LISTEN TO EP.69
How To Choose Faith Over Fear When It Counts With Coach Mark Richt
Have you ever felt paralyzed by fear? Coach Mark Richt, former head football coach at the University of Georgia and the University of Miami, and longtime assistant coach at Florida State University has been there. Richt has made many “calls” in his career. He attributes his success on and off the field to living a life that is pleasing to God and finding that faith overcomes fear at every turn. He shares how to make decisions in those defining moments, offers guidance on how to become courageous leaders, and what he believes is the most important decision you will ever make.
What a great joy to welcome you to the Influencers Podcast and what a fascinating program we have for you today. We’re going to look at how someone becomes such an incredible influence. Young men, who aren’t even his biological sons, call him on Father’s Day. We’re gonna talk to a coach who has influenced in the sports world and in the world of faith. Coach Mark Richt is with us today, who is a beloved football coach. He’s generous. He’s a philanthropist. He travels as a motivational speed, his most important jobs. He’s a husband, he’s a dad, and he’s an author of a book that is called, “Make the Call”, that we’re gonna talk about today. He started coaching with the famous coach, Bobby Bowden and Bobby made a huge impact in his life as they together coached Florida State University, the seminars. He went on to become the head coach for the University of Georgia. I think about 15 years in that role, then to the University of Miami throughout his career, he won two SE championships, five SEC division titles, one ACC title in 2002 and 2005. He was named the SE coach of the year in 2017. He was named the ACC coach of the year. And that year also nationally named the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award coaches, currently a football analyst for the ESPN ACC Eric. He travels all over the country in speaking engagements and working in philanthropic work. He’s married to his wife, Catherine, and it is a story. This is a story of the football guy, marrying the cheerleader. That’s right. And they’ve been married for how long you’ve been married coach?
We been married almost 35 years. And this, this is a beautiful thing. I could tell you got your information off of Wikipedia because, it says she was a cheerleader, but she actually was not a cheerleader.
Oh, well, thanks, let’s clear that up right now!
It’s the new joke in our family because a lot of people come up to her and say, “Oh, you’re a cheerleader at Florida state”, but she never was.
Wow. I’m sure that in your 35 years…
We’re on our way to 35.
Wow. In your years together, I’m sure she’s cheered you on a lot. So we’ll give her that honorary title.
Well, she has been the water girl in Georgia and did a lot of cheering from behind the water.
Well, that’s, that’s for sure.
So good to clear things up when we’re with you, you have four adult children
That’s right, right. Yes, sir. . And two grandchildren.
Two grandchildren. That was one thing you’ve failed to mention on the front end that I was not only a father and a husband, but a grandfather, which is the most important,
Listen, I’m coming to that because I heard in an interview that you said Jayden was the most beautiful grandchild in the world
Until Zoe showed up then…
Well, I’ve got a couple, I’ve got three grandchildren. So I’m sure there’s a few grandparents that are listening that would maybe dispute that with you, but we’re glad that you’re a dad. We’re glad you’re a granddad. And we’re glad just for the influence that you’ve had in the days, the years that God has given to you, you start, you’ve been a sports guy since a young man. You were a player. I think you had some aspirations full or the pros, and then you have made your way into coaching. Can you just tell us about how that journey took place from wanting to be a pro player to ending up being a college football coach?
Right. Well, I think everybody gets positive strokes for something in their life when they’re a kid and makes ’em feel good and sports was that for me, I just, I loved it. I loved all the sports. I became a quarterback exclusively in high school when my coach, Roger coffee said, if you wanna be my quarterback, I need you to focus on one sport. I kind of bought in and, and he promised me if I did part I’d get a scholarship and all that good stuff. And, and it all came true. , Coach C was a very strong mentor in my life who really helped me love, football, love sports. And I actually remember one day he asked me for some reason, I’m not sure why, but he asked me if I believed in God. This back in high school. And I said, “Well, coach, I don’t know if I believe in God or not. But one thing I do believe in is football.” And of course I thought he’d be so proud of that, but, he kinda looked at me strange. He probably thought he created a monster and maybe he did, but that’s kind of where my mindset was back in those days, that’s how much sports meant to me. It was really my whole identity. And then going on from high school to college, I went to the university of Miami and had all these goals to, , start as a freshman. And I was gonna go ahead and be an all American: my second year win the Heisman, and my third year go pro. But, the problem was there was another guy on a team named Jim Kelly.
Who, was kind of living my life for me. when, when football went in the tank for me, my life kind of went in the tank. So, and then as you mentioned, I did still hold on to some hope of playing in the NFL. I had a try with the ever Broncos and John Elway happened to be there. The next year I tried out for the Dolphins and Dan Marino was there. I like to say I was the fourth best quarterback in the world back then, but nobody knew it.
It’s so, so interesting that your high school coach talked to you about God and then Coach Bowden. He influenced your life, not just in the sports realm, but also in your spiritual life. And he also had a conversation with you and a bunch of other guys about God, one day that really kind of brought change into your world. Can you tell us about how he influenced your life?
The Conversation that Changed it All
Right. Well, I was a graduate assistant coach at Florida state after my trials, trying to be a player. Once they, I realized I wasn’t gonna play anymore. I decided to coach. my second year as a graduate assistant coach at age 26 in 1986, unfortunately one of our players was shot and killed during an open date party on campus. That very next day, Coach Bowden called the team meeting, and began to talk about what had happened was very grieved. Like all of us were, and bottom line, he just said, man, “I don’t know where a Pablo is”. His name was “Pop Lopez”, big offensive tackle. And, he said, “I’m not sure where he is gonna spend eternity. I don’t know where he was in his faith.” And then he proceeded to preach the gospel basically, and just said, “God created us. He loves us. He wants a relationship with us. He wants us to live forever with him in heaven. But , we got a problem, when Adam sinned, sending it all man, and in order to get into heaven, you gotta be perfect. And none of us are capable, but we need, we need Jesus.” So, basically he pointed at the chair Pablo sat in, he said, “PAB used to sit in that chair, right there said, you guys are 18 to 22 year olds, 22 years old. You think you’re gonna live forever? Just like Pablo thought he was, and now he’s gone. “ He said, “If that was you last night, instead of Pablo, where you’d spend eternity?” And, he was talking to the players, but the Holy Spirit was talking to me through coach and I knew where I’d go. And it was not a good place. me seeds that were planted in my life back in college of a teammate of mine who became a believer, kind of came to fruition. And that next day I decided I needed to go see coach. I knocked on the door. He said, “Come on in buddy.” He calls you buddy, when he forgets your name. But I went in there. I said, “Coach, I know you were talking to the players, but I need, I need Jesus.” And, so I prayed to receive Christ in his office and, everything changed. Life became actually very simple. As far as goals were, that was my new goal was to try to live a life that was pleasing to God and not necessarily an easy goal, but it was simple, it was a simple goal. From then on that’s kind of how I tried to live my life.
Becoming Coach Richt
You were surrounded by these sports leaders, coaches that not only impact did the sports world, but impacted the spiritual world. And then you stepped into the role of being a coach. How did you kind of combine both of those worlds as you coached and helped young men spiritually and in their sports life?
Well, to me they’re one in the same. I think we all look at life through a certain lens. We have a certain view world view, or however you wanna call it. My view was Biblical. My view was that I was a born again, believer in Jesus Christ. I knew the minute I accepted Jesus, my spirit ul became perfect and I was going to heaven. I had a new goal that I had of trying to live a life that God would be pleased with. It kind of led me through every decision I ever made. When your accountability is to God, then you tend to do a little bit better, I would think than when your accountability is just to your coach or your boss or whoever it may be. So, that was kinda the, the, the, driving point for me.
Make the Call
So you’ve written this book called, Make the Call, which talks, about your journey in football and in your spiritual life. Can you kind of tell the listeners why you wrote the book and if they get ahold of that book, what your goal is when they read these pages?
Well, make the call as a little bit of a play on words. If, if you are a coach and you are a play caller, you have to make the call every 40 seconds in a game. And if you’re the head coach, you making calls and throughout the game and in recruiting and discipline of players and things like that, you’re constantly making calls and making the calls nothing more than making a decision. we all make decisions in life. this book’s about making decisions me of the decisions that I made along the way, dealing with family, faith, football, just life in general. Truthfully the book is about wanting to challenge the reader before he or she finishes it to make the most important call you can make in life and that’s a decision for, for Christ.
So if anybody knows somebody who loves football, but you’re not sure if they love the Lord or not, that that’s a good book for them, but it is a great book for football fans, especially the Georgia, and any Florida state fans, because there was a lot of stories about the teams that I was affiliated with. A lot of behind the scenes look at, certain plays, certain games, so it’s a good football book. It’s a fun behind the scenes, look at those kind of decisions, but it’s also a book about life. And I think, I think everyone would enjoy it.
I think you’ve given just a great idea, a hook for someone that is loves football, loves college football, and has friends that they would like to come to discover the truth that you are living now. So I think that’s a, just a great idea. I don’t wanna see be to miss out on that idea. You can get a hold of this book, make the call, and as they’re reading about football, they can also find some faith in there.
No, there’s no doubt. They’ll point blank have to make a decision one way or another. And I’ll tell you that.
They’ll have to make the call. I hope so. In your book, you talk about when you first moved to Georgia, and how you felt overwhelmed, and you talk about when you were face down on the floor and really just saying, “God, I don’t think I can do this.” And it seems to be a moment where your faith met your fears. There’s a lot of fear in the world today, a lot of apprehension in the world today; can you talk about faith overcoming fear in your life and maybe help those listening too?
Well there’s there, there were many times in my career, the decision to take the job at Georgia, I was fearful. They, once I took the job and the time you just mentioned, I was fearful. And even before that, I became an offensive coordinator. When I wasn’t ready to be at east Carolina University, I was experiencing a lot of fear at that time. I learned two things: One: fear’s not coming from God that’s Satan messing with you, for sure. . But the other thing is, I don’t believe that faith and fear can coexist in your mind. And, I believe the, at the times that faith overcame the fear, I think my faith got to a certain point where it was stronger than the fear I was feeling. And then the fear went away – like overnight, once my faith grew, the time in particular that you mentioned at the hotel of Georgia, as I was kind of crying out to God saying, I don’t think I could do it. He’s, he’s pretty much saying, “I know dummy, you need me”, but, no, really, truthfully, I felt like I heard Him say what he said to Moses when Moses felt like he couldn’t lead the people out of Israel. I mean, out of Egypt, which he said, “I will certainly be with you.” . And when, when God said that to my spirit saying, “I will be with you”, that really helped me a lot.
You talked about your faith growing, until it overcame your fears. If, if someone’s listening, how would they grow their faith? If they listen, how, how did your faith grow and how can we grow?
Increasing Your Faith
Well, truthfully at east Carolina was the first time I kind of went through that type of fear. There was a book called the power positive thinking. And it was Norman Vincent Peel. And it was about what self-help book. It was about memorization and conditioning your mind, renewing your mind with Scripture. I was reading that book and I was putting things into practice, and I was truly, memorizing scriptures that he felt like would be helpful. and they actually were very helpful to me. So very thankful for that. And for God’s word and the fact that it can recondition your mind and recondition your thinking to where the fear that really is not coming from God, fades away to near nothing. Your faith, your lifestyle , did what, what Jesus calls us to do, be salt, to influence the people around us to be light so much so that these young men, even after you stop being their coach, they’re involved in your life, they call you on father’s day. And that was an amazing thing to read about.
And how did you so impact young men that they still call you on Father’s Day and there still continues to be a relationship?
I think the big thing is they knew, I cared about them, they knew I loved them. They knew it was not just about football, not just about winning, or what the could do to help me win. What could I do to help me get a better job? What could I do to give me a bigger salary? They knew deep down the coach cared about them, coach loved him and loved him enough to discipline him. Some of them didn’t really understand that in the beginning, boundaries are good for people. They don’t necessarily like ’em all the time, but , like your kids don’t like boundaries, but boundaries are showing somebody, you care about him. You’d love him. And then discipline ’em is the same thing. If you let a child do anything he wants to do, or you’d let a player do anything he wants to do, even if it’s destructive, then you’re really, you are really not loving them like you should.
I’ve got guys that I’ve literally kicked off the team because they just couldn’t get it. And they were being a detriment to themselves and the team and the university only to come back years later and say, “Coach, I just wanna thank you for loving me enough to do that because it finally hit. When I had to leave the team, it finally dawned on me that I gotta change my ways.” And, and it helped them in life. So if all we do is help, ’em throw and catch and tackle and block and win games and lose games and all that, we miss the mark, especially as coaches because those guys show up pretty much in a boyhood stage and they need to leave as a full grown man or at least working their way in the manhood where, they’re ready for life that comes at ’em.
Love and Compassion – Motivation’s Strongest Ingredient
These are sports guys that are growing up. You obviously have a great care in your heart. How do you communicate that care to the athletic world? These are guys: they’re rough. They’re tough. How do they sense that you care for them?
Well, the bottom line is you can motivate in a couple different ways. You can motivate through fear and intimidate or you can motivate through compassion and love. And I think Coach Bowden was the greatest example of that for me, at Florida state, during the time we were there, the heyday, so to speak Coach Bow’s tenure, we wanted to win for him. I’m talking about the coaches wanted to win for him. The players wanted to win for him because we loved him and we loved him because we knew he cared about us. He made sure our coaching staff, didn’t lose our families as we were trying to pursue these, these great things. He made sure we saw our kids. He made sure we did things, with our wives. And He was always welcoming to your kids being on in the office, running around and doing those things, having family nights, and then we would try to set an example as a staff, for our players to show what it looks like to love your wife and love your kids.
We try to be a model to them, not so much tell them what they needed to do, but show ’em. And and I think our players knew we cared because we would do things like character education. We would do things like, community service things just to try to help them grow as human beings. And a lot of times they probably wonder why, why are we doing this? And I’ve had, I’ve had guys asked me, why coach? Why are we doing this? I said, “cause I care about you. Cause I want you to grow as a person.” So once they figure out you truly care, they’ll they’ll do anything for you.
And you were caring for them. I love when you said not just, win the game, but you were caring for them to, to develop a life. So thank you for that. Talk to me about humility in leadership. You said there’s several ways you can like motivate a right a team, get the moving in the same direction. It could be a sports team for someone listening. It could be a business team, could be any kind of team. But talk to me about humility in that process.
Humility While Leading
The most humble man ever lived was Jesus and if he’s your guide, then you’ll be humble. And truthfully life humbles all of us at some time or another. There’s some guys that, in the sports world that, have never met adversity. They’re the biggest, strongest, fastest, most talented. . And never really ran into any adversity in their life until they get to college. And then they get to, excuse me, they get to college and all of a sudden, adversity strikes and they start to lose, lose their confidence in. And they get humbled. So to speak by somebody beating them out or whatever it may be. But I think that, if you just, aren’t humble and you’re, , you’re cocky, you’re arrogant. if you’re that way as a coach, the kids might follow you because they want something – they want playing time or whatever. Bottom line is if they’re doing it only because you’re watching ’em then when you’re watching, ’em they’ll behave a certain way. But when you’re not watching them, they’ll do whatever the heck they wanna do. But if, if they love you and they wanna do right by you, because of that, then I think there’s a better chance that they’ll behave the right way.
That’s why we’re here. Well, this podcast is here to help people to increase their influence so that they can make a better world around them. You’re a great example of that. If you were not a coach, someone’s listening and they say, well, I’ve never been a award winning college coach. And I don’t have the followers that coach has, or I don’t have the recognition that coach has. What can we say to them to, to help them influence the world they live in to make it a better place and to have, have kingdom impact like you’re having?
How to Bring Kingdom Impact on Any Level
Well, I think the biggest thing is to truly love God and love him enough to obey his word. I think God wants a relationship with all of us. He wants us to love him. How do you show God, you love him? You show him by obeying him just as a parent; you feel loved by your children when they obey you. So when you do that, you start to live a certain way. You start to make certain decisions in life that other people notice. And it’s like, something’s different about that person. I don’t know what it is, but, they have, they live a certain way and I’m attracted to that. Many times people might make fun of someone who makes maybe certain decisions about, morality or whatever it may be. But it always seems to happen when there’s a crisis, who do they turn to? They turn to that person cause they know they’re grounded and they know they’ve got something that maybe they need. Just obey the Lord the best you can and have the peace in your heart to know that we don’t have to behave perfectly to get into heaven. We just need to submit our lives to Jesus and accept the gift. Once we become that believer and our heart changes, we need to see some fruit, the best we can. And when we blow it, admit it and move on. Confess it and move on. But I think people see a consistent lifestyle as someone who maybe has something like, let’s say peace, for example, why does that guy have peace in this crazy world? Well, because I pray for God to give me that. And I also know that the Lord gave me peace through the fact that I know where I’m going in the end
You’ve talked about Jesus, your faith, getting right with God because of what Jesus did for us. It’s an example of the way you do care for people. I appreciate that. And we care about you. We’re very glad you’ve been with us today and, give us a little update on how we could be praying for you, how we could care for you and how be loving you in these days.
A Reason to Hope
Right. Well, recently I found out that I’ve got Parkinson’s. So, when I became a believer, I really did receive that peace of God. I had a heart attack a few years after. And right when I’m on the table, thinking it’s about, I’m about to go. I felt this great sense of peace in my spirit, knowing where I was going. But now with this Parkinson’s is kind of a new word that, is really resonating with me and that’s hope. When I announced that I had Parkinson’s on Twitter, I said, I look at this as a momentary light affliction compared to the glory that I’m gonna receive. When I get that new body that has no sin and has no disease. Now I know that’s coming. That’s where my hope is. My hope is not in this, just this temporal world. My hope is in the eternal thing. So if all I had to look forward to was what’s on this earth, Parkinson’s is a progressive disease that a lot of people basically become a prisoner in their own body. And it’s not much fun to think about that’s what happens a lot of times. So if that’s all I had to hope for, that’s not much to be hopeful about, but I know when it’s all said and done, and I could say it’s momentary because compared to, compared to eternity, it’s, even if it’s 10, 20, 30 years, whatever it is, it’s nothing to compare to forever. And the wonderful thing that’s promised to me down the road, wow.
That we we’ll certainly be praying for you. And there are people that are listening right now that it may be Parkinson’s, it may be cancer. It may be a devastating financial thing that’s happened. And I’d like us just to take a moment of, we could pray that they would have hope like you have just talked about that. Well, our words together here, our time together would ripple out the influence of your life and of this podcast would just bring them the hope that comes in in Jesus. So let’s just, can we just share a prayer together?
Sure. Just in the name of Jesus, we just pray together for our friends that are listening today. They’ve just heard coach talk about his life and how in the midst of it, it’s a momentary light affliction that he has great hope. We pray that the God of hope would fill people with joy. In the midst of their trials, we pray that they would have peace in the midst of the storm, and we pray that they would overflow with hope by the power of the holy spirit. We pray it in the name of Jesus. Amen. Amen.
Thank you. Well, no, thank you, coach. Thank you so much for this time that you’ve shared with us and just the influence of your life. And as we walk away, I’d really love people to think about how they are caring for the people that are in their life. And if they could increase the care of their life, I think they’ll influence the increase, the influence of their life. No doubt. I’m with you a hundred percent. Thanks coach.