Inspiring Athletes

Inspiring Athletes

Danny Wuerffel fights rare autoimmune disease

posted by Chad Bonham

For a lot of reasons, I was hit particularly hard upon hearing the recent news that Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback Danny Wuerffel is fighting Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that causes paralysis. You can read more details about his situation here.

Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel won the 1996 Heisman Trophy.

Danny is one of the greatest examples of servant leadership that I’ve ever met. He is the executive director of Desire Street Ministries and someone who has always put others’ needs before his own. Desire Street was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but Wuerffel led the charge to restore the ministry. During the summer of 2009, I was blessed to lead a group of young people to New Orleans to help with cleanup projects as Desire Street worked towards a reopening of all facilities.

Another reason Danny’s condition hits me is because we are both the father of three. I’m sure his faith is being challenged as he not only considers his personal health but also the security and well-being of his children. I’m writing this post, however, for two primary reasons:

1. Pray for Danny Wuerffel, his family and the people of Desire Street Ministries.

2. Believe that God has something special already planned out through this situation. I base that statement on my firm belief in Romans 8:28.

The Inspirational Sports Report: Waltrip gets into NASCAR’s HOF, Edwards nabs Pro Stock victory in Bristol and Thomas leads Bruins to the Cup

posted by Chad Bonham

It was another busy week of sports that started with the Mavericks’ defeat of the All-Star stacked Miami Heat for the NBA title and ended with Northern Irish phenom Rory McIlroy destroying the PGA field at the Congressional and becoming the youngest winner in U.S. Open history. Here are a few notes from this week’s Inspirational Sports Report:

Darrell Waltrip inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame’s latest class

It happened a little later than many expected, but NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip was finally voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the organization’s third class. He will be officially inducted next January along with Dale Inman, Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough and Richie Evans.

Waltrip currently serves as a race analyst for Fox Sports and as a show co-host for SPEED but was recognized by the Hall for his 84 Cup wins and three championships. Waltrip was excited when his name was announced, but as he told me last fall, it means nothing without his faith in God.

“At some point, we’ve all realized there’s a lot more in life than just winning races,” Waltrip told me. “I hear that a lot. As I was becoming successful, I’d listen to other athletes and they’d say, ‘Well I had it all, but there was something missing.’ There’s always that, ‘There’s something missing.’ It’s that void you have in your life when you don’t know the Lord.”

You can read the full interview with Waltrip by clicking here.

Mike Edwards pulls off NHRA Pro Stock three-peat at Bristol

NHRA Pro Stock veteran Mike Edwards picked up his second win of the season, 30th of his career and third consecutive at Bristol Dragway by defeating Erica Enders in the finals of the Thunder Valley Nationals yesterday.

Edwards crossed the finish line in 6.685 at 205.79 mile per hour in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP. The 2009 series champion also jumped up to second in points and now trails Jason Line by just 24 points. But Edwards maintains that his work with Young Life, a popular national youth ministry that allows teens from every race city to attend special events hosted by Edwards’ team, is far more important.

“Life’s all about Christ,” Edwards told me. “It’s not about winning races. I want people to think of me as somebody who stands up for Christ even in an environment that’s pretty brutal at times. I want to stand out from all the other drivers.”

Be looking for more from my interview with Edwards in an upcoming Q&A right here on Inspiring Athletes.

Tim Thomas is rock solid in goal for Stanley Cup champion Bruins

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas not only had a career year, he was a huge part of his team’s Stanley Cup championship against the Vancouver Canucks that concluded in game seven last Wednesday night. Thomas was selected the Conn Smythe Trophy winner given to the playoff MVP and became just the second American-born NHL player to do so. Thomas also became the oldest winner of the award at 37 years, 62 days.

Off the ice, Thomas is a faithful member of the Church of Christ in Burlington, Mass. His brother Jake is a youth pastor in Mission, Texas.

Come back tomorrow for a Tuesday Conversation with Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Matt Diaz. Also this week, interviews with NHL star Jarome Iginla, former MLB infielder Jay Bell and Los Angeles outfielder Torii Hunter.

A conversation with Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle

posted by Chad Bonham

Clint Hurdle is doing something no one has done in quite a while. He’s turning the Pittsburgh Pirates into winners—well, at least half the time. Under Hurdle’s first-year leadership, the Pirates have been flirting with .500 throughout the first two months of the season. This is especially remarkable considering Pittsburgh hasn’t had a winning season in 18 years and lost an astounding 105 games in 2010.

But for Hurdle, who spent 10 years playing in the Major Leagues, his success on the field (including leading the Colorado Rockies to its first World Series appearance) has been tempered by a desire to live out his faith in a very real and public way:

Bonham: Why is it so important for you to support organizations such as Baseball Chapel and Fellowship of Christian Athletes?

Hurdle: It’s a way of sharing. It’s a way of being accountable and being responsible. It puts more emphasis on what you say when your actions are backing you up. You’re going out and meeting kids, finding out their needs and where their hearts are and what challenges or problems they have. Things are different for 13 year olds then when I was 13. I need to go out and take the temperature of the different groups in my home church. It’s a strong part of the nurturing of your relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s going to make your active in a lot of different ways. I just don’t think that if you truly develop that relationship with Christ that you can keep quiet about it or that you can sit in your house and not get out. You’re going to be more involved.

Bonham: What’s your favorite scripture?

Hurdle: Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It’s the one that’s become the most fertile and the most meaningful for my soul. It reminds me that with challenge comes opportunity.

NASCAR legend Richard Petty on being “The King,” changing times, and his legacy

posted by Chad Bonham

Walk around the garage area during any NASCAR Cup event and you’ll almost surely run into the sport’s most enduring (and perhaps endearing) figure. They call him “The King” but he’d assume you call him Richard. Whatever you call him, Richard Petty is arguably the greatest stock racer of all time with a record 200 races and seven Cup championships to his credit.

A few years back, I had the rare privilege of sitting down with a true legend—in his motor coach no less—along with son Kyle. So for today’s entry, I thought you might enjoy what he had to say about changing times, why he’s still in the game and what comes to mind when he hears the word “legacy.”

Richard Petty signs autographs for fans at the 2011 Sprint Cup race in Kansas (Photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com)

Bonham: What are some of the biggest differences between stock car racing during your era and what it looks like today?

Petty: I drove 32 years in Cup racing. I won seven Daytona’s, seven championships, 200 races and took in a little over seven million dollars. The last two or three years, the champion has won eight or nine million dollars (in one season). I drove 15 years before our team made the first million dollars.

When we started, they were stock cars. Now they’re racecars. But what did that was money and technology. The biggest change in the whole world has been technology. The technology has driven us and we’ve driven technology. You used to have three or four guys that worked on the whole car, built the motors, took it to the racetrack, pitted and all that. Now you’ve got specialists for everything. All businesses do the same thing. We’re no different.”

Bonham: Why have you stayed so connected to the sport since retiring from racing?

Petty: (Laughs) Try to make a living!

Bonham: But is it also partly because you still love doing it?

Petty: It’s a combination. Circumstances dictate a lot of what we do. We’re racing and we have an opportunity to do the Driving Experience. It fits right into our world. We’re working now on the national sprint car league. That just fits right with this. We don’t have to go into the car business or something that’s completely different. Our little world is racing.

Bonham: What do you think when people call you “The King?”

Kyle Petty introduces his father Richard Petty at the 2010 NASCAR Hall of Fame ceremony (Photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com)

Petty: I don’t pay any attention to it. My name’s Richard. I’ve done my thing. I tell them a lot of times, “It’s better to be known as that than some of the stuff people would really like to call you.” They’re always calling somebody something.”

Bonham: What’s the difference between finishing first or 43rd?

Petty: You can work hard, do everything that you think is right, but one thing you’ll never overcome in life is fate. You can’t control fate.

Bonham: Your son Kyle remains one of the most popular figures in the sport due to his work with Victory Junction Gang Camp. Where does his charitable spirit come from?

Petty: He grew up around his mother. She always had something going at the church or at the school. She worked for the PTA. She was a Scout teacher. She was in 4H. He grew up in it. He was able to get out and see how lucky we were to have the advantages in life. We worked for it, but we could go and we could do and we were all healthy. So when he goes out and he sees all of these other people, he wants to give back. Like I said, he learned it from his mother.

Bonham: How often do you think about the Petty legacy and what do you think that legacy represents?

Richard Petty celebrates his first victory at Charlotte on May 25, 1975 (Photo by RacingOne/Getty Images)

Petty: I haven’t really ever gone there. We’re doing our thing in our time under our circumstances. Hopefully, you leave a good taste in everybody’s mouth and they remember the good. If something happened to us right now and we’re not here anymore, we would hope that you would forget about the racing part and go to the camp, the things that we have left that will enrich other people’s lives later down the road where racing won’t. Racing will be history and that’s what we happened to do, but (the camp) is what we left for the rest of the world. Your legacy’s not going to last very long. The big deal is that you can get something started and then that part of it goes on, that’s the most important part.

Bonham: So then what drives you?

Petty: Its just life. I look at it as life. When you get up in the morning, (you ask), “Can I do a little better than I did yesterday?” That’s the challenge of not just saying the same. Can we make our business a little bit better? Can we help somebody today that we didn’t help yesterday? Its just life.

Check back in tomorrow for an interview with Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

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