.
Those words would be meaningful coming from most people, but they have even more impact coming from Mike Singletary, one of the greatest linebackers to ever play in the National Football League.
Singletary, who played 12 years with the Chicago Bears, winning one Super Bowl, was in Oklahoma City speaking at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet July 15. On Aug. 1, Singletary was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The banquet was co-sponsored by Oklahoma City’s Northwest Baptist Church and the Christian Business Men’s Committee of Oklahoma City.
Also speaking was Keith Davis, who played with the University of Southern California and the New York Giants. Davis now is on the Power Team, a group that displays feats of strength in churches.
Known for his intense play, Singletary terrorized quarterbacks in the NFL and twice was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He played at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, before the NFL. But he is only of average height, and in fact was the baby, and the smallest child, of his family.
The family lived in the ghetto of Houston, where his father was a Pentecostal preacher. Singletary said he remembers hearing his nine brothers and sisters telling stories of the Singletary clan.
“I remember trying to figure out how I fit into the family,” he recalled. “I was just a young kid trying to find my place.”
His siblings didn’t help when they commented on how different he was and speculated that he had been adopted. That insecurity led him to have problems in school, and he had no ambition, he recounted.
When he was 12, Singletary said his life took a dramatic turn.
“I was talking with my mom when Dad walked up and said he wanted Mom to step outside,” Singletary recounted. “He said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it; I don’t want to work on it; I want a divorce.’
“I was 12 years old,” he said. “I wanted to say something to Mom, but there were no words. So I stood there, looking at her.
“Mom asked him, ‘How are we going to make it?'” Singletary said. “Dad said, ‘You’ll work it out.’
“My mother showed me what being a champion was all about,” he said. “Friends and family and church members called her and said, ‘If I were you, I’d give up and go on welfare.’ But for two years, Mom worked 23 hours a day. She paid the house off that we almost lost.
“She responded the only way true champions respond: on her knees.”
Singletary said he asked his mother if there was some way he could help, but she said, “No, son, just keep going to school and doing the best you can.”
He said his brother, Grady, moved back home to be “the man of the house,” but six months later was hit and killed by a drunk driver.
“I don’t know how she knew it, but I was close to giving up,” he said. “That day, I was moping around the kitchen.”
Then his mother had a talk with him.
“Son, this thing called life is tough,” she said. “The first thing, this thing that me and your father went through hurt, and I hope you never have to go through it. And it hurts us all, having Grady killed.
“Are you going to give up and start standing on excuses? Every time you get knocked down, you’ve got to get up and keep getting up. The God we serve is a great God.”
She then asked him if he could become the man of the house. “Something in her eyes said, ‘Boy, I believe in you; you can do it!” he said.
For the first time in his life, Singletary said he felt like he was a part of the family and had responsibilities. That day, at the age of 12, he sat down and wrote out a list of goals. He hung those goals in his closet and took them out to read from time to time. Included on his list were goals to:
— find a way to get a scholarship into college.
— become an All-American football player in college.
— be drafted by an NFL team.
— buy his mother a house and take care of her for the rest of her life.
— start his own business.
Singletary accomplished every single goal, he said, through God’s power.
“My mom said all things were possible through Christ,” he said. “I always believed I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The key, he said, was when his mother believed in him.
“You can’t talk about being on a team and about being a champion until you feel significant,” he said.
On spiritual matters, even though Singletary made a profession of faith as a child, he said he was never consistent in his walk.
“I was on-again, off-again, according to what group I was with,” he said. “I responded the same way everyone else did. People watched me and said, ‘Why would I want to be a Christian?’
“Those days were horrible,” Singletary recalled. “Some days I was up, some days I was cold. People said, ‘Man, you’ve got it all.’ But inside I was hurting.
“After winning the Super Bowl, I remember feeling awful. I remember saying, ‘What am I doing with my life?'”
He said God allowed him to see himself for the first time: as a hypocrite, as a joke.
Singletary said he had been trying to get one of his teammates to attend a Bible study. At practice, someone made a mistake and Singletary cursed at him.
“The guy I had been trying to get to Bible study said, ‘I didn’t know you could be a Christian and talk like that! Cool!’ I knew then that I had to bring it all to the Lord.”
Every time he had tried to change his life in the past, it had been unsuccessful. This time, he said he prayed and told God he wasn’t going to do anything to change; he wanted God to make the changes himself.
“The Lord met me where I was,” he said. “When he met me where I was, he began revealing things to me.”
Singletary said he had a conversation with God that went like this: “Michael, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
“Sit down, we’ve got work to do.”
“Lord, you name it, I’ll claim it.”
(He showed me a picture of my father walking away from me and my mom.)
“How do you feel about him?”
“I hate him.”
“I want you to go to your dad and forgive him.”
“Lord, you are a mighty God. Surely, you’ll think of something else.”
“Do you love me?”
“You know I do.”
“Then obey me.”
“I told God I’d make a deal,” he said. “I would call, let the phone ring once, then hang up. So I called, and the phone didn’t even ring. Dad answered before it rang.
“We talked for three hours. I felt released for the first time. Then I realized forgiveness was not for him; it was for me.”
He asked his dad when he finally realized he had made a mistake in filing for divorce.
“He said, ‘Immediately, but I felt like I was on a one-way highway and I couldn’t turn back,'” Singletary said.
After they talked for awhile, he said he told his father, “Dad, if they lined up all the fathers in the world, side by side around the world, I’d pick you.
“I told him, ‘Dad, God has forgiven you. Can you forgive you?’
“Humble yourself, forgive and let it go,” Singletary advised.
Singletary said being a champion is more than being a winner.
“Being a champion is being obedient,” he said. “Being a champion is being humble. Being a champion is saying, ‘I’m sorry, I forgive you.’
“Come to the cross and say, ‘I want that freedom. I want that peace. I want that joy.'”
Earlier, Davis told of a game between the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles. In the first half, Troy Aikman led UCLA to a shutout of USC.
At halftime, though, the USC coach encouraged the team, and in the second half, USC rallied, shutting Aikman down and winning the game on a last-minute touchdown.
Davis compared the game to his own life. His father was a drug dealer who committed suicide when Davis was only 4 years old. Davis was in remedial education and having a tough time of it. But in the second half of his life, he went to USC, graduating with a degree in finance.
He attributed his success to “godly heroes” in the adults surrounding him and in “my heavenly Dad.”

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  • Dave Parker