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Ex-NFL player preaches being a humble father
Tables sag with manly food: scrambled eggs cooked in bacon grease, muffins, sausages, french toast as thick as my wrist, gallon jugs of syrup.
Below a couple of basketball hoops, about 80 men sit at a collection of tables chowing down, gulping black coffee, swapping stories. Some sign up for “Men’s Paintball War.”
Former NFL lineman Ed Tandy McGlasson strides to a wooden podium.
Now the pastor of a church in the shadow of Anaheim Stadium where he played with the then-Los Angeles Rams, McGlasson starts to talk about what it means to be a man.
Before the morning is over, I’ll stand toe-to-toe with McGlasson, look up and ask, “Really?”
And McGlasson, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound wall of muscle, will look down and reveal the final secret to becoming a great dad.
McGlasson came into this world as a son without a father.
His dad, Lt. Ed Tandy, was a Navy test pilot. On Memorial Day weekend 1956, he was ripping through the skies at 600 mph over Monterey Bay. Suddenly, his plane spun out of control.
Tandy could bail and send the plane into a crowded beach or he could fly the plane into the ocean. His final radio transmission: “This is November Papa taking it in.”
Eventually, McGlasson’s mom married a submarine commander. One day, the commander asked his stepson what he wanted to be. “A professional football player.”
The next thing the 11-year-old knew, he was running four miles a day with 5-pound weights strapped to each ankle.
If you’re a person of faith, you might say McGlasson, now 55, never stopped running until a miracle hit him.
His voice rising and falling with the cadence of the preacher he is, McGlasson jokes with the crowd about his athletic gifts. Sure, he’s a big man. But his only true gift was that he trained harder.
He ended up at Youngstown State University playing for the fighting … Penguins.
“Now the penguin,” McGlasson says and chuckles, “is not a predatory bird.”
Still, you make the best out of what you have. And McGlasson was determined to be the best Penguin lineman. But during practice, a player smashed into McGlasson’s knee. Doctors said three ligaments were shredded.
In that moment, McGlasson lost who he was a football player.
“Guys,” the pastor tells the men, who range in age from 25 to 65, “we identify ourselves with our jobs. But if you don’t know who you are, you can get lost.”
But for McGlasson, all wasn’t lost. A minister walked into McGlasson’s dorm room, helped him receive Christ, laid one hand on the ice bag over the lineman’s knee and offered a simple prayer: “Jesus, heal Ed’s knee.”
The next day, a doctor shook his head examining a new arthrogram. “I don’t understand it,” McGlasson recalls the doctor saying. “All of your ligaments have been reattached.”
From 1979 to 1981, McGlasson thought his dream had come true. He was an NFL center, first with the New York Jets, then the Rams and finally the New York Giants. One glorious moment came when he helped the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys in double overtime.
But the following season, with the Philadelphia Eagles, he once again tore his knee.
Now, most athletes would call such an event a tragedy. McGlasson calls it a miracle, the beginning of a true dream.
The injury forced him to retire from the NFL and helped him discover his calling at Stadium Vineyard Church. “I used to be a pastor who was broken,” McGlasson tells the gathering. “Now, I’m the beloved son.”
For McGlasson, this means accepting Jesus as his savior and the heavenly father as the father he lost at sea. It also means realizing certain universal truths, regardless of one’s beliefs:
“Your identity,” McGlasson offers, “determines your destiny, men.
“You’re not a man by what you do with your muscle. You’re a man by what you do with your life.”
In his book, “The Difference a Father Makes,” McGlasson writes, “I am most fully alive as a man and father when I give myself permission to pour my heart out to my children.”
McGlasson has certain rituals with his children, rituals he likens to the bar and bat mitzvahs of the Jewish faith. He believes these practices help children realize that their parents believe in them and empower children to transition into successful adults.
When his children were in their early teens, McGlasson asked his sons to come to the front of his church and asked his daughters on what he calls a “date.” He pronounced his sons “men,” giving them a memento. And he pronounced his daughters “women,” giving them “promissory rings” signifying they’ll remain chaste until marriage.
“Not only do they know who they are,” McGlasson writes in his book, “but they know with certainty that their daddy knows and deeply values them.”
He advises the group, “Ask your children, ‘How can I be present in your journey?’ ”
McGlasson requests that the group stand in prayer. Each man stands, except a young man in a wheelchair. Most hold their palms open, facing up.
In his book, McGlasson states that the Lord “showed me that I need to become vulnerable before my son and let him love me by saying, ‘Son, I’m having a problem here. I need your advice.’ ”
I’m a little worried about questioning a guy who once benchpressed 605 pounds. But after McGlasson’s talk, I ask: “Won’t children disrespect parents who pour their hearts out, who admit to insecurities?”
The pastor shakes his head. “Not if the parents are secure in who they are.”
Remember, McGlasson says, parenting isn’t about the parents.
It’s about the children.