“My fame and money could not erase my guilt, fear, and insecurity”
Former NFL Footballer Derwin Gray knew only of one god – his sport – until a locker room conversation introduced him to another.
Derwin joined his school's football team believing it would be his ticket out of a life of "violence, addiction, abuse and chaos".
Born to teenage parents in San Antonio, Texas, he was raised primarily by his grandmother in an underprivileged environment full of hurt and brokenness.
His sport gave Derwin everything he could ever have hoped for in a god. It gave him love from his fans, an identity, and a mission: to go to college and make something of his life.
His senior year of high school Derwin accepted a scholarship to Brigham Young University.
"At BYU, my god had come through for me. I had an outstanding career, I was loved at the school, I had the girl of my dreams," he says, referring to his wife Vicky Ensign whom he met there. "I was making something out of my life."
In April of 1993 Derwin was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and reached his ultimate career goal.
Then he met someone he calls the 'Naked Preacher', a linebacker for the Colts in 1993.
"It was impossible not to notice a linebacker who would take a shower, dry off, wrap a towel around his waist, pick up his Bible, and ask those of us in the locker room, 'Do you know Jesus?'" Derwin recalls.
"I would think, 'Do you know you are half-naked?'"
Though Derwin tried his best to avoid the Naked Preacher, Steve Grant approached him at his locker one day and asked his signature question.
Derwin replied he was a good person who had done better than all the men in his family.
Steve opened his Bible and shared two passages from it; Mark chapter 10 verse 18 and Romans chapter 3 verse 23.
"Steve explained according to the Bible, only God is good; He is the standard of goodness and righteousness. Everyone else has sinned and falls short. This disturbed me," Derwin says.
Derwin realized his moral comparison should be to God and not to other people, but how could he reach the standard of a perfect God?
Steve added: "You can't do anything to reach a perfect God. But Jesus has done everything for the perfect God to come down and reach you."
Over the next five years Derwin observed how Steve "displayed Jesus in the way he loved his wife and children" and "preached through his words and actions".
Derwin realized where his own god fell short: "My fame and money could not erase my sin, shame, guilt, fear, and insecurity."
Between 1995 and 1997 as his body started to give out, Derwin said he was stripped of everything he thought gave him meaning.
On August 2, 1997, feeling emptiness and brokenness like he had never experienced, Derwin decided he wanted to be committed to Jesus Christ
"At that moment I realized God loved me. Not because I could run fast or jump high or because I was good, or even for what I could give Him. I realized as Jesus hung on the cross, I was forever loved and accepted by God.
"That day I got infected with a virus called grace," he says. "The symptoms are now full-blown."
In 1999, after six seasons, Derwin retired from the NFL and began to travel to youth events to speak about God's love.
In 2010 he and his wife launched Transformation church, one of the fastest growing US churches of 2010, 2011, and 2012.
His book Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future is available at LimitlessLifeBook.com.
Derwin lives to serve Jesus Christ, whom he now knows is the one true God.
"This is my story of grace, one that Jesus continues to write to this day," Derwin says.•