Waxahachie resident Bill Glass characterizes his 75 years of living as being “Blitzed by Blessings.”

In fact, that’s the title of his recently released autobiography. The two words perfectly describe his life, as “blitzed” is a familiar term to the former all-star NFL defensive end, who happened to play for the Cleveland Browns when they defeated the Baltimore Colts and became world champions in 1964. And “blessings” appropriately describes the man of God who founded Bill Glass Ministries and used his football image, not to mention his connections with other sports icons, to minister to inmates in hundreds of prisons over a 45-year span.

Born in the northeast Texas hamlet of Bloomberg, just south of Texarkana, Glass’s family moved to Corpus Christi where his father, Vernon Glass, partnered with a brother-in-law in an insurance agency.

But when Glass was 14 years old, his father passed away.

“My dad freely gave his love and blessing to me,” he said. “And when he passed away, it left a big hole in my heart and there was no one to bless me.”

Glass noted that the passing of his dad was a dark time in his life and, to make matters worse, he was little and clumsy and found himself sitting on the bench at his football games.

But it was during that time in his life that his high school coach, Bill Stages, took a special interest in Glass.

“His parents had died in a car wreck when he was an infant and he was raised in the Masonic Home in Fort Worth,” Glass said. “So he knew what it was like to grow up without a mother or a father. And he understood the feelings of a kid on the third string sitting on the bench.”

Glass said Stages invested extra time in him, teaching him to play defense and running him through drills.

“Coach Stages not only coached me, but he was constantly affirming me and blessing me,” Glass said, saying he was puzzled as to why the coach spent so much time with him.

“I was clumsy and small. You know it’s all right to be small as long as you’re fast, but I was slow and clumsy and small,” he said, noting he also was living under the shadow of his brother Vernon Jr., who was seven years his senior – the star player of Corpus Christi High School and named all state.

But, in the ensuing time, the younger Glass grew 6 inches and gained 60 pounds and came into his own as a football force – thanks to his coach.

After graduation from Corpus Christi High School, Glass went to Baylor University, Waco, where he was named as a consensus All American. He entered the pro ranks by signing with the Detroit Lions in 1957 and later joined the Cleveland Browns in 1962.

Citing the biblical account in Genesis of Joseph’s experience of being sold into slavery by his brothers but later ending up as second in command to the pharaoh in Egypt, Glass referred to Joseph’s comment to his brothers years later when he told them, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.”

“Something good can come out of bad experiences and circumstances – losing my dad when I was young left a hole in my heart, but in the end it turned out for good because then, I had the blessing of coach Stages,” he said. “During the 45 years that I worked in prison ministry, I saw boys in there without blessing – and a boy without a blessing is a lost soul. Many of those guys in prison had cursing on their lives –and there is a world of contrast between the two.”

Glass looks back on his experiences and realizes how the circumstances prepared him for a lifetime of ministry, connecting with sports figures like legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, the iconic Tom Landry, who coached the Cowboys from 1960-1989, and “Mean” Joe Green, who accompanied him in prison ministry.

“Inmates responded well to a group like that who come in and share their sports and their faith,” he said.

Glass was to realize how his earlier experience would ultimately thrust him into an opportunity to connect with a national audience and to come to grips with God’s calling on his life. According to “Blitzed by Blessings,” Glass had gained the attention of evangelist Billy Graham during the world championship game.

“Every time I sacked the quarterback or made a tackle, (the announcers) would mention that I was studying at a seminary for a ministry in Christian service,” he said.

Glass was invited by Billy Graham to come to Denver during his first nationally televised crusade and to give his testimony. It was during a private visit with the famed evangelist that Glass experienced a pivotal point in his life.

“He grabbed me by the shoulder and gave me four ways to determine God’s will for my life,” he said, saying Graham encouraged him to consider holding citywide crusades. Graham also gave him a biblical formula for finding out what God wanted him to do.

“He told me there were four things in knowing what God wanted me to do in my life: First, there must be an open door; second, there must be reasonable preparedness; third, the counsel of Godly people; and forth, an inner impression,” Glass said.

When he was a senior in Baylor, Glass met a freshman girl, Mavis Knapp, and the couple had their first date when she accompanied him to a local church in Waco, where he was preaching.

The couple has three grown children – Billy, Bobby and Mindy – and they enjoy their eight grandchildren.

For six years, Glass spent his off seasons of his pro football career attending Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He helped his lifelong friend Dr. Bill Bright in establishing a Campus Crusade for Christ chapter on the Baylor campus. In 1969, he founded Bill Glass Ministries, known today as Bill Glass Champions for Life.

“Blitzed by Blessings” can be purchased online at www.BillGlass.org/Book, by email at info@BillGlass.org or by calling 972-298-1101.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.