A Heart-Gripping Conversion
About the Guest
Nancy Bramlett believed her hard-drinking, unfaithful husband could change. After she came to Christ, she began to pray that her rebellious husband would, too. John Bramlett talks about what moved him to finally give his life to Christ and give up the things that had been most important to him.
John and Nancy BramlettJohn “Bull” Bramlett was born July 7, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee. As a two-time NFL All-Pro Linebacker, his career spanned over seven years (1965 thru 1971) with four different teams. Today, Bramlett is a lay evangelist after experiencing a conversion to Christianity in 1973. He has spoken to hundreds of churches, schools, prisons, conventions as well as NFL and MLB chapel services for the past 40 years.
Nancy Bramlett believed her hard-drinking, unfaithful husband could change.
A Heart-Gripping Conversion
John: I saw them out there, and I said, "My goodness, those Christians have come to get me." And they didn't come in there and tell me I was going to hell, they didn't tell me to quit drinking, running around, fighting, getting throwed in jail, you know, they didn't – all they talked about was Jesus and how He had changed their lives; how He had given them peace, joy, a home in heaven when they die, how He had made Christian daddies out of them, Christian husbands, you know, that's all they talked about.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 27th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today how God used the faithful testimony of those people from church as the catalyst for the change in John Bramlett's life. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. Before we jump back into our conversation this week with John and Nancy Bramlett, we are on Day 23 of our 40-day Love Dare. We've been going through the book "The Love Dare," that was featured in the movie, "Fireproof," and today is Day 23, and we read from 1 Corinthians 13, verse 7, "Love always protects." One of the things we need to be doing in our marriage is protecting one another, and so today's assignment, today's Love Dare is to remove anything that's hindering your relationship, any addiction or influence that is stealing your affections and turning your heart away from your spouse.
If you saw the movie, you remember Day 23 was one of those days that we featured in the movie, and when Caleb read this particular day of the Love Dare, he decided his computer needed to go. You remember, he took it out in the backyard, and he took a ball bat to it. So I don't know how you need to respond to today's assignment, but if there is any addiction or influence that is somehow stealing your affection and turning your heart away from your spouse, stop and examine and say what might that be, and then do something decisive as it relates to that.
If you need a copy of the book, "The Love Dare," it's available to from us here at FamilyLife Today. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can order a copy from us online and follow along with us as we head up to Valentine's Day and continue in our 40-day Love Dare.
Now, we've been hearing a powerful story this week, Dennis, as we've talked to a couple whose marriage was – well, if not for the tenacity of the wife, this marriage would have ended many times over. And, you know, when you watch pro football players in a game like the Super Bowl, and you've got pro athletes who are at the top of their game out on the field, and these are highly paid trained professionals who are outstanding athletes …
Dennis: And who are you picking this year, Bob?
Bob: I'm not declaring my pick.
Dennis: I have a declaration.
Dennis: I'm ready to declare something – the Dallas Cowboys will not be in the Super Bowl.
Bob: Well, we know that by now.
Dennis: That's a bold statement, isn't it?
Bob: I mean, it's obvious – the papers – but you watch the athletes who are in the game, and you have no idea about what the drama is behind the curtain, and this week we've been hearing the story of a former pro football player, John Bramlett and his wife, Nancy. And they grew up in Memphis, Tennessee – met and fell in love when they were in high school. John played football at Memphis State.
Dennis: Yeah, just to give you an idea, John weighed 160 pounds in high school, in college weighed 180, by the time he got to the pros and ultimately became an All-Pro linebacker, he weighed 223.
Bob: Yeah, and you think of 223 today, and you think, "Well, that's nothing." But back when he was playing in the '70s, playing for the Broncos and for Miami and for the Patriots, he was fast, and he was strong, and in the early years of John and Nancy's marriage, he used his strength against his wife.
Dennis: Not a good picture. In fact, he was abusive with his wife, he was violent, had a problem with drinking, with infidelity. In fact, their marriage was just about the worst thing you could imagine. I can't imagine having a daughter or a son experiencing what was taking place in their marriage.
Bob: We're going to pick up our conversation that we had recently with John and with Nancy at a point where things were headed in a new direction for them. John had graduated from college. He tried to play pro baseball, and he got kicked off the team because of his lifestyle. And an opportunity came for him to get back in the game, this time in pro football, and that's where we pick up the story.
Bob: [from audiotape.] How did the door open up for you to get into the NFL after you'd been kicked out of the Cardinals?
John: Well, Coach Malavasi coached me at Memphis State, and you might remember he coached the Rams for five years; he was a head coach for five years. But he went from Memphis State to Wake Forest to the Denver Broncos, and when I got kicked out of baseball, he called me and said, "Look," he said, "How much are you weighing?" I said "I'm about 180." He said, "If you can get up to 200, come on out here to Denver, and we'll give you a tryout."
But, anyhow, I went out there to Denver in '65, and tried out and, I mean, that's all I had was a tryout. I didn't have a contract or nothing, you know, so – but, anyhow, this is after training camp was over, the exhibition season was over with, and the coaches came up to me and said, "Bramlett, you is our starting right linebacker." And I said to myself that day, "Man, looky here, this ol' poor boy from North Memphis, I'm in the big time. I'm going to be able to drink all the booze I want, pop all the pills, smoke all the dope, I'm going to have me a woman in every town, I'm going to be somebody and have me something."
And for the next seven years of my life I had everything that I always wanted, and here I am – Joe Namath beats me out for Rookie of the Year, and I'm on the all-rookie team, you know, and just a lot of things happened. You know, I was Most Valuable Player for the Patriots in '70.
Dennis: You went to the Pro Bowl twice.
John: Twice, yeah, and I made some of the All-Pro teams, you know.
Bob: But you make the team, and the first thing you think is now I can drink and carouse and have women and …
John: Yeah, that's it.
Bob: Instead of thinking, "Boy, I'm fortunate to have a place here, and I better work hard to keep it."
Dennis: "And I have a wife who believes in me."
John: Right – and help me, you know?
Bob: And love me.
John: And love me, right.
Dennis: Okay, Nancy, what are you thinking about all this?
Nancy: Well, of course, I was thrilled that he did make it, I really was, because I knew that he really had tried to hard, and this was the dream of his life, and I was excited for him – excited for us, excited for our children. And, of course, it was a lot of moving and a lot of [inaudible], but we did meet some great people and made some great friends and still have a lot of those friends.
Dennis: Nancy, you started writing some very pointed notes to John? In fact, you left these notes in all kinds of places for him? These were not subtle notes whatsoever.
Nancy: I've never been very subtle, and I had been invited to a Bible study, and I started going to that Bible study on Monday mornings, and I figured if I could live through the weekends with him, that – just give me until Monday morning, and I could make it, and that's what happened. And I started going to this Bible study, and Trish Fullerton was teaching, and she was teaching the Book of Romans, which was a great book for me to hear and be taught, and I had been in church all my life, but when she got to the Book of Romans, and I really saw myself as a sinner, because I was always good, and I lived with the bad one, and I saw myself as good.
So, anyway, at that point I really saw that all had sinned and come short of the heart of God, and I had to put myself in that category as a sinner. And that's when God really showed me myself, and I got so excited about my relationship with Christ, because it was totally so different, and I just wanted to tell John about it, but one night he came in drunk, and I just wrote on the mirror in lipstick in our bathroom – we had a great big mirror in our bathroom, and I wrote, "God is going to get you."
Dennis: This is while he's passed out on the bed?
Nancy: While he's passed out, yeah. And then I wrote another note and put it in his gym bag – "Jesus loves you, but He's still going to get you." And then that night, I put the boys in the car with me, and I went to where he goes to drink, and I put a big note on the steering wheel that said, "Jesus still loves you, but He is definitely going to get you." And when he came out of the bar, he found that note and, you know, but that was just my subtle way of witnessing to him.
Dennis: John, wait a second, did you think at this point you were married to a Jesus freak?
John: Yup, that's it.
Bob: Was it making you mad what she was doing?
John: No, she comes out, and she just …
Bob: If she wants to believe that, that's fine.
John: If she wants to do that stuff, you know, that's okay, but I'm going to do my thing.
Nancy: And I started going to churches to hear and, you know, the Gospel, so I was going to different churches and heard about a revival that was going on and just – I was playing praise music all the time, and my whole life had changed, my whole life had changed. Everything about my life was different. What was important before was not important anymore, and so he went to – I don't know what he had done or why he went, but I asked him to go to the revival with me, and he did go to that revival with me.
Bob: Why did you go to the revival?
John: Well, she had bugged me and bugged me and bugged me and bugged me and bugged me and bugged me and bugged me so finally I said, "Well, you know …
Dennis: "I'm bugged."
John: I used this linebacker mentality. I said, you know, maybe if I go with her she'll leave me alone, you know?
Nancy: But I think maybe God got you there.
John: Yeah, yeah, but, anyhow, I went to the revival with her, and this ol' boy was preaching on the Second Coming, and I didn't know anything about the first one much less the second one. You know, I just went to get her off my back, you know, and about 10 days later I'm sitting at home minding my own business, I've got a big ol' 16-ounce can of Budweiser about that big, a Winston about that long, lit up, I'm smoking, blowin' and goin', I'm having a big time at my house, and a knock comes on the door. Nancy goes to the door and opened it up, and I heard these strange voices in the hallway, and I peeped around the corner to see who it is, and it's two men from that there church out on visitation.
And what she had done while we was at the revival, she had wrote down on the card, you know, our names, our addresses, our phone numbers, and down at the bottom, "Come quickly."
Dennis: They didn't come too quickly, though, did they?
John: Yeah. But, anyhow, I saw them out there, and I said, "My goodness, those Christians have come to get me," and I didn't know what to do, man. I didn't whether to eat that can of beer or what to do with it, so I took it and hid it behind the couch, because I didn't want to hurt them little ol' Christians' feelings.
So they came on in, and sat down, and they began to talk to me. And they didn't come in there and tell me I was going to hell, they didn't tell me to quit drinking and running around and fighting and getting throwed in jail. All they talked about was Jesus and how He had changed their lives, how He had given them peace, joy, a home in heaven when they die, how He had made Christian daddies out of them, Christian husbands, you know, that's all they talked about.
And those guys said, "Well, let me ask you this – if I came into your home tonight" – now, my boys were 10 and 11 years old at that time – "If we came into your home tonight and asked you to let us have one of your boys and take him and nail him to the cross for the sins of the world, would you let us have one of your boys?"
I said, "No, sir, I wouldn't give up one of my boys for nobody." I said, "I love them too much." How in the world could I tell these men I love my boys when I'm teaching them how to abuse their wife when they ever get married, but I'm abusing their mama and teaching them how to drink and fight and dip, chew, cuss – you know, teaching them everything that is wrong, so how in the world could I tell these men that I love my boys?
Well, for the simple reason that I didn't know what love was because Jesus shows what love was. He said, "No man takes my life, I lay it down." I mean, He could have called 72,000 angels, but He said, "No, huh-uh, I'm going to the cross." I mean, you know, Romans 5:8 said, you know, God demonstrated His love toward us even while I was a drunk running around on my wife and getting throwed in jail, He loved me even then.
And so those ol' boys, you know, they said, "Well," they said, "Do you know why we came by here tonight?" And I said, "No, not really, why?" They looked back at me, and they said, "We came by for only one reason – that's because we love you." And I'd never been told that by a man. And they left that night, and I reached over behind the couch, and I got that can of beer, and I poured it out in the sink, and I got in my icebox and poured all my beer out, poured all my whiskey out, threw my cigarettes away.
Now, these men had given me a little New Testament. The New Testament that had Christian outlines in it, you know, and I read those outlines, and I read the Scriptures, but I got to John 3:16, that says "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
One word go ahold of me, and it was the word "whosoever." I said, "Wait a minute, God, I'm a whosoever." I said, "That means You love me." I said, "If You can do anything with me, the rest of my life belongs to You," and that was 35 years ago, and I haven't got over it yet – that He loves me."
And I've just been amazed at God and I praise the Lord for saving my soul, and I know that I've got a long way to go. But I do know this – I'm not what I used to be, and she knows that, too.
Bob: The second half of marriage has been a whole lot different from the first half, hasn't it?
Nancy: Oh, my goodness, yes.
Dennis: There is hope?
Nancy: Oh, yes. The first 14 years were not great, but this last 35 has been wonderful.
Bob: That cute football player from across town?
Nancy: Yeah, yeah, he's still pretty cute, still pretty cute.
Dennis: I've got two things to say here at the end. One, a former coach of yours, the head coach of Memphis State University said, "John Bramlett was a great athlete who became an even greater Christian." That's a great statement to make about you. And then Dave Rowe, who is a former defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders who became and NBC and a Raycom commentator said this – "If John Bramlett can become a Christian, there is hope for everybody in the world."
Dennis: That's a great statement.
John: Oh, yeah.
Dennis: It's a great reminder. And, Nancy, I just want to say to you, and Bob knows, because we've talked to other wives who have endured abuse in their marriage, we both admire your courage and your tenacity in hanging in there, even in the midst of doing it without a personal relationship with Christ in your case. I don't know how you did it, except God just gave you the grit and the courage to be able to hang in there and love your husband.
But thanks to you and you, too, John, for your honesty and your books. I just appreciate all the real stories you share, because it is where a lot of people live. Thank you.
Nancy: Thank you.
John: Thank you all, I appreciate you.
Bob: Well, we've been listening to Part 2 of a conversation with John and Nancy Bramlett, and the Scripture that came to mind, Dennis, as we were summing things up there is that God's arm is not too short; that no one is beyond His reach.
Dennis: And when a person repents there can be redemption and reconciliation – it is possible. God is the God of hope, and as they were sharing there, I just couldn't help but think that there are listeners right now who know of couples who need to go to a Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, and perhaps you need to take a brochure that has the information about the conference and hand-deliver it or mail it to them – somehow implore them before they give up, before they toss the towel in, to go to one of these conferences and allow God the opportunity to resurrect that which is dead, and see if He can't do something better. His arm is long enough, His arm is strong enough, and He is able to reach down, and He is able to lift out of the pit the biggest mess you ever imagined, because this story here – it's been a long time since I've heard of a story like this. But you know what? It just causes me to go – "God, you are able, you are able."
Bob: Yeah, we have seen the transformation that you're talking about take place in a lot of marriages over the years at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, and I want to encourage our listeners – go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There is information available there about our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences that actually kick off here in a couple of weeks. Valentine's weekend is the first weekend for the spring conference season. That's a great weekend to get out for our Marriage Conference together and enjoy a romantic weekend away at a place like the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania; or the Gaylord Texan in Dallas, Texas; or the Tamaya Resort in Albuquerque, New Mexico; or we've got a conference taking place that weekend in Washington, D.C.
Again, all the information about these conferences and the entire spring season are available on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and we would encourage you to sign up to attend and then find a couple you know who could use some hope and some help in their marriage and bring them along with you for what will be a great weekend getaway for all of you as a couple.
Again, our website, FamilyLifeToday.com is where you'll find all the information. You'll also find information about the books that John and Nancy Bramlett have written. John tells his story in a book called "Taming the Bull," and Nancy talks about persevering in a trouble marriage in a book that's she's written called "Always Too Soon to Quit." Information about both books are on the website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can order from us online, if you'd like, or call 1-800-FLTODAY – 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. When you call us, someone can get you the information you need either about the Weekend to Remember conference, or about the books we've talked about, and we can make arrangements to have copies of those books sent to you.
Let me also encourage you – I think one of the ways that you can strengthen your own marriage is by spending time together each day praying together, talking with one another about what the Scriptures have to say about your marriage relationship. And I know a lot of couples would like to be able to do that, but they really don't feel equipped to be able to do that, and so this month when you make a donation of any amount to help support FamilyLife Today, we want to send you a thank you gift – a copy of the book "Moments With You," written by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.
This is a daily devotional guide that's designed to help the two of you come together. It gives you an opportunity to talk together about a subject and then spend some time praying together about that subject so you can grow closer to one another and closer to God at the same time.
If you'd like to receive a copy of the book, "Moments With You," simply go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a donation online. When you come to the keycode box on the donation form, type the word "moments" in the box, and we'll know to send a copy of the book to you. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329. You can make a donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like the devotional guide, "Moments With You," and we'll make arrangements to have it sent to you. Again, we appreciate your support of the ministry and value your partnership very much.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. I hope you can join us back tomorrow. We'll see you then for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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