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Overcoming by God’s Grace

Overcoming by God’s Grace

Famed NFL player and coach Mike Singletary discusses the difficult challenges he's faced and how he has learned to rely on God's grace to overcome life's obstacles.
Original Air Date: September 4, 2020


Mr. Mike Singletary: That was the time that she sat me down and said, “Son, I want to talk to you about this thing called life.” And, um, she said, “Son, I want you to know that there’s greatness in you. You – you need to understand that, um, ever since you were born, even before you were born, even when they were telling me to abort you, I knew that, that was not gonna happen.”

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Mike Singletary, the Hall of Fame NFL player and coach who’s been through a lot of rough things in life, but he has overcome through Christ. And one inspirational story we have for you today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, Mike Singletary is a great example of what it means to be an overcomer. He’s overcome so many obstacles to become the man of God that he is today. He is best known, of course, for his NFL football prowess. He was the intimidating linebacker for the Chicago Bears for many years. And, uh – yeah (laughter) I’m sure quarterbacks were very fearful of facing off against this guy.

John: I watched Mike a lot on TV. My dad was a Bears fan, still is – lifelong Bears fan – and the intensity came through so much.

Jim: (Laughter).

John: And, yeah, he’s – he’s done so much on the field.

Jim: It’s fun. But, you know, that’s just a sport that some of us really, really enjoy and some very few were fortunate enough to play. But there are other aspects to every human being. And Mike certainly had many things going on as a child, as a young married guy trying to figure out his way, and then as that convicted Christian about what it is to live a life that honors and glorifies Jesus Christ. And we’re gonna talk to him today about all those aspects of his – of his journey here.

John: Yeah. And we should mention that Mike and his wife, Kim, have seven children and six grandchildren. He’s a speaker. And we are so glad to have him here today.

Jim: Mike, welcome to Focus on the Family.

Mike: Thank you very much.

Jim: I’m already shaking a little bit.

John: (Laughter).

Jim: Because I was that quarterback…

John: You’re the quarterback waiting for him.


Jim: …And linebackers – I tried to run away from you guys. Man, you’re – you’re mean and tough. (Laughter)

Mike: Uh, well, I had a lot of fun. I will say that. I had a lot of fun.

Jim: You really enjoyed it, huh?

Mike: I really did.

Jim: You know, I do want to come back to your childhood and speak to what the Lord brought you through. I mean, both you and I, I think, had kind of rough childhoods. I grew up with single parent mom and – and, uh, my dad left when I was young. That same kind of story that so many young people are facing today, the broken family syndrome. But you had really two things that occurred that I want to touch on. One was the divorce of your parents when you were young. And then, also the death of your brother. So, let’s speak to those traumatic situations that you had as a child. The divorce of your parents – what happened?

Mike: Well, you know, I think like many large families in America, it was a situation where mom and dad got married maybe at 15- and 16-years-old. My dad was really put out of his home at 12-years-old.

Jim: Wow.

Mike: So, you know, they worked as sharecroppers in East Texas and just really trying to make it. Just trying from week to week, trying to make it. My dad was trying to figure out what he was going to do for his life, and in terms of occupation. But those were – they were working their way through life. And – and when you have a lot of kids fast and next thing you know, you’ve got a house full of kids. You’re trying to figure out how you’re gonna make it. And it was tough. And I – I, um – for a long time, I really disliked my dad, could not stand to be around him.

Jim: Right.

Mike: So, um, really difficult. But I watched all of this. It was – it finally came to a head. You know, my – my dad was just under a lot of pressure all the time.

Jim: Yeah. It was like life was just coming at them, right?

Mike Absolutely.

Jim: In that context, how old were you when your – your dad and mom split?

Mike: 12.

Jim: You were twelve-years-old.

Mike: Yes.

Jim: And you had older siblings, obviously.

Mike: Yes.

Jim: Um, did your dad cut off communication? Did you speak to your dad?

Mike: I didn’t. No, when – when my dad left, I still worked with him.

Jim: Okay.

Mike: I mean, nothing…

Jim: So, you had that connection.

Mike: Nothing really changed…

Jim: Right.

Mike: …Between he and I. It was just – he didn’t sleep at home anymore.

Jim: Right.

Mike: But it was – it was very tough.

Jim: And that brings us back to that question of your – your brother who passed away because that made a significant impact on you as well. What happened?

Mike: Well, right after my dad left  – a few weeks after my dad left my brother, Grady, who was next to me in the family line, came back home. He moved back home, because, um, he wanted to help my mom financially, as well as try to keep me in line. But he just came home and – and – but he was coming home as “dad” and that was tough. He – he was the father figure. And – and he and I had to work through that. But six months after he came back home, he was killed in an automobile accident. So, that was a really, really tough for me.

Jim: Mm. Yeah.

Mike: Really tough.

Jim: More loss.

Mike: Yeah. Well, I’m trying to figure out – now it’s hitting me at my core. Okay, Dad leaves. I get that. I wanted him to leave. But Grady coming back home and doing the right thing? Now I’m – I’m struggling, because I’m thinking God, what – what, are You in this? Surely You – You know about this. So, how do I – how do I navigate through this? So, finally, I just come to a place of saying, you know what? I am just going to be mediocre. I’m just going to settle. I’m not going to – this whole Christian thing, I’m not sure about it.

Jim: So, you have a sense of God, but now you’re questioning if these bad things are going to happen to me…

Mike: Big time. Big time.

Jim: …Why should I believe in You?

Mike: Big time.

Jim: How long did that discussion take with God before you said, “Okay, I get it” – whatever it is – “and now I’m going to stick with You?”

Mike: Well, it wasn’t until my mom walked in the kitchen. She – shortly after my – we buried my brother. I had come to the conclusion that that’s what I was gonna do with my life. I was just going to be mediocre. I wasn’t going to strive to do anything great. But I wasn’t going to be the worst. But if I could just be in a middle. I – I could make it.

Jim: Yeah.

Mike: So, she saw. She knew me very well. I had a close relationship with my mom. And that was the time that she sat me down and said “Son, I want to talk to you about this thing called life.” And, um, she said, “Son, I want you to know that there’s greatness in you. You – you need to understand that ever since you were born, even before you were born, even when they were telling me to abort you, I knew that, that was not gonna happen. I knew that God had something special about you, the last one. We are going to – we’re going to make this happen. You are going to be born and you are going to do great things.”

Jim: Wow.

Mike: And she said, “I want you to know what – what life is about. Life is about, when you get punched in the stomach, and you get kicked in the teeth, that you’ve got to find a way to get up, dust yourself off and get back in the ring. And you just got to keep swinging, son. And you just gotta keep swinging.” And then she asked me the question that changed my life. She said, “Son, I know this isn’t fair. I know this is – this is hard for you, but I want to know if you can become the man of the house. I need you right now. Can you do that?” And, um, you know, I looked at her, and – and for the first time, it was a different look. It was the look that she really, really believed in me, and she needed me to step up at this time. And I looked at her, and I said, “Mom, I can do that.” And I got up, and I walked in my room, and I got out a sheet of paper, and that’s when I wrote out my vision statement for life.

Jim: Gee, 12-years-old.

Mike: At 12-years- old.

Jim: Mike, I mean, the power of a loving mom is amazing. And it clearly had a huge impact on your life. So, you came from a broken home and you lost your brother and now I need to move the story along to you and your wife, Kim. Something wasn’t right in your marriage early on and it really needed to be top-priority, didn’t it?

Mike: It’s – it’s really important. My wife and I were talking about this the other night. We’re talking about when we first met. And, um, you know, we – we were just reminiscing on how difficult it was. You know, when we were at Baylor, dating, and how alone she felt. Me, you know, I had the team.

Jim: Right.

Mike: She didn’t have anything. But when we were engaged, you know, there were just so many things going through my mind, because she was white. I was black. Uh, there were just a lot of questions. But, knowing that when we’re engaged, there were a couple other girls that were in the picture, because I – you know, I said many times I wish I was more stable at that time, but I didn’t – I didn’t know. As  – you know, at 21, 22, you know, you just…

Jim: Well, and you’re playing football. There’s no excuse…

Mike: Yeah.

Jim: …But obviously you’re playing football. You’re a big guy on campus. You got pro scouts who are talking about you. And that happens. Doors open.

Mike: Yeah.

Jim: Maybe doors that shouldn’t open.

Mike: Yes.

Jim: But it happens.

Mike: Yes. But anyway…

Jim: So, all that was part of it. It was.

Mike: It was part of it. So, during that time, it’s so interesting, because when I’m walking around on that Astroturf after the Super Bowl, the two things that’s staring me right in the face is, I’ve gotta go and forgive my dad.

John: Hmm.

Mike: You know, I just negotiated a new contract, defensive player of the year, that year. We win the Super Bowl. I’m having – we’re getting ready to have our first child. And, I mean, everything is just wonderful outside of me. And yet inside of me, I’m just torn. So, I’ve got to go call my dad, and I – I fought it. I fought it tooth and nail. I said, “Lord, I don’t – I don’t need to talk to him. I mean, we don’t have anything to say to each other. I mean, I don’t hate him. I just don’t want to be around him. I just – I just don’t have anything to say to him. Why do I need to – why do You want me to go talk to him?” But I knew it was the – it was the Spirit inside of me, a small voice, basically saying, “Do you love Me?” “Yes. I love You.” “Then you need to do this.” So, surely enough, I call, and he answers on the first ring and, you know, I just want to get this over with. So, I’m saying, “Dad, you know what? I – I just – this is your son, Mike. And, um, I know – I’m just calling you to say, I forgive you.” That’s really when the conversation started. He said, “Forgive me for what?”

Jim: Right.

Mike: You know, “I put clothes on your back and, you know, you weren’t hungry. You know, paid for the house you stayed in. What – what – what do you mean? Forgive me for what, son?” That’s when all hell broke loose.

Jim: Right.

Mike: That’s when we – we…

Jim: Started talking.

Mike: …Started really yelling and screaming, and it was just about an hour – I’d say an hour, hour and a half…

Jim: Wow.

Mike: …Crying, screaming, yelling. But when I hung up that phone, something had been set free. Something had broken. And shortly after that, I went down to Houston to see him. And I went to his house, and we sat there, and we talked. And I got to know him. It was the first time that I ever really had a chance to get to know him. And my mom always said that you’re just like your dad, more than any – when she got angry at me. She said, well, “You’re just like your dad, won’t listen to anything.”

Jim: That probably hurt you.

Mike: I’m like, “What? You gotta be kidding me. Don’t say that!” You know?

Jim: Yeah. Right. (Laughter).

Mike: It was the one thing she could say that could break me down and really, um – really listen. But as I began to talk to him, I really understood that I was like him. I really was. And my dad sat down, and I visited him for maybe four or five days straight, from morning till evening, just talking to him and asking him questions. And – and we became friends during that time. And I began to understand why he did certain things that he did. And, uh, I remember asking him, “How in the world did – did you just walk out?” You know?

Jim: Yeah. Kind of the question.

Mike: Yes. And he said, “Son, I just – it’s like driving down the highway and you see an exit, and you know you’re supposed to take it. And I just couldn’t. I just – I just – I just couldn’t get off. I knew I was making bad decisions. I knew that I need to – needed to – to do something different, but yet I just kept right on going and doing the things that I shouldn’t have. I knew I needed to talk to your mom and try to work things out. I knew I needed to talk to your sisters and brothers, but I just couldn’t.” And he said, “I hope you never have to make that choice, and – and don’t.” So, it was – it was an opportunity to really get a chance to have a visit, not only with my dad, but the person that I would have become had I not…

Jim: Yeah.

Mike: …Went through that situation.

Jim: It changed who you are.

Mike: Yes.

Jim: At the same time, I’m sure it also changed your relationship with your wife, Kim. How did – how did that conversation then move into your relationship with your wife?

Mike: Well, really, what it did, it kind of – it fed into it. It – after that conversation with my dad, after visiting with him and we had that encounter, now I’m feeling really good. I’m feeling good, but there’s still something there. It’s kind of like half and half. Half of me is feeling really good. But there’s – there’s like a hang up over here. And I’m like, um, “Now, Lord, what is this?” And, the next thing was, “I need you to come clean with Kim. I need you to tell her everything you did that wasn’t right in that relationship, while you were dating.” And I’m like, um, “No.” I know this is not God. No, I don’t – I mean, we weren’t married. I see no reason why I have to do this. So, I’m thinking, “Lord, I have sinned against You and You alone.” You know, as David would say, “Why do I have to go and tell her? What – you know, this is just going to hurt her. This isn’t gonna help. Why am I doing this?” And once again, that small voice says, “Do you love Me?” “Yes, Sir.” “Then obey Me.” And so, I told her everything. And, of course, I felt like – I felt like the worst guy in the world. You know, you watch your wife sit there and cry, who believed in you but – but knew something wasn’t right…

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Mike: …Who’s pregnant with your child. It was – it was a really, really difficult time. And finally, after six months to a year, one day I just said, “You know what? You’re going to have to make up your mind. You’re going to have to make up your mind to trust me. You’re going to have to make up your mind to love me and forgive me the way God calls us to do this. If you want to leave, then you gotta leave. I’m asking you to stay. I screwed up while we were dating, while we were engaged. That’s on me. But I promise you, the rest of my entire life, I will love you the way God has called us to love each other. And I will never lie to you. I will never look somewhere else. I will always honor you. I will always put you first, on this earth. And I will be the kind of man that you will be very proud to call husband.” And from that day forth, um, you know, God begin to deal with me on things that – that I needed to be dealt with. I mean, I was hard-headed. I was – I was strong willed. I was – and little by little, God just begin to strip me of those things, until this day.

John: Well, what a remarkable story you’ve got, Mike. And for our listeners, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. Our guest today, Mike Singletary. And if you can relate to the pain that Mike experienced in his marriage, let me encourage you to get in touch with us and learn more about Hope Restored, our four day marriage intensives. We also have a whole lot more of Mike’s story available and an extended version of the program exclusively on CD at

Jim: Mike, let me – let me ask you. I was watching a news opinion person the other day – it was Tucker Carlson. And he said something after interviewing a guest that really caught my attention. He was talking about the breakdown of the family, generally, and its impact on the culture. But one thing at the end, he said – he said the country is really breaking down into those that love their fathers and those who hate their fathers. Wow, that is a powerful statement. And you look at the lack of reconciliation between a child and their dad and the destruction that, that creates, the animosity, the bitterness. I do think, even with what we see going on in the country today, so much of it – I’m not talking about just race relations. I’m talking about just all of it is rooted in these family dynamics that have been so poisonous. Um, how do you see those things with your friendships and you and Kim and the people that you know when you look at what’s going on, and your own experience with your dad, that reconciliation, putting yourself aside and all the bitterness that you had? I can feel that, too. But, it is. It’s like the world breaks down into two groups, those who love their dads and those who hate their fathers.

Mike: No, you’re exactly right. You know, something happens, and I see it very clearly. Something happens when you don’t forgive a parent, whether it’s a mom, whether it’s a dad. I’ve seen it on both sides – mostly dads. But, when you’re able to come to that person whom is supposedly the most trusted person. You know, I know I don’t even have to think about. I can turn my back on mom or dad, and I know they got my back and now I can look toward my enemies. But now when your mom or dad is one of those enemies, it changes your thought process. I don’t trust anybody. I don’t trust men. I don’t trust women. I don’t trust… And so, that’s a reconciliation at the very core, because now if I’m not able to go to a parent and say, “I forgive you.” Then I’ve got to take that in my life, and it’s going to – that – that unforgiveness is going to lock away a part of me that I can never touch. That I can never reach. And that tool that allows me to – someone that hurt me, someone that said something – I don’t have the tool to be able to come back and say, “Hey, you know what? That’s okay. That’s alright, I’m – I’m going to move on.” No, I don’t have that tool. I don’t have the ability to do that, because the person that is supposed to be the closest to me – the person that – the hand that that raised me, I don’t trust them and I have not gone back to say, you know, “I forgive you. And I’m sorry that we didn’t have a relationship. Can we have a relationship?” I’ve never done that. So, how in the world could I ever forgive anybody else? How in the world could I ever be free to extend myself to someone and be vulnerable? How could I ever do that?

Jim: Yeah.

Mike: And so, you know, I just – there’s a part of me that’s locked away that will never be discovered, because my mind said, “No, they’re not worthy. I’m not going to do that.”

Jim: Right. And that old saying that “hurt people, hurt people.”

Mike: Hurt people, hurt people.

Jim: Isn’t that the way it is? And I think we’re seeing it in the culture today. And I think the fountainhead of everything goes back to the family and the breakdown of the family. You mention your mom, not aborting you as we talked earlier and we flew through that, but I want to emphasize the issue of abortion. I mean, that’s one of the reasons we have you here at Focus on the Family. We wanted to talk to you about the importance of life. And when you look at the issue of abortion, it’s complicated. I get that. I know that women, and some women feminists will argue, and organizations like Planned Parenthood argue about reproductive rights. We use these terms that make it sound so clinical and so above-board. But theologically, it’s about taking innocent human life. And I think the scourge on our nation is deep because of it. Sixty million people taken out before they had their first breath. How do you relate that to everything we’ve been talking about? Your mom’s decision that she sensed greatness in you, that she was not going to listen to the doctors who said, “I think you should abort this baby.” And fill in some of those gaps. You started with some tough medical issues as a young boy, asthma and other things.

Mike: Yes.

Jim: And then you grew into this powerful NFL football player. I mean, it’s amazing what God can do. So, just fill in some of those gaps for me and your thoughts and reflections about the issue of life.

Mike: I think it really comes down to trust. I think a lot of women and a lot of guys, you know, there are many different scenarios. You know, you got pregnant, but you’re married, and we made a mistake. You got raped. You know, this is a relationship that cannot happen. I’m too young. Many, many different scenarios. But, it comes down to the fear of God. So, when you begin to have a relationship like that, and you develop a fear of God, then you know that this is something that I don’t – it’s not an option. It’s not an option because who knows who I’m carrying?

Jim: Right.

Mike: Who knows what – what the value of who I’m carrying? And who knows what God can do with a life? But yet, I’m afraid. “I’m afraid of what they are going to think. I’m afraid of what they are going to say. I’m – I’m embarrassed.” So, I mean, I – I know that there are many different thoughts, many different – but when it comes down to it, it – it’s a trust issue. I gotta trust that I made a mistake.

Jim: Yeah.

Mike: I need to admit that it was a mistake. And Lord, I am not going to take a life that it is my responsibility to bring forth.

Jim: Right.

Mike: I’m not going to take what only You can give. I’m not going to do that.

Jim: No. And it’s – it’s so well said. I mean, I’m thinking of your mom with, you know, nine kids and then she finds out she’s pregnant with you. She’s got a struggling marriage. I think it would have been in today’s, you know, viewpoint, you know, the wise thing to do is to not allow this child to come into this horrific situation. And I don’t care if you end up becoming Mike Singletary, one of the greatest linebackers that ever played in the NFL – all lives are valuable and worthy. And I think, Mike, that’s one of the most powerful things that we’ve talked about today. You’ve had a very interesting life. I’m so glad I’ve had a chance to get to know you this way. So, well done, Mike Singletary.

Mike: I appreciate it.

Jim: Thank you for being with us today…

Mike: Thank you.

Jim: …And for being with us for the See Life 2020 event. Thank you for participating with us.

Mike: Thank you.

John: And you can find out more about See Life 2020 when you stop by our website. Mike will be a featured speaker. We’ll also be hearing from Alveda King, Lila Rose, Candace Owens and Benjamin Watson. And we’ll be featuring a live 4D ultrasound of a pre-born baby. That’s September 26th at 8 p.m. eastern online. And, uh, we’ll be joining with our friends from the March for Life and Live Action. Get all the details at

Jim: John, as we’ve just heard from Mike Singletary, life is precious, and I hope you’ll help us to save pre-born babies through our Option Ultrasound program here at Focus on the Family. When an abortion-minded woman sees her baby in the womb, she is much more likely to choose life. And your gift of $60 will save a baby’s life through that program. So far, 459,000 babies have been saved. If you can give $60 a month, that would be so incredible toward the impact you would have for life. Call us and make that donation and when you do, some generous donors will match your gift, so it will be doubled to save even more babies lives.

John: Call and donate today. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or you can donate at On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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