Greg Cook, a Life Shattered, and People Who Won’t Help Themselves

After being sick for three or so days, it’s good being back in the saddle.

While I was ill, watching my beloved Cincinnati Bengals, someone mentioned former Bengal quarterback Greg Cook.  Sadly, many do not remember him–and in fact, I wouldn’t have heard about him if I hadn’t scoured NFL.com a few years ago looking for every Bengal piece I could find.

But Greg Cook was special.  So special that Bill Walsh, three-time Super Bowl winning coach with the San Francisco 49ers, who also coached Joe Montana and Steve Young (Hall of Famers, mind you) believe he was the most talented, most gifted athlete he’d ever seen.  In fact, so did Paul Brown, who coached the likes of Otto Graham.  (Watch this 13-minute clip of Greg Cook’s life–watcher, beware!)

As you watch the clip, you’ll see that Cook was tearing up the league until an injury against Kansas City in Game 12 of the 1969 season tore his rotater cuff, thus beginning the end of his promising career.

As you watch this video, you’ll notice:

  1. Just because someone has a smile on their face, does not mean there’s joy in their heart.  Church folks have mastered this art.  After all, can’t anyone fake it for 1-2 hours on a Sunday morning?  Sure they can. Take time to train your leaders and to model before your leaders how to work through the facade and get to the facts of the situation.
  2. Often, people are willing to help others, but not willing to let others help them.  Greg Cook lived in a pigment factory with raccoons.  Bob Trumpy was right: a thousand people in Cincinnati would have helped him in any way, but he wouldn’t help himself.  You’ve have people like that in your church–always there for others, arms length when it’s turned on them.  Trumpy modeled something that we all would do well to model.  He said, “Enough!” It’ll have to come to that with some of your people as well.  Enough!  Let us help you, as well!
  3. When a dream ends for someone, that often means that life and hope end for them as well.  For many in your church, their identity is in what they do, who their family is, or even in their church.  When that goes or when that changes, many will react in varying ways.  Our goal as leaders is to help them navigate in the waters that God has stirred, not in our own reservoirs.  Even if Greg Cook played for 15 years, he would have retired at some point–and he still would have struggled with that loss of identity as an NFL quarterback.  Our goal is to help them identify with Christ–and that any other identity is an idol which needs toppling over.

You could see the anguish in Bob Trumpy’s face as he talked about Greg Cook.  All the possibilities.  All the questions.  All the hopes.  Gone!

May we learn the needed lessons!

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