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Gibbs: NFL coach shares his story, lessons at church


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NFL coach shares his story, lessons at church

DÁNICA COTO, Staff Writer



That's who people really came to see Sunday morning at Lake Norman Baptist Church. Behind the picture-taking, autograph-seeking crowd were individuals relating to Joe Gibbs and his story.

"He's a Hall of Fame coach and a successful NASCAR owner, and he still comes back," said Dan Kudlik, 31, of Cornelius. "He's humble to his roots."

Kudlik, one of about 800 people who heard Gibbs speak, was not a member of the church. But his neighbor, who is a member, told Kudlik about the event.

It was a day the Maryland-born man couldn't miss.

"When the Redskins were on TV, the world stopped," Kudlik said. "He's just a great guy, not only on the football field. He's very spiritual."

Gibbs spoke twice Sunday at the church he joined after moving here from suburban Washington, D.C. With both hands held out in front of him and knees slightly bent, he looked like he was talking to the congregation like he talks to the Washington Redskins, which he led to three Super Bowl victories and is now coaching again.

He talked of his selfishness and how he ignored the most important things in life: family and his influence on others. He remembered one weekday morning when he anxiously opened the paper looking for a story about him and his team facing the Dallas Cowboys that week.

His wife, Pat, interrupted, asking him to pick his robe and dirty clothes up off the floor.

He remembers thinking, "Didn't she read the paper this morning?" He slammed the door as he left for work.

Coaching, he said he later realized, will not be the most important thing he's done on Earth.

When a failed real-estate investment cost him $1.2 million in the early 1980s, he wrote down what he learned, mainly that he should have consulted with God and the Bible, he said. He started talking publicly about it so other people, maybe those with financial problems or addictions, could see how turning to God would help them, he said.

"If you're on God's team, there is no mess too big for you," he said.

It was a message that Dillon Manship, 16, asked Gibbs' permission to share with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes group he leads at Davie (County) High School. He came with Lauren Brown, 16, who promised her dad she would ask Gibbs for an autograph.

"My dad was so cute," said Lauren, recalling how excited he was.

Also standing in line to meet Gibbs was Jack Arnold, 62. The Arizona resident came to North Carolina for the races, and was excited he heard Gibbs speak.

He and others in the audience who said they've had their share of challenges said they gained hope and strength. If Joe Gibbs struggled and made it, they could too.

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