FamilyLife Today®

Becoming a New Creation

with Derwin Gray | January 6, 2010
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It’s not what you do, but who you know.
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  • About the Guest

  • It’s not what you do, but who you know. Today former professional athlete Derwin Gray motivates men to live a heroic life by getting to know the Great Hero so well that His greatness rubs off on them. Derwin tells how his own life was changed when an injury ended his NFL career and a colleague, commonly known as the “naked preacher”, led him to make the biggest decision of his life.

It’s not what you do, but who you know.

Becoming a New Creation

With Derwin Gray
January 06, 2010
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Bob:  When Derwin Gray was drafted into the National Football League, he thought he had arrived.  What he didn’t know was that God had a divine encounter waiting for him.

Derwin:  I had a teammate and his name is Steve Grant, but his nickname was the ‘Naked Preacher,’ because every day after practice this linebacker that was 6 ft. 2 in. and 240 lbs. would take a shower, dry off, wrap a towel around his waist, and then he would go to my teammate’s lockers and he would ask them this question using this voice; he would say, (sound of – tsk, tsk, tsk) “Do you know Jesus?” (Sound of – ‘tsk, tsk, tsk’) “Do you know Jesus?” 

I did not come from a Christian background; I didn’t understand that language, the first thing in my mind is, ‘Do you know you are half naked?’  But, what is so awesome about him is that for five years I watched his life and he embodied the message that he communicated; “Do you know Jesus?” and it was a changed and transformed life.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 6th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine.  Before you settle in to watch the National Championship game, or the NFL Playoffs this weekend, you need to hear what Derwin Gray has to say today. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today!  Thanks for joining us!  For those folks who haven’t tuned in yet, here during the New Year, we’re beginning each of our programs here during the month of January with an exhortation of sorts.


Dennis:  That’s right!  We want you to get in the Bible, because we know if the Bible gets in you, you are going to be a better person.  We just wanted to have an emphasis here as we start 2010 to be intentional about getting in ‘The Book’ and letting the book reside in you.


Bob:  So, we are starting each program with a verse from the Bible.  In fact, we are using verses that are found at the beginning of each daily devotional in the book, Moments with You, that you and your wife Barbara wrote for couples.  So, what is the verse at the beginning of the January 6th devotional?


Dennis:  Well, if you think yesterday’s verse was convicting; Ephesians 4:29, will give it a run for its money.   Ephesians 4:29 “Let no unwholesome words proceed from your mouth ... “Oh man! .... “but, only such a word as is good for edification.” 

So, there is two commands; first of all, don’t let any negative words come out  of your mouth that tear a person down, but secondly, let words come out of your mouth that build another person up.  What you could do is just take time tonight at the dinner table to talk about times when your spouse has built you up.  Those words that have encouraged you or something they have said or done in the past week that really truly edified you. 


Bob:  You may want to reflect on whether your words have been seasoned with salt or pepper. 


Dennis:  Well, it shouldn’t be a time, Bob, to just look at the negative and go..., ‘Yeah, that unwholesome word, and there is another one there ...’ No, let’s keep this discussion on the positive side. 


Bob:  Well, and again, we are going to spend a little bit of time at the beginning of each program here in the month of January pointing you back to the scriptures in hopes that you and your family will be intentional to spend time in God’s word during 2010. 

Now, we also need to make sure our listeners are aware that this week and next week if they may want to sign up for one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, that kick off Valentine’s weekend here in about another five weeks.  You are going to be up at the Gaylord National Hotel in Washington, D.C.; I’m going to be at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA and we have got other conferences all around the country that weekend. 

But, if you want to sign up for any of the conferences going on throughout the spring, you sign up this week or next week, and you identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, when you register for yourself, your spouse comes free.  So, it is a ‘Buy One – Get One Free’ registration for FamilyLife Today listeners this week and next week only.  If you are registering online, you identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener by typing my name, “BOB,” in the key code box on the registration form.   All the details you need about locations and dates; all of that can be found online as well. 

Or, call 1- 800- FLTODAY; register over the phone and just say, “I listen to FamilyLife Today, or say Bob sent me,” or something like that.  And again, when you register for yourself, your spouse comes along free.  It is a ‘Buy One – Get One Free’ opportunity for FamilyLife Today listeners and we hope you will make plans to attend one of these upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences. 

Now, I don’t know if you noticed this, but it kind of smells like testosterone in here.  Have you noticed that there is a slight scent of testosterone in the air?

Dennis:  Is that because the cover of the book...


Bob:  That is a pretty intimidating cover!


Dennis:  Are those your arms there?


Bob:  I would not want to run into that guy.


Dennis:  .... with a sword


Bob:  I don’t ... no sir!

Dennis:  I don’t’ think they are, Bob.   I can answer you. 

Bob:  Whew! 

Dennis:  The book is called, Hero.   The author is Derwin Gray.  Derwin, welcome to the broadcast!

Derwin:  Well, thank you guys!  I am thrilled and excited and on behalf of my wife, I just want to thank you guys because in 2002 my wife and I had ventured into a Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference and it changed our lives.  And so, we are thankful!  As a matter of fact,

Bob, I want to give you a kiss on the forehead and Dennis, I am just going to just come tackle you right now!  In love, of course!  In the name of Jesus!

Bob:  You had better be careful, because I don’t know if you have seen Derwin online as the ‘Evangelism Linebacker.’  Have you seen this?


Dennis:  I have not seen that. 


Bob:  Oh!  Buddy!  Many of our listeners may have seen this.  If they haven’t we have got the link on our website.


Dennis:  What did you just call him?


Bob:  The ‘Evangelism Linebacker!’  This video....


Dennis:  This is how he shares his faith?

Bob:  Well, explain the ‘Evangelism Linebacker.’

Derwin:  Yes!  Essentially the ‘Evangelism Linebacker’; what this character does is that he tackles people who don’t evangelize.  It is a total spoof!  But, as a former NFL player, anytime I can tackle somebody and not go to jail is a good day!  And so these college students wanted to be tackled!   People that I love I tackle them!


Bob:  In Christian love.... and it is a great video.  I first saw this three or four years ago it was one of those viral videos that just started getting passed around and I’m sorry to say I had followed your career prior to your ‘Evangelism Linebacker’ days.


Derwin:  Well, you are not the only one.


Bob:  You played for five or six seasons in the NFL?


Derwin:  I did!  Five with the Indianapolis Colts from 1993 to 1997 and one season with the Carolina Panthers in 1998.

Bob:  A couple of times you were nominated for the ProBowl?


Derwin:  I was in ’95 and in ’96.  Yes!

Bob:  And the career, what happened back in ’98 to end that career?

Derwin:  Well, against the Dallas Cowboys I ran downfield, made a move and ran into a blocker and he went one way and I went the other way and my knee said, “I don’t agree with that.”  A ligament was snapped and I broke a bone on the outside part of my knee.  So, the sixth year, I knew something was changing, something was happening and so, that injury just hurried up the process of me transitioning from the NFL into becoming a speaker and a pastor.


Bob:  When you say you knew something was changing, you don’t mean physically, you mean something was happening inside of you?

Derwin:  Yes!  Something was happening where as my passion and my desires for football were changing.  Instead of seeing myself tackling a running back so hard that snot-bubbles come out of his nose, I began to see myself on stage preaching about love and compassion and Jesus. 

As football player, you need to be all the way in.   I realized that my  passions were changing and I didn’t understand what God was doing and so, moving into that sixth season and as I got injured, now I can look back and see that six years was the time I needed to build a platform that I have now. 


Bob:  Do you ever preach so hard that snot-bubbles come out of peoples’ noses? 


Derwin:  You know.... Ahhhh ..... I


Dennis:  Have you ever had that question?


Derwin:  I have never had that question asked before. 


Dennis:  We feature questions here ....


Bob:  ...that nobody dares to ask.


Dennis:  Nobody would ask. 

Derwin:  But, I have broken a watch before and that kind of stuff.

Bob:  Broken a watch?

Derwin:  Yes! 

Dennis:   From tacklin’ somebody who came to your church?

Derwin:  Yeah!  They were getting up to leave, I am joking!  I am kidding! 

Dennis:  Well, let’s reel all this back in, because you have become a preacher and you also have your own ministry that you and your wife, Vicky, give leadership to.  You grew up in a home, though, that was not exactly the picture perfect biblical home.  You didn’t have godly roots there?

Derwin:  No!  I love my family, they are the only family that I have, but the reality was it was not the greatest environment to grow up in.  My mom, when she was 16, she gave birth to me.  By the time I was five, my dad was out of my life.  My grandmother primarily raised me and she did the best job that she could do.  I came from an environment where no one was married, not very many people had jobs, I have seen a lot of drug abuse, and I had seen things that a young child should not see. 

By age 13, I recognized that my way out of this was two ways; the military or football.  So, I began to eat, drink, and sleep football.  I began to train as hard as I could train, because that was my salvation.  So, I viewed football, in essence, as my god.  A god is anyone or anything that gives you purpose or identity for life.  I ended up getting a football scholarship to Brigham Young University in 1989.

Dennis:  Before you go there, you had some points of interacting and some intersection with your father as you were growing up as a young man that I found... I couldn’t believe.  It is like...WOW!  Dad stepped back into your life at an athletic event and you haven’t seen him in two years?

Derwin:  Yes! When I was in the 8th grade, my Dad showed up for a basketball game and I hadn’t seen him in years.  He was sitting next to my mom.  As I was playing, I was getting angry that he had the audacity to be there.  As he was yelling things, I don’t really know exactly what he was saying, but as he was yelling things and I just continued to get more angry and more angry.  And I had a terrible game! 

After the game, he came into the locker room and he began to talk to the coach and it became clear to me and the coach that he had a substance abuse problem.  At that moment, I had decided in my mind that I am going to live as though he did not exist. 

And now, we have reconciled, but that has been through the love of Christ, because I realized that the same love that Christ gave me I now needed to extend to him.


Dennis:  Well, let’s go back to going to Brigham Young University on scholarship... Was football your god at that point?


Derwin:  Football had no rival in my life!  Football was my god!  It defined everything that I did!  I got a football scholarship to Brigham Young and here I am a kid from the ghetto and I go to Provo, Utah.  A total culture shock!  I went to school there and I played under a great coach, Levell Edwards.  I went on to win four Conference Championships and got drafted in the 1993 draft as the 92nd selection.  Right before I graduated college, my wife and I got married.  She was a javelin thrower on the track team. 


Bob:  Whew!


Derwin:  Yeah!  So, I don’t make my wife mad ...


Bob:  No!

Derwin: ... because if I tried to run down the street and she would throw a fork a hundred yards and get me in the gluteus maximus or something.


Dennis:  Yeah really!  So, you did quite well in collegiate football, drafted as the 92nd choice in the NFL, and you had the world by the tail, didn’t you?  Everything was revolving around you, traveling with the team, going on road trips with the Colts; it had to be a fun lifestyle.


Derwin:  Your dreams often meet reality, and reality often beats up your dreams.  For me, you enter into this NFL and everything you see on TV becomes reality.  But, actually, my first year in the NFL, I wanted to quit!  You had rookie hazing, the work was a lot harder, and the pressure was a lot more intense.  It actually took me about 2 years to get the groove of the NFL.  My mission and my objective of getting to the NFL was this; *If I make it, I can make a lot of money then I can send money home to Texas and that would fix all the problems, that would change everybody’s life and that would fix my life as well. 

So, by my 3rd year in the NFL, I was a team captain, I had a nice car, the beautiful wife, and I had a baby girl and I was able to send money home to my parents, grandparents and siblings, but the reality is I was sending the wrong thing home.  You can only send what you possess and so I thought that money would change things.  But, money could not empower me to love my wife the way she deserved to be loved.


Bob:  God had started to do a work in your heart; was it back in your rookie season when happened? 

Derwin:  I had a teammate and his name is Steve Grant, but his nickname was the ‘Naked Preacher,’ because every day after practice this linebacker that was 6 ft. 2 in. and 240 lbs. would take a shower, dry off, wrap a towel around his waist, and then he would go to my teammate’s lockers and he would ask them this question using this voice; he would say, (sound of – tsk, tsk, tsk) “Do you know Jesus?” (Sound of – ‘tsk, tsk, tsk’) “Do you know Jesus?” 

I did not come from a Christian background; I didn’t understand that language, so the first thing in my mind is, ‘Do you know you are half naked?’  So, I asked the veterans on the team what’s up with the ‘half naked black man walking around talking about – Do you know Jesus?’  They said, “Don’t pay no attention to him, that’s the ‘Naked Preacher.’” And he embodied the message that he communicated.  Whenever somebody needed wisdom or direction they went to him.  When other guys were out partying, he had a family.  He honored his wife!  He honored his children!  The way he played the game, the intensity and the passion!  He had what I did not have.  By him asking me that question over a five year period, I had seen what he meant by, “Do you know Jesus?”  And it was a changed and transformed life.

Bob:  But there came a point in that five year period when those questions started to penetrate below the surface.

Derwin:  Absolutely!   Over the five year process, I accomplished all my dreams and I recognized a few things; number one, fame and money and status and power could not heal my heart, it could not teach me to forgive.  And it could not empower me to forgive those who had hurt me and it could not empower me to love my wife the way she deserved to be loved.  Then you add getting injuries; that when you start getting injured, you recognize that football doesn’t love you unconditionally. 

Over the year year process, this ‘perfect storm’ was arising and so, on August 2nd, 1997 my fifth year with the NFL, it was a training camp at Anderson College in Anderson, Indiana, after lunch I was down in the dumps and I got back to my dorm room and I called my wife on the phone and I said, “honey, I want to be more committed to you and I want to be committed to Jesus.” 

That’s when I was born again!  I recognized that the living God of the universe loved me and not coming from a Christian environment I never heard a man say, “Son, I love you.”  To recognize that the living God of the universe loved me and not just a little bit.  If He had biceps, He would tattoo my name on it.  God was passionately in love with me.  It just ... had undone me!

I got infected with this virus called grace and the intensity has only increased since that day.  What did it for me was God loves you, not based on how fast you run, not based on how hard you tackle, but based on the facts that it delights His heart to love.  It is not just a love me to leave me the same, but to love me and to transform me into a new kind of person. 


Bob:  Was Steve – ‘the Naked Preacher’ at training camp that year?


Derwin:  Steve Grant, Yes!  We played together for 5 seasons.


Bob:  So, when you called your wife and said, “I want to be more committed to you and more committed to Jesus,” did you go tell Steve?


Derwin:  Yes!  I talked to him the very next day and he began to discipling me and a couple of other guys.


Dennis:  Cool!


Derwin:  People often ask me, “What was your greatest experience in the NFL?”  And I’d say, “I met the ‘Naked Preacher.”  They were like, “Say what?”  I would say, “Yeah!  I met the ‘Naked Preacher,’ let me share the story about the ‘Naked Preacher.”


Dennis:  Well, the ultimate experience of the NFL was you met the King of the universe. 


Derwin:  That’s right!


Dennis:  Through His Son, Jesus Christ!   He still changes lives!  I have to believe, Derwin, that there is a listener right now who identifies with your description of yourself.  It may be a man, it may be a woman, they may be married, they may be single or their lives may be in a mess. They haven’t performed and as a result it is chaos.  And right now what they need is a relationship with Christ.  Would you lead that person who is listening right now into how they can have a relationship with Christ?

Derwin:  I would be honored to do that.  For those of you that are out there, maybe you think you have outrun the grace of God, maybe you think you have messed up so bad that God could never love you.  What is so awesome about our God is that there is nothing that we can do to out run His long arms of love.  There is nothing that we can do to out-sin  His grace and I am going to ask you a question that was asked to me.  “ (Tsk – Tsk – Tsk)  Do  you know Jesus?” 

Well, He wants to know you.   A way that you can come to know Him is simply by acknowledging a couple of things;  the first thing is that you acknowledge that there is a God that does love you, the second thing is that you acknowledge is that you have blown it and God specializes in rescuing people who have blown it.  That is called sin!  The next thing to recognize is that Jesus Christ died on a cross because you blew it and His motivation was love. And not only did He die, but He rose again on the 3rd day, not just to go to Heaven, but to live His life through you, so that  you could become a new kind of person; the person that you were created to be and to be a part of His team.

So, I want you to say this to Him, “Jesus, I want to know You!  I want to know Your love!  Right now, I recognize that I have blown it and that I have sinned.  I recognize You were nailed to the cross for my sins.  You were compelled by Your love and I believe You rose again on the 3rd day.  Right here and right now, I trust You as my God, my Savior, and my Friend.  In Christ’s name, Amen!  

If you prayed that let somebody that you know that is a follower of Christ or ask God to lead you to a Bible believing church so you can get plugged in and get connected.  Remember, don’t go witnessing with just a towel wrapped around your waist and a Bible.

Bob:  Don’t start tackling people who aren’t sharing their faith.


Dennis:  That is exactly right!  But, you know what you can do, you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and start the journey of your new found faith in Christ with a resource that we give to people at no cost, who have placed their faith in Christ as their Lord and Master.

Bob:  That is a book called, Pursuing God, and we are happy to send it to you.  The first portion of your book, Hero, is all about the one we were just talking about.  You talk about the ultimate Hero, the God who saves us, right?

Derwin:  Absolutely!  In order for us to live the heroic life you have to know the true Hero, Himself!  Sometimes, I think we are more overwhelmed with sports celebrities than God.  I want to write in such way that when people get done with a chapter they go, “God is awesome!”

Bob:   I think you have done that and I think you have kept in mind that guys; because I think it is going to be mostly guys who read your book,  a lot of them don’t like a whole lot of words in their chapters, so you have kept the chapters short.  It is a great book for a guy to use as his daily devotional or to use with a group of other guys in a small group.

We have got Derwin Gray’s book, Hero, available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center and I want to encourage, particularly the guys who are listening to go online and get a copy of this book to help understand more about what it means to be God’s man.  The book is called, Hero, it is by our guest today, Derwin Gray.  Go to there is more information there about how you can get a copy of the book or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY; that’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY.  We will make arrangements to have a copy of the book sent out to you. 

And quickly let me remind our regular listeners about the special offer we are making  FamilyLife Today listeners this week and next week; if you want to attend one of our upcoming  FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences this spring, and we hope you will, because this is a great ‘Tune up’ for you  and your spouse.  It is a ‘Get Away Weekend’ where you can relax, enjoy some time with one another, and learn more about what the Bible has to say about God’s purpose and plan for your marriage.

If you want to sign up this week or next week, we have a ‘Buy one - Get one free’ opportunity for you.  You identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener and when you buy one registration for yourself, the second registration for your spouse is absolutely free.  All you have to do is either go online at; we have got all the information you need about the conference available there, where it is coming to a city near where you live, and you can register online and if you do, just type in my name.  Just type ‘BOB’ in the key code box in the online registration form and you will qualify for the special offer.

Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, we can answer any questions you may have about the conference, we can tell you when it is coming, where it is going to be, and we can get you all signed up over the phone.  Just make sure you mention that you listened to FamilyLife Today or tell them Bob sent you, and again you will qualify for the special – ‘Buy one, Get one free’ opportunity.  It is good this week and next week only, so let us hear from you and we hope to see you at one of our upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences. 

I should also mention for those of you who would like to become a FamilyLife Today Legacy partner, and agree to make a monthly contribution to FamilyLife Today, you sign up as a Legacy partner and go ahead and have those donations made via credit card each month, we will send you a certificate for a fee registration for a Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference. 

So, you have got the opportunity to ‘Buy one – Get one free’ offer this week or next week, or you can sign up as a Legacy partner and we will send you a certificate for both of you to attend a conference as our guests. 

You can find out more about becoming a Legacy partner online at or again call 1-800-FLTODAY.  Let me just say ‘Thanks in advance for your support of the ministry.”   We appreciate your financial partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today.

Now, tomorrow, Derwin Gray is going to be back with us and we are going to talk more about how God rearranged his priorities after his years in the NFL and talk about what it takes for a man to be a hero.  I hope you can be back with us for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I am Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.


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

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Episodes in this Series

Husbands Day 3
The Playbook for Heroes
with Derwin Gray January 8, 2010
Even Superman would struggle to meet the obligations and duties that face the average man!
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Husbands Day 2
Becoming a Difference Maker
with Derwin Gray January 7, 2010
Inside every good man is a hero.
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