Tim Worley, North Carolina native and former National Football League (NFL) running back, struggled through injuries, substance abuse, crime and suicidal thoughts before becoming a Christian. He was drafted into the NFL in 1989 after an award-winning stint playing for the University of Georgia. Worley ran for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears and now does motivational speaking for youth across the country. He and his family live in Charlotte, N.C.
Tim Worley slips past a player as running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Below is an edited transcript of Worley’s conversation with Roman Gabriel III about his story of redemption.
Q: Can you tell us about using your platform for the Lord to alter the lives of other people?
A: For the past couple years, I’ve been doing ministry with K-LOVE and Air1 radio on a program called “Dare to Dream.” We go into middle schools, high schools and youth detention centers all over the country speaking to students. It’s amazing – the feedback and the changes happening with the students, and even parents. It’s outstanding. God is doing His thing.
Q: What are you seeing in young people today as you travel the country?
A: One of the things I’m seeing across the board is hopelessness. I see a lot of bullying. Many kids just don’t have hope today, but I use my story to encourage. Whenever I present, I don’t talk about my victories. I talk about my failures. I believe when we talk about our failures, it opens up people to talk about what they’re going through. Even the comment cards we receive back from students are telling us things they wouldn’t even tell their parents. We’re pumping some hope to the children.
Q: Being a former All-American running back at Georgia, has this year been an exciting one?
A: Oh boy, yes it was exciting. My wife, Dee, attended The University of Alabama, so we’re not a house divided, we’re a house blessed. She’s going to root for Alabama with that jersey on. But she wore my jersey the week before (a game against) Alabama, and I root for Alabama when the two aren’t playing each other. She was a gymnast at the university. She’s going to always represent “Bama.”
Q: What’s your take on a handful of elite NFL draft picks forgoing playing in their final bowl game, which would be their last college game?
A: Personally, I don’t agree with it, but they make their own choices. I’m “old-school,” a basic fundamentals guy. You play the very last game. It was very important to me to play as many games as I could at the University of Georgia. And it was very monumental to walk off that field and know that I gave it my all, which paved the way for me to be a first round pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I also believe you should be dedicated to your school, to those that gave you the opportunity to showcase your gifts.
Q: You reached your dream, being the seventh overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft. You had a good first year, professionally, but what happened when you began to experience problems in your personal life?
A: First of all, it was a very exciting time in my life, competing at that next level. When I look back, I was prepared to play the game of football. You didn’t even have to pay me; I loved it. But I wasn’t prepared for the things that came off the field, the business side of things. Even before I stepped into the NFL, I started experimenting with drinking and using drugs occasionally. It started escalating when I got into the NFL. I just didn’t know who I was. The things off the field became more important to me than the things on the field. I didn’t know how to separate myself from being in a program mentality in college, to being an NFL employee. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears were looking for a return on their investment. But that partying, frivolous lifestyle became most important to me. That’s when the on-field injury problems came into play.
Q: So, things in your life began to go downhill?
A: That’s when the failed drug tests began to show up. That’s when the troubles and run-ins with the police began. Things just went sideways for me, all because of the negative choices I made. But I learned from it. I learned from those things, and I thank God. It’s by the grace of God that I’m here today. He’s given me a second chance to be here and reach back and help other people with some of the issues I once dealt with.
Q: At what point did you finally hit bottom?
A: In making the transition from professional football to a normal lifestyle – suddenly at the age of 30, I’m speaking the word retirement. And it was tough, but the drugs and the alcohol were a big thing in my life. I didn’t think I had a problem. I wouldn’t admit it. I was just doing what I had to do. They say it’s not a crime until you get caught, right? The thing that turned it around for me happened in 2008. I had a run-in with the police in Smyrna, Ga. I was basically suicidal, trying to kill myself or get somebody to kill me. I put myself in harm’s way, through a run-in with police officers, trying to get them to put a slug in my heart, but they didn’t do that. God gave me another chance. They stunned me with a Taser, arrested me and put me in jail for 23 days. That’s when my life changed. I actually got down on my knees in a jail cell, and I repented and I asked the Lord to restore me. Ever since April 23, 2008, God has radically changed my life.
Q: Now that God has changed your life, how has that changed your perspective?
A: The word of God says we overcome by the blood of the lamb. I’m always going to tell my testimony. He told me to change my life, to change my perspective. It gave me a better perspective – that life is a gift. I don’t want to waste time while I’m here. It’s God’s gift to us, and what we do with that gift is our gift to him. Our gifts are not for us. They are for other people. Even through the adversity and all the difficult things that I put myself through, and the choices I stepped through that almost destroyed my life, I’ve used those things.
I’ve learned from them to get back in places to help someone else. It’s all about the next person; it’s all about other people. It’s not about me.
It’s about Jesus Christ. I want to continue doing those things to let young people know, “Listen, you’ve been put here for a purpose. God has given us many things so that we shouldn’t take life for granted.”
People need to hear the gospel and how much God loves us. When you’re flowing in your strength, and you know your purpose, while you’re here, you’re unstoppable! That’s the way I feel today, Roman.
Q: Alcohol and substance abuse is such a huge problem in our country, and it doesn’t delineate between social standing, age, race, creed or religion. What would you tell people out there that struggle with alcohol or substance abuse?
A: I believe the first thing is you have to confess it; you have to admit that you have an issue. Secrets kill, and there are a lot of people out there right now walking around with secrets. People are killing themselves on the inside.
There so many different kinds of substances and drugs out there – the pharmaceutical drugs, opiates. People are dying every day from these drugs. Admit it; talk to somebody. Especially men, young men don’t know how to talk to each other. Women, on the other hand, for the most part, are willing to talk more.
You have to humble yourself and admit that you have a problem.
When I humble myself and admit that I can’t live this life by myself, that’s when freedom comes and the mind can get renewed. Ask for help.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Visit the Faith Family Sports website: fspn.net. Hear his Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at afr.net. Visit his website: soldouttv.com; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III; connect on Twitter: @romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email: [email protected].)