I grew up watching Oklahoma football. My family had a role in establishing my love for the Sooners, including my maternal grandfather, who was an All-American tight end for Oklahoma in the 1930's. I played quarterback and defensive back at a 5A Fort Worth, Texas high school in the late 70's. We ran the wishbone offense, and I always dreamed about playing football for OU. That never happened, but because of my fondness for the Sooners, I have always kept up with the people involved with OU football.
Yesterday's 37-20 enjoyable win over the University of Washington will be remembered by me not because of the game itself, but the people I was with during the game. Some of you may not find this post very interesting, but for those of you who love OU football, you will understand why yesterday was really special for me.
I sat in the suite of Jefferson Davis (Jakie) Sandiver III, the 1957 OU graduate and former defensive back and running back for OU. Jakie is the owner of Sandefer Oil out of Houston and has a home in Norman, Oklahoma so that he can spend the weekend in Norman when OU plays at home. He and his wife Melissa were very gracious hosts. Jakie is the big booster for OU football and is credited for the hiring of Athletic Director Joe Castiglione, and ultimately Coach Bob Stoops, because of his recommendation to President David Boren that the former Big Eight football commissioner, Charles Neinas, be hired to conduct the search himself, rather than the standard procedure of "search by committee." Obviously OU football is important to Jakie, but his eyes lit up the most when he shared with me that his grandfather was the President of Hardin Simmons University (a BGCT school) in Abilene, Texas, and is buried on the campus. His tombstone wounds, "A good name is more precious than gold." He teared up as he shared about his Southern Baptist heritage, his love for his grandfather, and his desire to see the young people of our country understand the importance of character. I was reminded today, by listening to this very generous and gracious man, that who you are is infinitely more important than what you have.
Barry Switzer and Allen Kerr
Barry probably needs no introduction. The former Oklahoma University and Dallas Cowboy football coach is an icon in Oklahoma. His college roommate was a member of Emmanuel before he passed away a few years ago, so through my church member's family I have known Barry for a several years. Barry's language is always a little salty, but he is one of the funniest men I have ever met. He told me a couple of absolutely hilarious stories that I hope to relay one day on this blog. Barry can also be a very serious person when he wants to be and has told me about his decision to "accept" Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade in Oklahoma City many years ago.
Barry's friend that came with him to the game was Allen Kerr. I had never met Allen before, but I really came to appreciate him. Allen is CEO of Adele Custom Furniture out of Burleson, Texas with his showroom in the Dallas Designer District. Allen is a member of Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas where my friend Gary Smith, the former pastor of Emmanuel, Enid, is currently the pastor. Allen shared with me a very refreshing testimony of his love for the Lord Jesus Christ. He really has a desire to have all of his friends, including Barry, to have a meaningful relationship with Christ.
Jerry is one of the nicest men you will ever meet. I remember as a boy going to Dallas Cowboy games and seeing Jerry play. He was an All American center and linebacker for OU under Coach Bud Wilkinson in 1952,1953, and 1954. He was drafted by San Franciso and later traded to Dallas where he played for Tom Landry and eventually coached with Tom at Dallas until Jerry retired from the NFL in the early 80's. He is now in his 70's and lives on a ranch east of Dallas. His name is in the Ring of Honor in Texas Stadium and he remains a legend among the OU greats of the past. Several people, including the really young kids, were asking Jerry for his autograph and he patiently signed them all. My father used to tell me that as a people get older they either get better or they get bitter. God has definitely allowed Jerry Tubbs to get better.
Claude was the quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners when we won our first National Championship in 1950. Claude graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1940 and went just one semester to college before he went overseas to fight in WW II. After the war, with the help of the GI bill, he enrolled at OU with no intentions of playing football. He was older than most freshmen, and legend has it that an assistant coach for the Sooners walked by the intramural fields one day and saw this quarterback zing the ball all over the field. The assistant promptly told Head Coach Bud Wilkinson he needed to get that boy from Okmulgee to play ball for the team. The rest is history. Claude and his lovely wife Nancy have been married for nearly 60 years. He has done well in the oil business, but he and his wife have never forgotten their common roots and are a very delightful couple in their mid 70's.
Jimmy was OU's starting quarterback in 1954 and 1955. He, Jerry Tubbs, and Jakie Sandifer all played together. They were all a part of the NCAA record setting 47 game winning streak. Jimmy eventually played professional football for the Philadelphia Eagles. Allen Kerr was telling me that as an eight year old boy he watched an OU game where Jimmy came off the field staring at his hand. Allen came closer to see what the star quarterback was looking at, when Jimmy looked up and said, "What're you lookin at boy?" Allen said he ran away scared but never forgot that incident. Jimmy heard Allen telling me that story and showed me the scar on his hand from a shoe spike that pierced his hand during that game fifty years ago. It was really odd to hear a story about an event, and then to see the evidence of the event in the form of the scar. It reminded me that every event in life has continuing ramifications --- either good or bad.
Clay is the son-in-law of the late Edward K. Gaylord, the owner of the Daily Oklahoman, and the man for whom the stadium is named after. Clay recently purchased the Seattle SuperSonics basketball team, and if Seattle does not build a new arena for the Sonics, and if the Hornets move back to New Orleans, then the Sonics will probably become the Oklahoma City Sonics (or possibly renamed). Clay Bennett has really put Oklahoma City on the national map in the area of professional sports, but I was very impressed with his quiet demeanor and humble personality. Clay did not stay long, but was the consummate gentleman.
Ron is partner in the Houston law firm Young and Brooks. He has been a long time OU fan himself and flies up for most of the home games. Ron is an avid golfer and we plan on playing together next game day when the OU game is at night. Ron asked me if I knew Judge Paul Pressler, and I told him that I did. I said I had a great deal of respect for the Judge. He wondered if recent events in the SBC would affect our friendship (though he is not a Southern Baptist, he has followed the Convention). I told him that as far as I was concerned, any Christian who named the name of Christ was a friend of mine, regardless of any differences we might have in our view of politics or disagreements over the non-essentials of the faith.
Those of you who know me know that I really like movies. If I were not a pastor, I would probably be a movie critic :). Holly Hunter has Oklahoma roots and has played many leading roles in Hollywood in films like "The Firm" with Tom Cruise and "The Piano." It was hilarious to all of us that she wanted her picture taken with Barry Switzer. In Oklahoma, football beats Hollywood hands down.
John and Denise Bode
John was the Assistant Director of the Agriculture Department in Washington, D.C. under President Ronald Reagan in the 80's. His wife Denise is on the Board of the Oklhohoma Corporation Commission and recently lost her bid for Congress. John and Denise are Catholic, but very vocal about their faith in Christ. They both are humble, godly people who represent the best of what Oklahoma has to offer. John now works with a law firm out of D.C., but maintains his office in OKC and they both try to never miss an OU game. When I asked John how he ended up in Washington, he told me how David Boren, who used to be President of Oklahoma Baptist University, asked John and Denise to go to D.C. to work in Boren's Senate office. John eventually went to work for the Algricultural Department and has been affiiated with D.C. ever since. John and Denise are the kind of politians I really admire.
John and Marsha Funk
John and Marsha were guests of the Bodes. John has a law firm in downtown Oklahoma City and attended OU and OU law school from 1971-1978. John is very knowledgeable of OU football, and since OU took the name of the back of the jersey's this year, John was a delight to have in the suite because he could tell everyone, without looking in the program, the name of every player on the field.
What can I say about one of my best friends and fellow member of Emmanuel. Norman and I go to the games together and have a wonderful time. He has taught me a great deal about Sooner football and life in general. I really appreciate his friendship and can't say enough good things about this man.
Brian did not sit with us in the suite, but I met him for the first time yesterday at Jakie Sandifer's house before the game.
Brian had his hand in several different businesses in OKC prior to the Murrah Building bombing in 1995. The bombing changed his life.
Brian sold many of his businesses after the bombing and became the Executive Assistant to Pastor Nick Harris of the First United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I was the Chaplain in charge of the temporary morgue, whch was established at First Methodist, immediately after the bombing. I understood what Brian meant when he told me that First Methodist faced a tremendous challenge after the bombing to get back on her feet because of the damage to the church --- I saw it.
Brian helped. He stayed for several years at First Methodist until he resigned to begin a new business in Norman, Oklahoma --- OU Insider.Com --- the premier website for Sooner athletics. Brian took me across the street where he showed me his house and the operations room for OU Insider.Com and then he shared with me the new ministry he and Nick Harris are beginning for OU students.
They are buying a building near the campus to transform into a training institute to teach international students apologetics, Biblical doctrine, and other Christian studies in order to send those students back to their home countries as Christian leader. It is an exciting ministry that thoroughly impressed me.
I told Brian that it was an honor for me to meet the head of OU Insider.Com, but even more of an honor to learn that the man who operates the premier college athletics website in the country was even more serious about his commitment to Christ.
Brian shook my hand and then told me something that will stick with me forever and became the description for my day.
"Wade," Brian said, "The Lord is my passion, football is my hobby."
Well said Brian.
One thing about it, of all the people I met today, whether young or old, rich or poor, famous or infamous --- everyone of them has the same need --- a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The ground at the cross is level.
In His Grace,