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CBN.com Scott Ross [reporting]: Remember Alan Autry? He’s that straight-talking Captain Bubba Skinner on the TV series In the Heat of the Night. Today he’s on his second term as Mayor of Fresno, California – the very place he grew up and worked the fields.
Alan Autry: Somewhere along the line, I really got a burning desire to get out of those fields. At an early age, I realized going to college was a way to get out. I knew a scholarship for football would allow me that. So I really focused on that and got one scholarship offer.
Ross [reporting]: In his sophomore year of college, Alan was the 10th ranked football passer in the nation. But then, he blew his knee out.
Autry: I got drafted by the Green Bay Packers as a quarterback based on my sophomore year. I had a great career going until they put me in.
Ross [reporting]: Alan went in and played himself out of the NFL.
Ross: When did the acting bug hit you?
Autry: It wasn’t a bug. The third season in the league, I got cut. The starter got hurt, I went in, and I was very ill-prepared to be a starting quarterback for the National Football League. I didn’t have the maturity. I didn’t have the discipline. I was scared to death. Never realized my whole life I was scared -- probably of those fields, living a life like my dad lived, chewing dust 16 hours a day, earning $2.20 an hour, dying of emphysema, ill treatment at a hospital because he couldn’t afford insurance.
So when I got cut, I said to myself, 'I’ve got to have something to replace this.' I went down the list: insurance salesmen? No. Hollywood actor? Hey, those guys have it. It must make you feel like you're worth something, like football did for me. So I went off to Hollywood looking to be somebody.
Ross: In what way?
Autry: When you’re living in fear, you become susceptible to a lot of bad things. Alcohol ran in my family. I took my first drink at 16. By the time I got to Hollywood, I didn’t know who I was. I started falling prey to more and more drink. I got into some drug use and started a nightmare I almost never woke up from.
Ross [reporting]: Obviously, Alan’s alive and well. So what happened? After nine years of living in Hollywood, battling drugs and alcohol for six of those years, Alan got to thinking.
Autry: My whole life I’ve trying to fill up something inside me.
Ross [reporting]: So Alan returned to his roots.
Autry: I was living with my mother at the time; she was on social security. I said, "Can I come home from Hollywood?" She said sure. I was on my last leg. I was 33 years old; I had built up a reputation in Hollywood of being not too dependable. I sit there, bowed my head and said, "Lord, please help me, if You’re there. I’m at my ropes end. I don’t know what matters in life. I don’t feel like I’m worth anything."
Ross [reporting]: What happened next Alan best describes as a vision of his death bed. God made it perfectly clear what was important.
Autry: I’m thinking to myself [that] right now it’s over. What really matters? What if I had four Super Bowl rings? Would that matter? No. What if I had ten million dollars in the bank? I thought I wanted to be rich, because I was raised so poor. Would that make me feel like something? No.
I realized that God had moved in my life like never before. I really realized what God and the power of Jesus Christ was. The message I felt in my soul was: "Son, you can’t earn what only I can give." I knew that things had changed forever. I didn’t know if I’d make another dime in the movie business. I knew one thing: I wasn’t going to die high. I knew that the good Lord had delivered me right then and there.
Ross [reporting]: Soon after Alan accepted Jesus Christ, he was back in show business.
Autry: This movie put me back in the business. It allowed me to get back on the scene, and about six months later, I got a call to come in and read for In the Heat of the Night.
Ross: How did you make the transition from the acting world into the political world?
Autry: I’ve always had a desire to serve my country. When the good Lord picked me up, dusted me off and gave me a second chance at life, I promised then and there to give back.
Ross [reporting]: Mayor Alan Autry isn’t just giving back... he’s giving it all he’s got.
Autry: I ran on that platform: every kid deserves an education and my faith is going to guide me. It was an issue when I first ran. They said, "How can you be such a Christian? Are you going to take your faith to the office?" I said, "My faith goes with me everywhere. That shouldn’t be a source of fear to anyone in this community." My Christian faith holds me accountable for treating people equally. I hope I’ll always be a person of faith.
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