His Story: Jim Grobe

The following article comes from http://www.prodigalsonmagazine.com/

One of the reasons that we love sports is because there is always the chance that the underdog can overtake the favorite. We watch to see which team that is said to have no shot will prevail over the more powerful or more storied team, giving us the hope that we too can overcome incredible odds in our lives. When these upsets happen, they offer a sense of hope to all of us that we will have a day that we will shine as well.

Last season, the Wake Forest Demon Deacon football team proved that they too could overcome the odds and become champions. In the preseason, they were picked to finish last in their division with the experts believing that they didn’t have what it took to excel in the ACC. They believed in themselves and overcame injuries, history, and skeptics to win the ACC Football Championship and play in the Orange Bowl. A school long known for its’ basketball and golf, with such famous alumni as Arnold Palmer and Tim Duncan, stood at the pinnacle of the college football world.

I recently met with their head coach, Jim Grobe, to talk about his faith in God, football, and a season that gave us all a reason to believe that we can overcome any obstacles that we may face in life.

His Life

Jim Grobe grew up in Huntington, WV and played college football at the University of Virginia after he spent two years Ferrum Junior College. After graduation, Grobe began his coaching career, a career that would span the ranks of high school football, assistant coach in college football, and finally up to the head coaching ranks in college football. He took his first head coaching job in college at the University of Ohio, where he turned around a fledgling program and then moved to Wake Forest to resurrect a program that had fallen to the depths of the ACC.
Q " Can you tell me your testimony?
“My first memory of church is going to church with my grandparents. My grandparents used to come down on Sunday mornings and take me to church with them and sometimes I liked hearing that knock at the door and other times, he says laughing, “I’d rather have slept in. Those are my first memories of church and probably, somewhere in my high school days was when I really became a Christian and was making more of a commitment for myself as opposed to a commitment for my grandparents.

Q " When was a time in your life that you felt God was the closest?
“I think somewhere in my high school years was when I felt a sense of God’s presence in my life and it’s just always been there. Since that time, it’s not changed. I’ve never felt distant and I’ve never felt like God wasn’t there. I’ve had some tough times in my life, my dad died when I was a junior in high school and I’ve lost my mom and younger brother since and those were the times that I leaned more heavily on the Lord but in reality, I’ve always felt like I was close to the Lord. It’s (the feeling of God’s presence) not anything I’ve deserved; it’s totally from grace.
His career

Coach Grobe started with high school football and eventually took a job as an assistant for famed coach Fisher DeBerry at the Air Force Academy. He coached at the University of Ohio, where his teams posted an 8-3 record in 1997 and a 7-4 record in 2000. In December of 2000, he accepted the head coaching job at Wake Forest University, in the hopes of competing at the highest level in one of the most revered conferences in college football.

Q " What’s your favorite part about coaching?
“I’ve always loved football. I would rather play than coach. I’m 55 years old right now and I wish some pro team was coming up to me right now saying, “I think it’s about time you hang it up! So that’s always been my desire, to play. I’ve loved the game since I was in the sandlot getting my T-shirts ripped off. My mom used to go crazy because everyday I’d come home with my shirts ripped off from playing sandlot tackle football. I just love the game. I would love to be playing but the next closest thing is coaching. I also like working with young people, working with my coaching staff, and the competition on Saturdays, but more than anything else, I just love the game.

Q " What is the key to winning in the ACC?
“I think more than anything else is, aside form having enough talent, you have to do a good job coaching. The best coaching (in this league) is done by staffs that coach with the mentality to let the kids play and not let them beat themselves. You’re in a position in this league where each Saturday most of the games are going into the fourth quarter. A lot of times, it’s just a matter of who creates opportunities at the end of games. Two seasons ago, we were 4-7; I thought we were a pretty good football team, just playing a really tough schedule. This year, we were 11-3 and I felt we were better than we were the year before but not a whole lot better. Yet, we’re 11-3 and ACC Champions where the year before (we were) 4-7 and I thought we were a pretty good football team that year. So, if you say what’s a real key to winning, being opportunistic late in games is either what keeps you afloat or sinks you.

Q " How has your faith in God been influential to your career?
“I think, for me personally, I never really worry too much about my career. I’ve always had faith that my career would be God-driven and it’s always worked out that way. I started out as a high school football coach and always thought that I would be happy being a high school football coach. I didn’t necessarily want to be a classroom teacher but I have a Master’s in Counseling so I always saw myself as a high school football coach and counselor. As it’s turned out, different jobs have presented themselves to me and in a lot of cases that were not really my doing. They were the result of God deciding it’s time for me to move on. So, that’s kind of the way I’ve had my entire coaching career. I think a lot of coaches spend a lot of time worrying about the future and I can tell you that I’ve not spent too much time worrying about the future. I’ve tried to do the best job day to day that I possibly could. I’ve always just had a feeling that things would work out. I’m blessed; I’m really blessed. I couldn’t have expected it to be this good. A big part of that is just that I was able to do my job day after day because I wasn’t spending a lot of time stressed out about what was down the road.

Q "What has been the highlight of your coaching career?
“I’ve had some individual wins from year to year that have been pretty special but I think the highlight was this season. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I think the fun thing for me was we had a group of players who went out every Saturday and earned what they got. I give all the credit for this season to the players; secondarily to the coaches and primarily to the players. I wasn’t a big part of this honestly. I get more pats on the back. I feel a little bit guilty because I got so many pats on the back this year and I’ve won some awards individually as a coach. This has been my easiest year. We’ve had our players with us a long time. I’ve had my coaching staff with me for a long time. Those guys did all the work and I kind of just stayed out of the way. Maybe that’s something that I should pat myself on the back for…knowing when to stay out of the way (smiling). Basically, I let my coaches coach and the players play and everybody took their responsibility seriously. I feel like I had a small part in what we did but the lion share of the work and the success that we’ve achieved was made possible by the efforts of our players on game day and my staff getting those guys ready to go.

His Advice

Coach Grobe has had the opportunity to lead many young men, not just on the football field, but along their journey in life. As he has helped to mold each young man, his advice is something that we can all learn from.

Q " How humbling is it to know that you get the opportunity to mold so many young men’s lives?
“It’s scary. It certainly humbles you to know that you have so many players that are in your charge but more than anything else, it’s a frightening responsibility. It’s a situation where you’ve got 100 guys aged 18-23 and sometimes, it’s about like trying to herd cats. I’ve raised two sons and I love them both and I’m proud of them both but it was a tough job raising two. Now, you get 100 under your watch and it’s scary. You want to be successful on the field, you want the kids to be successful in the classroom, but really, more than anything else, you want them to be good people. You want them to make good choices and show great character. You want them to show kindness and treat others with respect. You’d like for them to live their lives the way you’d want your own children to live theirs. Most of the time, we’re happy with the results and sometimes, you’re disappointed. It think our approach is that our coaching staff treats our players like they’re our own sons, trying to spend a lot of time patting them on the back, hugging them around the neck, laughing, and enjoying being with them. But at the same time, if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to, (we) take appropriate action like any parent would.

Q " What do you think is the biggest problem facing Christian men today?
“I think putting your faith in men is a little scary. I think we tend to idolize sports heroes and coaches as well as movie stars. We tend to put people on pedestals that disappoint us. I think that’s probably one of the things that I worry about more than anything else with our kids is that they idolize the wrong people.

I also asked Coach Grobe which Bible passage resonated with him the most and he quoted the beginning of Psalm 91 to me. He said that there were many that were special to him but that one had stuck with him since he heard a football player use it as his life verse when Coach Grobe was younger.

We can look at the life of Jim Grobe and see how God can open doors for all of us who believe. Coach Grobe left his career in the hands of the Lord and God has blessed him. So often, we miss out on the chance to do things in life because we do not have the faith to believe that God is working and will open the doors when necessary. God opened the doors for Coach Grobe to become a high school football coach and continued to open doors until he reached the pinnacle of ACC football. We can also learn that we can overcome doubts, just as the Wake Forest football team prevailed last season against incredible odds. We must remember that we are all like David and we can overcome the Goliath that we face if we keep our eyes focused on the Lord.

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