Jan: He can’t sit still that long.
Dave: I can’t sit still that long. So I go from there and I go talk to our sport psychologist. And I say, “You know, I really got to get this thing solved.” And now I’m really starting to press. And he says, “Well, maybe you really need to relax.” And it’s all these materialistic, worldly things that you read about in magazines—and these are all the answers that I’m getting.
I then take it to the next step. I go and talk to our team priest. And I said, “You know what? I just kind of feel uncomfortable. Maybe I’m stressed out, maybe…I don’t know, there’s something going on.” And he says, “You know what it sounds like to me? It sounds like you’re walking around a swimming pool. And you’re sticking your foot in the water. But you’re really afraid, you’re really afraid to jump in.”
And so I thought about that. And we went down and played East Carolina. And Steve Dubarlayne, who does all of our chapels—Steve and I kind of became friends. I sat there and I listened. He was talking, giving a little chapel service. I started thinking about what he said. I thought about it for two or three months after that. Finally, when the season was over, I called Steve and I said, “You know what, let’s have lunch.” We went down and had lunch. We were sitting there and I said, “You know what? I have exhausted this thing with every bit of physical energy that I have. And you know what I’m convinced of? What is missing in my life—what is missing, has something to do with God.” And that’s exactly how I put it. And Steve proceeded to tell me how a commitment to the Lord and turning my life over to the Lord would fill that void and fill that vacuum that Greg mentioned and enable me to live the life that he wanted me to live—that he wants us to live—and be all I could possibly be.
So I made the commitment and now I approached this thing just like I do football. I mean, we were in game week and I had seven days in my mind that I had—if I was going to make a commitment to the Lord. I was going to learn about the Bible and I started listening to tapes and I started reading books and I started attending Bible studies and I was going to get it all done in one week and get it squared away. And then we were going to go out and we were going to win the game.
Jan: He was like a sponge. And during this time when he was searching—even before hand—we walked, we rode bicycles, he couldn’t sit down because he was really just trying to fill this hole with whatever he thought he could, even the consumption of everything. And through this time we sort of went through—we’re really competitive against each other. I mean remember when backgammon was a big game? We lived in Stillwater and I can remember we played backgammon and one of us would tip the board if the other one wasn’t looking or something, because I wanted to be ahead. We’d play tennis and I’d tell him he trash talks. You can’t trash talk during tennis. There’re certain things that we’re real competitive against each other.
I really thought at this point that most of our life we had religion. I figured we were doing the church thing and we were sort of going elsewhere for other things, but I really thought that we were content with this. But in the whole time that he was going through this, I started to get a little bit jealous because all of a sudden he’s starting to read all these things and he’s wanting to tell me and it’s like I wanted to tell him, “Hey, I know! I don’t need you to tell me. I’ll find it myself.” So the two of us during this time, as good as it was for our relationship, because it forced us to talk about some things that maybe we had never really openly talked about before. And not that God was in our life, but to talk about it in a way where it became a personal relationship. And I never thought—as happy as we were—I really never thought that we would both have a personal relationship from God, even separate from each other; if that makes sense. And it was really something in us growing, not apart, because it could have made us grow apart from each other. But I think it really strengthened and made me see part of him that maybe I had never seen before. And it really gave us a lot of security with each other.
And what I did like was that we would go to—our family is from Pittsburgh—and we would go back to Pittsburgh every summer to visit the family. And he was going through this, where he keeps a daily journal, and he would take the Bible with him. And I thought, “You know what, we’re not really sure what your parents are going to think of this when they see you reading the Bible.” He would get up in the morning and have his private time. So he was doing it and I would see his mother and dad kind of going by like “What’s going on here?” And his mother pulled me aside and she said, “What is Dave doing this for?” And I said, “Well mom, he’s really growing with the Lord now and this is part of his time for him to grow and to study the word.” And she said, well she was so afraid, she said to him “Is he going to be on the corner like with a Bible, ranting and raving ‘Hear ye! All you come over here.” And I said, “No. That’s not what it’s about. It’s really more what you get about it inside. It doesn’t have to be something that you have to be so dramatic about.”
Dave: And from my perspective, as I’m going through this, I’m feeling the change and experiencing the change. I was concerned that, could I be as aggressive as a football coach? And could I do the same job that I had done for 25 years and be as successful with a change in attitude of how I looked at people, how I treated people, how I treated my wife, how I dealt with my kids, how I dealt with my coworkers. Could you do those things and be as successful and grow in your faith and have a relationship with God? And the way the thing transpired without even doing anything, you know, three different scenarios with our kids, it was amazing how our children, just by example of what we did, began to ask questions about our faith and talk about things in the Bible. And pretty soon, the kids and the family came together.
And my friends, you know when you’re sitting around with a bunch of friends, and when you make a change like this, sometimes the best thing that I said was nothing. We’d be sitting in there and the talk would start—it might be going in a direction that in the past I would have jumped in and been in the middle of it. Now I just looked at it a bit differently. And by not saying anything, it was amazing the impact that it had on Jimmy Johnson and other people that I was surrounded with.
And also and then we got to the point where—like Jan said with our family—where we were comfortable of talking to them about our faith because you know why? Because Joe Gibbs said it. And you know the great coach Joe Gibbs. He said that if his life was going to end tomorrow—what’s the number one gift that he could ever leave for his kids? And he said, “Hey, the number one thing is that if I knew that they had a belief in God and a strong commitment to the Lord.” He said, “That would be the biggest gift that I could give them.” So we started reacting that way with some of our family members in a very subtle and positive way.
About the time we started getting comfortable, now it’s time to move and we go to Dallas. And now I’m nervous. We’re going to another city—I don’t know how many of you have moved and so forth—or you might be moving from here and you’re having changes. And I was concerned if there were Bibles in the state of Texas.
Jan: He forgot that Dallas is like in the Bible belt of America. We were also going to the Dallas Cowboys who—now that we’re gone from there I can say this—they think they’re America’s team. When we were there, they were America’s team, but now that we’re gone from there. And they also have a stadium with a big hole in the top so that God can watch down upon the game. So I’m thinking this isn’t such a bad place to be right now. We can handle it here in Dallas.
Dave: And so we go to Dallas and it’s amazing the doors that are open if your heart is in the right place. And our heart was out there, wanting to grow with our journey in the Lord. And we got involved with people, with some Bible studies in the morning and we got involved with things at the office. And our relationship and our journey and our development just continued. And then we go to Chicago. And this is where our faith pays off. Because we get the Chicago Bear job and we go up there and we are excited as heck and a little bit of what Lester said, you know in the first couple years, I mean we are on the banquet circuit and everything is fantastic and then, the fourth year, all of a sudden the bottom kind of falls out.
Jan: And it falls out for all of us in this profession, you’re probably aware I guess it’s in the paper. And in Chicago it’s quite often in the paper, all the negative things that come out. And any of us that are parents know that when your children are affected by some things, you know the hair on the back of my neck comes up and I’ll do anything to protect my children. But, while we were in Chicago it’s probably the first time we came up against, for us, a pretty big defensive wall. And while we were there, there were phone calls—you know the public notoriety of course—you know the season and how poorly it’s going. They have radio stations there that are constantly blasting us by name. We’re at a game and they have a sign that flies over at the game you’re with your children at, that says “Wannstedt call Kevorkian.” We received phone calls. My kids at school would receive emails. We even had teachers that happened to be Greenbay Packer fans because it’s right across the border. They would harass the kids that, you know, “The Packers beat the Bears again.” And it really became more stress than I could handle and I thought—for the children we shed tears. My one daughter and I had to leave the game at one time because of what fans were saying around us.