Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bruce Matthews: My Favorite Hall of Famer

This weekend our friend Bruce Matthews will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. If you're interested in reading about his remarkable 19 year career in the NFL you can go here. I'm going to share some things about Bruce that you won't read in the sports reports.

El Jefe and I got to know Bruce and his family years ago when we attended the same church. There are seven children in the family--five boys and 2 girls--which keeps Bruce and his wife Carrie hopping. Nonetheless they filled up a couple of pews on the side of the sanctuary every Sunday they were in town. El Jefe and my girls usually sat near them in what Babs termed "Testosterone Row" (because of all the boys).

Bruce has a wonderful singing voice, too, but because he needed to corral his restless band of cowpokes in worship he couldn't join the choir. But one year the children's choir director persuaded him to play the role of Goliath in the children's musical presentation of David and Goliath. My friend Dorothy and I had to create his Goliath costume from scratch. There's no pattern in the McCall's catalogue that will fit a strapping NFL center! Bruce was a great Goliath and it was a memorable performance.

Once the Houston Oilers morphed into the Tennessee Titans, the Matthews family spent football season in Nashville and the rest of the year in Houston. The first year they returned after football season was my first year as Director of Christian Education. Bruce came to me the first Sunday he was back and asked if he could help teach Sunday School. Could he ever! Bruce led the high school Sunday School class for several years. He was a wonderful teacher because he related easily to the kids. An evangelical Christian, Bruce shared freely with them how important his faith in Christ was for him in his personal and professional lives and encouraged their spiritual growth. That class had its highest attendance in the years he led it.

Bruce has a degree in industrial engineering from USC, so he began a small construction business that he worked with in the off season. He often loaned the services of his company to do repairs or upgrades for the church's physical plant. One time I asked the session for bookcases for my office when Bruce was serving as the elder in charge of buildings and grounds. Lo and behold a few days later Bruce appeared toting two extremely heavy tall bookcases that he assembled for me himself. El Jefe nominated him to the board of our presbytery's conference center and he was very helpful there with their building and expansion projects.

El Jefe and Bruce shared a deep interest in the history of the Civil War and had the same political, religious and theological viewpoints. Every Sunday between services they solved the problems of the world and the church on the porch outside the sanctuary. Every Sunday that he played football we were looking for number 74 on our television screen. In the past couple of years both of our families moved to different churches and we miss seeing them every Sunday.

With all the scandals today erupting around professional athletes in almost any sport you can it is important to recognize someone like Bruce Matthews, who not only excelled in his sport but lives a life of integrity and faith worth emulating. El Jefe and I were invited to attend the festivities at the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend with the Matthews' family and friends this weekend. We're off to Canton, Ohio tomorrow morning for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hooray for Bruce!

11 comments:

Rev Kim said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story! We need to hear so many more of them from our pro athletes.

Have a great time! As a rabid football fan, especially of the Cowboys, I'm so jealous! Truly, once-in-a-lifetime!

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

What a wonderful story! We need more good men like him.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Not a football fan, unless I'm in person at a game, then I go feral.

This is a great story. Wish stories like these dominated the headlines. Such a need for role modelsl like Bruce.

Hooray for Bruce indeed!!!

Alan Trafford said...

Wonderful story, Jodie.
I was at a conference last year where I met Fred Hoaglin, also an ex-Oiler, who is now some kind of coach for the Giants (linebacker, I think). He is also an elder at Hilton Head Presbyterian Church! He may have overlapped with Bruce.
We used to have another old Oiler at First, Lake Jackson, but he played in the 60's. His name was Pat Holmes, and he ended up running our internet ministry before moving to New Mexico.
Neither of them were too pleased when I mentioned being a Steelers fan...
Alan Trafford

St. Casserole said...

I love stories like this. So glad to know more about Bruce Matthews and his family!

Have a happy, happy time!

loosedchains said...

Wonderful to see this. My father-in-law played 11 years as a guard with the Vikings and he too has a wonderfully soft evangelical heart.

revabi said...

I am so glad you shared about Bruce Matthews, he is the kind of man, our kids need to know and idolized. I love the title of the row "tetesterone row". That is too cool.

St. Inuksuk said...

Hope you enjoyed a great weekend in Canton, OH - not far from where I serve. Same presbytery.
Thanks for sharing this uplifting background on Bruce Matthews. Too bad that doesn't make the media!!!
What an inspiration!

little david said...

Hope you had a great time, Jody. Thanks for sharing his story. I, too, wish that the newspapers carried articles like this.

Rev Scott said...

Thanks for this post. Bruce was certainly a great football player, but he sounds like an even greater Christian. What a blessing to know that family so well!

ellbee said...

I must confess that I thought I read DAVE MATTHEWS (as in DM Band- singer), and it just didn't seem a likely choice.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this lovely story instead. I'm glad you shared this. Always good to hear about the Good Guys that are still out there.

Still...maybe QG likes Dave, too?