Valdosta Daily Times

October 9, 2013

Bradshaw Speaks

Legendary quarterback tackles everything at GCS dinner

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA —  Reporting on a Terry Bradshaw speech may be like trying to tackle him back in his quarterbacking days with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It ain't easy.

On Tuesday night as the keynote speaker for Georgia Christian School's 2013 Benefit Dinner, the four-time Super Bowl quarterback spun tales of his football days, impersonated his Steeler teammates, preached a sermon of giving thanks, encouraged competition as keeping a person on edge and having an edge as the secret to success, shared insights into his young life, told jokes, thanked the Lord for being alive and being granted the opportunity each day to do something great, led the audience in a humorous series of handshakes and hugs with the laughing encouragement to "now give each other a little sugar," advocated encouraging one another with the simple gesture of human contact, repeatedly spoke directly to "coach" to refer to Valdosta State University head football coach David Dean who introduced him, and Bradshaw served as a cheerleader for the school saying that "if later tonight you realize you have more money than you know what to do with, give it to God, give to this Christian school."

Though he spoke of being 65, suffering aches and pains, and occasionally wishing he could take the field to lead "his boys" again, Bradshaw delivered his speech in a rapid-fire staccato. He never slowed down, as seemingly dynamic on the stage as he was on the football field 30-40 years ago, speaking for nearly an hour. He roamed the stage. He squatted into quarterback stance. He impersonated other NFL quarterbacks. His voice boomed. He occasionally released a voluble whoop. His microphone gave out, but Bradshaw never stopped telling stories and sharing insights, often punctuated with the line, "That's cool."

He spoke of life's firsts: first kisses, being a member of the First Baptist Church, being the first NFL draft pick in 1970, Georgia Christian School returning this year to the football field for the first time in roughly 50 years.

As Christians, he said, we expect to go to heaven, and he does not want to be the first in his family to fail in that mission.

He spoke of waking each morning to accept the challenge of a new day: "I wake with the expectation of something good happening to me each day. If you can't say that then you've wasted the day. ... I woke up this morning, drew in air. This is good. I'm not dead. I'm going to Valdosta today; this is good."

Giving thanks: You can be a great quarterback but if you don't give thanks to the people supporting you, the people with you, you won't be successful.

Simplicity: He talked about growing up on a farm. Living a simple life. He recalled achieving national recognition as an NFL quarterback and people calling him stupid. "I'm a simple man. I'm not stupid. I'm simple."

Encouraging others: After leading the audience to shake hands and hug, Bradshaw said, "It's amazing what happens when we reach out to touch someone."

The last point seemed a theme for the evening. In opening remarks, Georgia Christian President Brad Lawson introduced James Wilkinson, who graduated from the school in 1942. Lawson shared details from Wilkinson's life, a World War II veteran in the Pacific Theatre, worked 39 years for the same company, married for 68 years, serving the Lord throughout his life. Lawson said he had planned a speech for the dinner but said the example of Wilkinson's life was better than any speech he could give.

The school also celebrated its first century by sharing plans to grow in the coming years.