Joe Gibbs: Leaving a Legacy
By Shawn Brown
The 700 Club
NFL Hall of Famed coach Joe Gibbs is one of the most successful men in sports. As the head coach for the Washington Redskins, he won three Super Bowls. After retiring, he bought a NASCAR team, and they won three championships themselves. Though he’s been a sports icon for more than 20 years, Coach Gibbs says the most important lesson he learned came when he was just a boy.
“I can’t remember if it was in the third grade in school,” he tells The 700 Club. “I was being told that two amoeba happened to hit in a muddy puddle of water two billion years ago, and I was an accident. I was the result. I wasn’t real smart, but I said, ‘I don’t like the sound of that.’ My mother and grandmother had me in church, and I was the kid that played in church. But pastor was telling me something totally different that there was a God. He knit me together in my mother’s womb. He made me special. He wanted to have a personal relationship with me.”
As Joe grew up, sports became a big part of his life.
“I had a basketball net that my dad had put up outside. I went out there and dribbled all day long. I wanted to play basketball. Then I’d go baseball, and then I’d go to football. I remember playing football in a plowed field. I grew up going from one thing to the next wanting to play something.”
Joe played football all the way through college at San Diego State University. Though he wasn’t quite good enough for the pros, he got a chance to stay in the game when he worked as an assistant coach at his alma mater.
“I wound up through a wild set of circumstances getting into coaching. I went in and volunteered with Don Coryell, who was a big part of my past, great coach. A lot of people say he was one of the greatest coaches ever. He was very good in high school, college and pro. Another guy on that staff was named John Madden. Some people probably know that name. Then I wound up starting my coaching career. There were only five of us on the coaching staff, and I wound up begin a gopher for John Madden.”
After two seasons, in San Diego, Joe spent the next few years as an assistant coach at some of the nation’s top college football programs. Soon, Gibbs was an assistant coach in the National Football League, thanks to his former boss, Coryell, who was coaching the St. Louis Cardinals at the time. After five years with Cardinals, Joe went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s where he developed the head coaching itch, but no one would hire him.
“I kind of panicked. I’d got all the way to 40 years old. I interviewed a couple times at college. I didn’t get a chance to get a job and was turned down.”
Joe began to worry about his future and was in need of direction.
“Through a wild set of circumstances, I wound up sitting in an airport totally discouraged, reached over and there was a Bible there. Picked it up, turned to James ‘cause I was talking about making a decision in my life. A young guy about my age tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘I claimed that chapter over my life six months ago,’ without me saying anything. He relayed a struggle in his career very much like mine. He said, ‘I made a decision in my life. I’m going to turn this over to the Lord. I’m going to quit trying to do this myself.’”
And with that message, Joe was off to the San Diego Chargers, where he reunited with Coryell. Gibbs helped devise one of the best offenses in history. The Chargers became the first team to average more than 400 yards per game. Soon, Joe Gibbs got the call he’d been waiting for his entire career.
“Bobby Beathard ard called me. We were in the playoffs, lost the game. Bobby calls me late at night on the way home and said, ‘Hey, Mr. Cooke wants to talk with you.' I was on a high after that point. Got a meeting, and all of a sudden the conversation changed where he said, ‘If you take this job…’ I kind of went, ‘Oh my gosh! I may get a chance to coach the Redskins.’ It was one of the great nights. I didn’t sleep for two nights after that.”
In 1981, Gibbs became the head coach of the Washington Redskins. As he looks back, he remembers his first season was a bit shaky.
“We started out the season 0-5. I told everybody, I felt like I was going to be the first guy to coach and never win ‘cause I was going to get fired before we win.”
But the very next season, Coach Gibbs led the Redskins to their first Super Bowl victory, and the Gibbs dynasty was born. Over next 10 seasons, Gibbs won three more NFC championships and two more Super Bowls. While success is great, he says it’s not what you take away that’s important, it’s what you leave behind.
“The further you go in life, the more you realize what you’re going to leave this earth. It’s not going to be, ‘It was a great platform. It was great to win the Super Bowl,’ but really and truly what you’re going to leave on this earth is the influence on others.” Coach Gibbs remembers this lesson in his new book, Game Plan for Life.
These days you’ll find Joe on the speedway with Joe Gibbs Racing. But whether he’s on the football field, the raceway, or writing another book, you can be assured he’ll be sharing this message.
“You and I are players, God’s our coach, and we’re playing the biggest game of all. We have a loving God that made us. We need to get on His team. It says in His word, there’s only one way to Him and that’s through Jesus Christ. Ask Him to be your Savior. What you find is that there’s really only two teams in the game of life. If you’re on God’s team, you can’t lose.”
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