Gary Brackett’s life reads like a movie.
He was a walk on at Rutgers University; yet by his senior year he was named defensive captain and won the team’s defensive MVP honors.
The linebacker went undrafted in 2003, but was signed by the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent. What should have been the beginning of the happiest times in his life was the beginning of the most tragic.
During a 17-month span, Brackett lost his mother, father and brother. In October 2003, his father, Granville died of a heart attack. Three months later, his mother Sandra went into the hospital for a routine hysterectomy and suffered a stroke in the recovery room. Brackett made the decision to take her off life support. Not long after, his brother Greg was diagnosed with T-cell leukemia. Despite a bone marrow transplant from Brackett, Greg died a few months later.
What got him through? His faith in God.
“My mother was an ordained reverend and always told us about the importance of faith and being a faithful believer and (the power) of prayer,” he told the Recorder. “When I’m dealing with tragedies or injuries, I give it to God. I believe that what is for me is for me.”
Brackett’s faith is a mirror to many NFL players. Like Brackett, when they secure a contract with a team, finding a church home is on the top of their to-do list. They pray with fellow teammates and gather together for Bible study with the team’s chaplain. Most importantly, they encourage each other to keep the faith.
“We (Colts players) have Bible study every week and chapel before every game,” Brackett said. “We have a bunch of believers on the team who stick together. When players bring up issues in Bible study or in confidence, we definitely lay hands on each other and pray together.”
Brackett, along with several NFL players – current and retired – will be on hand during the 13th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration taking place Friday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Clowes Memorial Hall.
One of the retired players, Dextor Clinkscale, who played from 1980-86 with the Dallas Cowboys and Colts said the vast majority of players have a very close relationship with their faith. Clinkscale, a member of the NFL Choir who will perform at the event added that players rely on their faith to help them through the season, injuries and ups and downs, professionally and personally.
“Players may not openly display their faith, although this year has been positive with Tim Tebow and his exuberance showing his beliefs, but he is one of the majority that have the same type of commitment to their faith,” Clinkscale said.
“Being a faithful Christian and a football player, in my mind, go hand in hand,” he said.
Raymond Berry, who caught 12 passes to lead the Baltimore Colts to a Super Bowl in 1958 will be on hand to present the championship trophy on Feb. 5. He said he always modeled “quiet faith.” Speaking on Tebow to a Texas newspaper where he resides, Berry said Tebow and other players shouldn’t worry if they’re mocked because of their faith.
“In six years as an NFL head coach, I never said one word about being a Christian,” Berry said. “Still, the ridicule was constant. People will make fun of him just because he’s a Christian.”
Brackett, on the other hand isn’t concerned with being ridculed or made fun of.
“What’s going to happen in life has already been written,” he said. “I’m just going to continue being a good steward.”