People of Faith: Rosey Grier
- Thursday, January 22, 2004
Rosey Grier has the uncanny ability to go in 10 different directions at once and yet somehow still keep moving closer to Jesus. There is Rosey the ordained minister, Rosey the author, Rosey the singer and songwriter, Rosey the actor, Rosey the humanitarian, Rosey the Republican, Rosey the visionary and Rosey the former NFL All-Pro defensive linemen with the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams.
There's even Rosey the trivia question. Who tackled and subdued Sirhan Sirhan after the assassin gunned down Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968? Why, Rosey Grier, of course.
During the course of a life that began in 1932 in Cuthbert, Ga., the 71-year-old Grier has popped up in places where one might not expect to find a 300-pound football player. In 1973 he published, Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men. And long before roly-poly Ruben Studdard became an American idol, an even more robust Grier was singing and acting on television, appearing in his own variety program.
Grier even managed to become a participant in one of the biggest media feeding frenzies in U.S. history when, as a pastor, he visited O.J. Simpson in jail while the former star running back awaited trial for the murder of his wife and her friend.
"Sports Illustrated'' once described Grier this way: “Not even Forrest Gump was as accidental a tourist as Rosey Grier has been.''
Through all the celebrity twists and turns, however, Grier has not allowed himself to stray from the narrow path that has come to define his existence. He is first and foremost a follower of Christ, and whether he's singing, sewing or soliloquizing, Grier remains focused on his true purpose - bringing God into everything he does.
Grier's latest association is with the Lead Like Jesus Movement, a ministry aimed at teaching people how to model the leadership teachings and techniques of Jesus. Grier attends the LLJ conventions and still finds a way to hang out with celebrities, although not of the secular variety. Instead of rubbing elbows with superstar athletes and Hollywood actors, Grier hangs with such stars of the Christian faith as Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and LLJ co-founder Ken Blanchard.
Mostly, Grier stays busy running his Los Angeles-based urban youth ministries. He is co-founder (along with Estean Lenyoun) of American Neighborhood Enterprises (ANE) and is Chairman of the Board of Impact Urban America, an offshoot of ANE. These two outreaches combine real estate, development and construction companies to provide job training, employment and affordable housing for the disadvantaged, underprivileged and at-risk persons in the inner cities of the nation. He also is founder and COB of “Rosey Grier's Are You Committed,'' a program which enhances spiritual awareness and self-esteem in underprivileged urban youth.
So he stays busy.
And he wouldn't want it any other way.
There was a time when Grier busied himself with more worldly efforts, but eventually the taste of secular success turned sour.
Grier grew up the seventh of 11 children and was named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was a big, tough kid with a soft side, teaching himself to play the piano when he wasn't playing sports with friends.
After playing four seasons of college football at Penn State, Grier in 1955 headed to the Giants, where he would twice be named All-Pro. He played 13 NFL seasons in all, spending the final years of his career on the West Coast with the Rams, where he became part of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line. It was the Hollywood influence that began to turn the gregarious Grier inward. He had grown up in the Baptist church, but paid little attention to what it meant to live an authentic Christian life.
“I was invited to all the parties. I was well known. Superstars were always around,'' he said during a phone interview. “I felt comfortable with everybody, but eventually realized I didn't have everything. I didn't have the glue that holds life together.''
That evangelical epoxy arrived in 1978 when Grier's son, Rosey Jr., convinced his father to attend a church service in California.
“I said, ‘Man, I don't want to go to church,' but he said, ‘Dad, I've never been to church.' So we went early one morning and I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and realized that that is what was missing from my life.''
Within four months, Grier had remarried his ex-wife and began pursuing a “second'' life as a minister.
Now, he reaches out to those who suffer from the same depression and hopelessness that caused him to “close myself inside my apartment and close the drapes'' in the early 1970s.
Even back then, he attempted to help urban youth, but his efforts were hindered by his own lack of energy.
“It seemed everything I was doing was unfruitful,'' he said. “I'd bring in lawyers to help kids and those kids would get right back into the same problems. I was like a soldier who was too long on the battlefield.''
That changed when Grier put God in charge of his life.
“When I came to know Him, I suddenly knew He was the real answer to society's problems. That God was what could change the world.''
And God is unchanging, even if the guy who follows him is constantly on the move.
Click here for information about Lead Like Jesus.
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