042: Glenn Derby: Finding Success Through Finding Purpose
Glenn Derby was an NFL football player who had all the money and popularity before everything around him crashed down. Glenn was battling with alcohol and medication, and struggled with finding purpose and happiness. His alcohol addiction started at the young age of thirteen, influenced by his parents being party coordinators at the time. He got dependent on pain medication when he was taking them to relieve pain from football injuries. When he finally admitted his dependency problem, he started getting treatment where he met a guy who asked him if he wanted to coach a football camp. He’s earning way less than his football stint paycheck but he’s now helping kids and is the happiest he’s ever been in his whole entire life. Glenn realized that finding purpose and meaning helped break every cycle of addiction in his life. He shares that once you find your purpose, it’s so much easier to not have that desire or need to have drugs and alcohol.
I was very fortunate to have a chat with an old time New Orleans Saints teammate. The thing that makes Glenn Derby such a unique soul is that he was willing to share these tough times that he went through. I didn’t know at the time, even though I was friends, we did go out, that he had an alcohol problem. He talks about it very candidly and the things that got him through it. Certainly, his daughters have been the joy of his life, helped him be the best that he can be. Now, he’s out doing different things, a very healthy lifestyle. It was fun to get caught up with Glenn. We just go through a lot of things. The way it was in Wisconsin, which is where he grew up to playing for the Saints and then the struggles of being hurt and overcoming some marriages and things like that. It is a good episode and we do weave our way through and there’s a happy ending, which is great. That is Glenn. On that note, ready hike as they say in football. Let’s go get it.
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Glenn Derby: Finding Success Through Finding Purpose
I’m so pumped up because I get to chat and reminisce with an old football teammate of mine with the New Orleans Saints. His name is Glenn Derby, all the way from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, beaming back to Hermosa Beach. Glenn, how you doing?
I’m doing awesome, Mark. Thank you so much for having me on here.
You and I have not caught up in a long time and here we are after all these years and I read about your story and I was like, “I’ve got to have this guy in my pod. He definitely fits into the whole model of overcoming adversity and finding his way.” In fact, you’ve done that. You’re in Wisconsin, I’m out here in California and there have been a lot of years that have grown in between those times. Twenty plus years since we last saw each other?
I think the last time we were together was ’88. I was a rookie and you were a couple years in. You, me and Steve Trapilo hit it off well. I had a lot of fun that year when I was on injured reserve down in New Orleans. I got to know you real good. It’s amazing how after all these years, there are some guys that I do remember periodically and when I saw you pop-up on Facebook with your mountain climbing and all the stuff you’re doing I thought, “I would love to catch up with that dude,” and here we are.
Sadly, Steve Trapilo died of a massive heart attack about ten years ago, which was obviously awful. I roomed with him. He’s a big guy from Boston College. It’s interesting because the things that we’re going to get into which are wrapped around sobriety, I didn’t know that there were any issues going on back in the day. There’s a memory that I’ll never forget that the three of us jumped in. I think it was your car and you slipped into track of the Steve Miller band and we just rock and rolled all the way up to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and we went to hear a guy named Steve Azar who’s a become a music star now. I interviewed him, just incredible. He’s had a number of Top Ten hits. In some cases, his life has thrived. We’ve all gone on to do different things. Unfortunately for Steve Trapilo, his journey ended years ago and that’s the way that played. We all go through different stuff and we talked about that with Steve Azar and now we’re here talking with you. One of the things that struck me, and I’ve found this with other people, is that growing up, you literally moved twenty different times before you were eighteen, before I met you.
As I look back on it, when I was going through it, it felt normal to me. Now, being older and watching my daughters grow and I was even talking to my oldest daughter, Savannah the other day about life in general and I said to her, “Savannah, can you imagine if you went to a different kindergarten, a first grade, second grade, third grade?” The first time I went to the same school, back-to-back year-after-year was in seventh grade. In all those times, we were moving in different houses. I never got a sense of belonging in school and it was difficult. Now, there were some good things that happened to it because I could fit in with just about anyone because when you’re that young and you’re moving around, that’s what you’re forced to do. The bad thing is that it set me to, I guess for lack of better words, hanging out with the rough crowd. I didn’t ever feel like I could fit in with the good crowd because every time you move, you had a group of clicks, a group of kids that you went, ran around the neighborhood with and you hung out with. If you’re a new kid, typically speaking, they don’t fit right in with the click. You end up finding the cast out kids, the kids that didn’t belong. I got good at hanging out with all different kinds of people. That’s a good thing.
The bad thing was I struggled in school. I was a very bright kid, but I struggled with discipline, basic academics, going into different math classes, science classes, etc. It became challenging for me. It did set the stage for me to have a little bit of struggles as I was growing up. I look at it too, is that I see my daughters and they handle social things so beautifully. They’re not angry. They’re not getting in fights. They’re not having these social difficulties that I remember when I was in grade school that was all I dealt with. It’s challenging and I would not recommend anyone to have their kids do that.
There are two things that come to mind. Number one, I’ve got two daughters as well, and the one thing that kids love is consistency and a stable environment. What you just described was not a stable environment because you’re bouncing all over the place. In fact, you were in Texas and Wyoming and Montana. The question that just jumps out to me is why were you moving around so much?
Most people would say that I was a military brat. In fact, my mom and dad and neither one of them were in the military. My dad unfortunately has passed on a few years ago, but he and I talked a lot about the whole thing and basically what it came down to was they got married mainly because they were going to be raised in a family and it was the thing to do. They weren’t real settled in what their career path was. My dad, he was then playing football at Duke. He was on a scholarship at Duke playing football and he blew out his knee. Back then, it was a same injury I had where they had major surgery. I didn’t even have surgery. It was an MCL tear. He was out. He was done playing. He didn’t know what he was going to do. We were in North Carolina where I was born and then they moved to Texas because my dad had a contact that he was going to become a paint contractor. He started a business. It ended up folding after about a year or two and that was right around when I was a kindergartener. Then they both wanted to become ranchers. I don’t know if it was a dream of theirs. We moved up to Wyoming for them to start becoming a ranch hands. When dad was working at a ranch, he got fired at a couple places and they basically said, “You need to go back to school,” which they ended up going to Montana State. They were going to school at Montana State. We were following all around to these different ranches. When they finally got to college, the funny thing is, is we originally were living in Bozeman but it was too expensive for them. Then we ended up moving out to Belgrade. Even in a place where they were going to school, I could have stayed at that school, but we moved schools there. I lived there in that area for four years. When my dad got out, he became a school teacher. We moved to Red Lodge where I lived for a couple years. Then he got the calling to become a priest so then we moved to Wisconsin for him to go to an Episcopal Seminary. Then after that, I went to Madison and then New Orleans.
I got that path. It’s interesting because Bozeman is very near and dear to me. I know Montana State well, a lot of roots there. I built a ranch just outside north of Belgrade.
There’s a lot of history there and I’ve spent zillion hours out there and running around Bozeman. It’s a beautiful area. It’s a little chilly this time of year, but just the Gallatin mountain range that surrounds. The bottom line though, not taking shots on your dad or anything, but it just sounds like he was a guy that was never settled in what he was doing and chasing something. I’m not sure what that was and that led to you’re in this state and that state, every city in that town. Did he ever follow through on the priesthood?
He did. On his last twenty years of his life, he finally figured out who he was. It was interesting because I had gone through my own recovery and issues with life. I started a little bit before he did and then he started to. He went through a lot of challenging stuff. In his last twenty years though, he was pretty settled as a priest and he found who he wanted to be. I used to always say that there’s a country song that says something like, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” That was the way my dad was. He fell for all different things and we’d chase all around these different pipe dreams without any substance. I learned early on about that and it did affect me in some of my decisions that I would make as a late teenager early in my twenties which is when I knew you.
A lot of these things were masked in terms of what I knew what was going on. I want to tie together this string of now you’re going to high school. Where was that? Was that in Wisconsin?
It was at a school called Oconomowoc which is just a little further west than I am right now. It’s basically between Madison and Milwaukee.
For people who don’t know, Glenn is 6’ 6”. He is a big offensive tackle. I’m sure that from a younger kid, you were always the taller one. You excelled at sports. I’m sure that made you popular. You’re a good guy anyhow, somewhere in there between your popularity of how good you were athletically in sports and alcohol came into play, right?
Alcohol came in very early for me. When we were in Montana, my parents became a party coordinator for a rodeo club. I used to ride bulls and broncs when I was young. I actually roped steers. I was at rodeo that Walt Garrison got hurt that ended his career for the Dallas Cowboys. He was my hero and I was going to be a steer wrestler and that was going to be me. All I could think about was that. Anyways, we were rodeo-ing and partying.
I never scored well when I rode bulls because I look so awkward being so tall. I’m going against these little 5’ 5” guys that look good. Back in those days in Montana, in the rodeo crowd, there was a lot of tobacco chewing, beer drinking party. When I was twelve or thirteen, me and some of the guys that I was riding with, we would snuck down in my parents basement and they had all the beer for the parties there and we took a couple of six packs and went out in the woods and drank it. That was the first time I got buzzed on alcohol. It was at about twelve or thirteen and I look at my daughter and I think, “I cannot believe she’s thirteen.” I can’t even fathom that she would even think about doing something like that. I don’t know where my head was at that time, but that’s where the whole drinking thing started. I remember that warm feeling. I looked at it at that time in my life, it was like, “This is what God feels like or this is what something greater than me feels like,” was that warmth that just went into my body and it just took over, Mark.
In Montana, I’m a seventh grader, eighth grader, ninth grader and out there you get your learner’s permit at fourteen, you get your driver’s license at fifteen. I’m driving all over the place and you can drive even before then on country dirt roads. We’re driving around and we’re partying, smoking marijuana, drinking beer. I remember the first time I was in eighth grade and I smoked hash for the first time. It was just something that became an obsession for me. When I moved to Wisconsin, I had my driver’s license before anyone else had it. I had a big Dodge pickup with big tires on it and everything else. It had one of those caps on the back and we used to throw a quarter grille back there and we drive all over the country drinking beer and listening to music as loud as we could. This is when I’m a sophomore in high school. I started very early and partied hard all the way through high school. I picked the University of Wisconsin, which is a huge party school and it just continued.
[Tweet “Once you find your purpose, it’s so much easier to not have that desire to have drugs and alcohol.”]
You know the drill. If you’re big like you were and you could play and get away with it, you think you can keep it going. You’re young. You’ve got a lot of energy and that only stays with you for so long until you finally crashed. Now, you get a full right scholly to Wisconsin. How long before you started games? How many years did you have to be on scout team?
My freshman year, I was on scout team through training camp and then the first week we got out of training camp, I ended up making it off of scout team onto the travel squad. I traveled my freshman and sophomore year, played a few games in my sophomore year and then started my junior year. That would have been my redshirt sophomore year. I ended up starting three years there.
I also read something about after your junior year, you had a great year. A lot of people had you projected very highly in the draft and then your coach suddenly died of a heart attack.
It was horrible, Mark. We had a very good coach. He was bringing Wisconsin back. We’d beaten Michigan and Ohio State, started to become pretty well-known. We went to a Bowl game. We were on our way and had a great group of guys running the typical NFL offense and the two back, split back, all that. The whole pro offense style and we were doing great. He passed away.
What was his name?
His name is Dave McClain. We had a spring game and it went very, very well. Three days after our spring game, he was sitting in a sauna with a couple of guys and ended up falling over with a heart attack at 49. It was totally unexpected. It puts turmoil into our whole program. In my junior year, our defensive coordinator took over as the interim. We were projected to be possibly running for the Big Ten. A lot of people thought we could. We ended up going three and nine. It was a miserable season. At that time, I had talked to a few people and I was rated extremely high at an offensive tackle. They wouldn’t let us go out. I tried to appeal to a hardship, but I got turned down. Then I had to stick it out for my fifth year senior and we had a coach come in that run the veer. What they do is they moved the tackles into guards. Veer is not an NFL offense by any means. Here I am at a guard crab blocking all these guys and basically went from being a top round down to a very low round. Now, I look back at it and say, “As far as my talent and ability that shouldn’t have mattered.”
At that time, I was partying and extremely hard. I was making some very poor decisions and I think that probably had as much of more to do with it than moving positions and switching offenses. I was not a happy guy. Coach McClain, he was the dad I never had. I could go to him. He would always care about me, ask how I’m doing. He even asked about my drinking and had said he had heard that I was quite a drinker and that maybe I need to back off on it if I wanted to play in the NFL. I was listening to him, but when he left it was pretty devastating.
Now, you get drafted by New Orleans and you come down there and you joined me. I love New Orleans, but I always say it’s a great place to visit, but everything is based around food and drink and entertainment. That’s just the way the French Quarter and everything else is set up. It’s not like a Wisconsin or LA or something where you’ve got so many different distractions, different things that you can go do. That’s what a lot of people do and spend too much time on that side of it. At the end of the day, you have to be a professional. You have to go down there and if you don’t go down there with the right drive and the right mindset, it’s going to make it very challenging to make it in the NFL. It’s just too competitive as you know.
The other thing that happens a lot is you go from college where you’re with a group of guys. The coaches know you well and all year long, you’re basically having a coach tell you what to do. When you get to the NFL, there’s not that. You’re on your own a little bit. They are with you during the day when you’re at the facility, but you’re not being kept tabs off on Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, all that stuff. You’re a lot freer in the NFL to do whatever you want. If you don’t have that self discipline and you don’t have people in your corner to keep you straight, you can veer way off very fast. A lot of guys do, including myself. That was pretty difficult.
You’re talking about accountability. At the end of the day, we all have to do this and that is surrounding yourself with the right types of people who are going to enable you to make the right types of decisions and that take some maturity. The core basics of knowing exactly who you are, where you’re going and what you want to accomplish, it can make a lot of those things very difficult in the choices that you make. It’s a process. You just don’t wake up and like, “I’m a rockstar.” It takes a lot of drive and having the right influences around you. I look back and a lot of this is like, “No wonder somebody who might have had a problem if the home environment is not stable and consistent and you’ve moved twenty times in eighteen years.”
The other thing that happens too, Mora, I respected that guy a lot, but he runs a very challenging hard practice. When you’re fighting and practicing hard, you’ve got to be in the right mind. I know for me, I didn’t have that self-discipline that a lot of the other guys around me did. It was frustrating to me because I felt like I had the talent that they did. I just didn’t have the ability to focus and stay in that environment on a day-to-day basis. That’s pretty much when I started getting into the pain meds to try and help me cope because I didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t know how to handle that kind of an environment with those kinds of pressures.
You started taking Percocet, is that right?
I started in college when I had surgery and they gave me Percocet, which I liked. I didn’t start taking them on a regular basis until probably when I was towards the later end of my rookie year in New Orleans where I started pretty regularly taking them.
It’s a huge problem today. It seems like it’s now coming into the forefront of pain medication and people becoming addicted to that. These doctors subscribe it and the next thing you know, you’re knee deep in to all this and like, “How did I get out of it?” It’s hard. I totally get it. Now you play a couple of years in New Orleans and I know you were hurt and you were back and forth in terms of struggling through that. Ultimately, you decide to get some surgery on your ankles, what happened after that?
James Campen, I think he was there when you were there. He was up in Green Bay and he called me and said, ” Glenn, we need a long snapper up here and I know you know how to do that.” I said, “Yeah.” That was the first year of that Plan B free agency. I was able to get a free agency deal up to Green Bay. I came up to Green Bay to long snap because I knew my time was pretty much up. I had a hell of a time with my ankles. I’m getting ready and being the right kind of shape plus along with all the partying I was doing that wasn’t helping either. I came to Wisconsin to long snap. Blair Bush, he was the long snapper for a long, long time and he was going to retire.
He played at Washington.
He was the long snapper. He was going to retire, so I came up to replace him and was going through training camp and he decided to not retire. He was going to play one more year. I ended up having to try and make it on the team as a player. Campen had gotten hurt so I was playing as center. I was doing very well at the position. They were very happy with how I was playing and we were playing against Kansas City and we had one of those practices where we went to their place and practice against them and had a scrimmage and I ended up rolling my ankle bad. Up in Green Bay, the locker rooms are up in the stadium and the practice feel is like way over on the other side of a parking lot. You had to walk across this parking lot while you’re all taped up in those big studded shoes and I had a heck of a time walking from the stadium down to the practice field. I kept going, “How am I ever going to make this?” Every day I would walk down there and it would be so painful and I’d get down there and I do my long snapping and then I’d have to get in and play. One time, we were doing a drill where the center was doing a double read. We were learning this. This was new where centers would actually look at a middle linebacker to the outside linebacker. If the middle backer came, you stayed. If he didn’t, you’d go out to the outside backer.
Bryce Paup came flying in and I was trying to figure it out and I wasn’t prepared for the hit. He hit me really hard. I’ve had concussions and I’ve had dingers and all that stuff, he hit me so freaking hard. I was laying on the turf and everything was spinning. It felt like my head exploded out of my helmet and I’m just laying there and I’m like, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” This is just so ungodly painful and walking up and down this thing, I went to Lindy Infante and Charlie Davis was the o-line coach and I said, “I’m having a hard time even walking up and down from practice to the thing.” I said, “I’m not giving you my best. I don’t know what I can do. I need to get these ankles fixed.” Basically Lindy said, “We’ll shoot them up with cortisone and we need you. This could be my last year and we need you to play backup center and tackle and also be our backup long snapper. Next year, you can do our long snapping.” I said, “I just can’t make it up and down anymore. I’m going to have to have surgery,” and they would not do it. They said, “No. We will not have surgery.” I was like, ” Screw it.” I walked out of our practice. I got my truck and I drove back to my parents’ house and I said, “I’m done.”
Part of what you just said is such an old school way of thinking. They’re not doing those things anymore like, “You’ve got this mega injury in your ankles, your arm, you’re throwing shoulder or something.” He just injects it with cortisone and all it does is numb the pain. It doesn’t fix the injury and you go back out there. It’s insane, right?
It was insane. There was no collective bargain agreement. We had nothing. I’m like, “What am I going to do?” That’s what I chose. With no advice of anybody that was just my brain thinking, “This is what I have to do.” I ended up going to Madison and having some doctors do surgery on my ankles and I was much better. I was in great shape. I was feeling good, probably the best I’ve felt in five or six years. I had a tryout with Detroit, so I fly out to Detroit. I go through the whole medical procedure where they test you and do everything. I’m going to the stadium to get my gear and I’m standing there and he goes, “No. You’re not getting any gear.” I’m like, “I don’t even have to work out. This is cool.” They came down and told me that I flunked the physical because of my ankles. I had a couple of other workout scheduled too, but at that time when you flunk a physical, all the other teams canceled and I was pretty much done. That was the end and it was abrupt. It was not under my control and it was very difficult. You know how it is when you get told you’re done and now what else are you going to do? It’s a rough time. That’s how it all went down.
It’s literally like driving off a cliff. You’ve been doing this whole thing in the way you and I started back in fourth and fifth grade and you play through high school, through college, and now you get into the NFL and you’ve been very driven towards one particular goal. It’s your love, it’s your passion, and now all of a sudden like, “You’re done. You can’t do this thing anymore.” It’s like, “Where do I go?” I want to get your comment on this. To compound all this, you’re driving off a cliff and at the same time, now maybe one of the ways you were dealing with this is medicating with alcohol.
I was heavily medicating, Mark. It wasn’t just one of the ways. It was the major way. I had gotten married to a lady from New Orleans. That was a rocky relationship. She was into some other chemicals but her and I, that was pretty much what we were doing was medicating. Both of us were in a depression. I wasn’t making any money anymore. We weren’t sure what we were going to do. I crashed hard. Those next couple of years were pretty rough. Chemicals and alcohol and drinking. It was no longer fun. It was doing it to numb the pain and disappointments, the sadness. You have a dream and you’re there. I was right there. I was there to be able to do this for what I thought was going to be ten or twelve years and now all of a sudden, you’re just done. It’s a tough, tough, tough thing to go through.
I didn’t have those issues exactly, but I did drive off the end of a cliff and it was hard to deal with. It was probably two years for me of just like, “What am I going to do now?” I was doing a few things and kicking tires here and there. It was hard and I probably wasn’t the easiest person to be around at that time. As it relates to your situation, how did you pull yourself out of this? You’ve been now been sober for 22 years. The whole part of Finding Your Summit is overcoming adversity and certainly you went through yours and now, somehow you had to elevate yourself from and hit that bottom level of, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I need to get better. I need to get focused. There’s more to life than this.” At some point in time, we all come to that moment of truth.
For me, Mark, I was in that marriage and it got bad. I had tried to kill myself a couple times. I drove off the road twice trying to hit a telephone pole. The second time, the car literally spun all the way around the pole and I’m sitting there looking and I’m like, “I can’t even kill myself right.” I was so desperate. I didn’t know what to do. I went home and my first wife was in tears and we were sad and she was telling me she needed to get help and she wanted to go into treatment and I said, “All right.” She found a place and I drove her down there and we went through the whole intake process of getting her in there. At this time, I never thought I had. I knew I drank differently than other people. I knew I was having troubles with the drugs. I knew I was completely depressed and didn’t want to live and didn’t know what my future was, what my path was going to be. I never thought I was an alcoholic or I didn’t think I was a drug addict or I didn’t think any of those things. At that time, I always thought those guys were the bums on the street with a brown paper bag and I was not that. I was pretty desperate and pretty struggling. We’re going through the whole process to get her into treatment and we were there for a couple hours and this guy said, “Glenn, I’d like you to come into the room over here. We’re going to talk to you about some things.” I thought, ” I’m going to go find out how to support my ex-wife and go through this whole process.”
When we were in there, they said, “We have a bed for you.” I looked at him, I said, “You have what? There’s no way in hell I’m going into any bed. I don’t have a problem. I’m not doing this.” He kept me in there for awhile and he was a good guy. He went through his story and it was somewhat similar to mine in some ways and I related to him. What I ended up doing was I agreed to go into outpatient and I told him that I would try to go to some of those meetings and see what I could do about that. I left the treatment. She stayed in there. I leave and I go to my first meeting and then my first group and I started to read. I just became a sponge, Mark. I read so many books. Any book that anyone would give me about recovery, about self-help. I just was a sponge. I just started reading like crazy. After leaving that treatment center, the Super Bowl in 1994, she was in treatment, I was at home alone and I ended up starting to drink before the game and I was all by myself. I ended up drinking like a case and a half that night watching the game. I’m like, “Oh my God.” I woke up the next morning and I’m like, “I have a serious problem.” Then I went to a meeting with another guy and realized that I was at that point where I’ve got to give this a try and I did. That was the last day I had anything to drink and I just soaked up every bit of knowledge I could find on how to get better.
[Tweet “When you’re fighting and practicing hard, you’ve got to be in the right mind.”]
The funny thing was, I had a crappy job of selling fitness equipment for peanuts and had a little tiny house in Milwaukee. I had lost everything. I had gone through a divorce. We were divorced when all this was going on but we were still trying to pull it together. I’m sitting down and I’m thinking, “What am I going to do?” A guy called me and said, “Would you come coach a football camp?” I did. At that camp, all these guys were there and they said they were working at this facility helping kids and they said, “Would you like to come work with us?” I was telling them how I hated my job. I was like, “Sure.” I go apply there and get the job and I’m there about a year, Mark. My yearly salary was the same amount as my one week chuck at New Orleans. I was thinking, “I’m happier now doing this than I was when I was playing football and this has blown me away.” At the time, all of a sudden I realized that when I was down in New Orleans, I went and saw a psychologist. He had come and said he was offering free service to do some testing on guys. After the testing, I’m sitting there and he goes, “Glenn, you are not an NFL football player.” I looked at him, I said, “You’re crazy. I got a contract. I’m playing.” He says, “No. What I mean is, is that’s not what your purpose is. Your purpose is to go try and help other people probably, teenagers, but you have a gift and you have an ability to help other people.”
This was way back when I was in New Orleans and I blew it off like, “Whatever.” Here I am working at a residential treatment center helping kids and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole entire life. It blew me away that this guy does testing or whatever he did and figured out what my purpose was. Then I started paying attention to what my purposes is and that was taking what had happened to me, all the things that I had gone through and trying to help other people deal with their issues similar to some people that had helped me along the way as well. That’s how I got into where I was after the whole drug thing and alcohol. Once you find your purpose, it’s so much easier to not have that desire or that need to have drugs and alcohol.
Certainly wherever your focus is, your energy always follows. Rather than focus on, “Let’s go out and get a bunch of beers,” and you go down that path, that rabbit hole. You’re going off to what you’re saying there are kids. The other thing about that too is that by nature, we are all social creatures. We weren’t put on this Earth to be in solitude. Some people choose that, but for the most of us, where you’re starting to get that gratitude is not about being, we all have to be this way, I was this way, the selfish NFL player. You’re trying to be the best that you can be. Now, you’re turning around and going out and you’re helping others get through their problems. The other part of that, like this whole podcast for me, I don’t think in my time on this Earth, my podcast would be nearly as effective as they are today, mainly because of what I’ve gone through in the past.
There have been ups and there have been a whole lot of downs. This has happened to me. I’m now divorced and a lot of heartache that goes along with that. Unlike you, I was drafted and I was cut and I was picked back up and all these different things happen. Over life, the journey of life that ensues puts you in a position for this little thing called perspective. At that point in time, now you’re able to look back and impart that knowledge based on people who are going through this stuff. Even though it was awful and you had to go through all that, and I am so sorry that you got to that such a low point that you wanted to end your life, but from out of that sorrow comes joy. You were able to convey that message to those who were open to receiving it, and that is a gift.
When people talk about how you dreamed as a kid who played in the NFL, I did and that was my goal. That’s what I wanted to do and when I was there, it didn’t feel like the dream that I was thinking it would be, partly due to the addiction, but also partly due to, I think we glorify so many things in our world and we say, “If I could only get to that.” What you said is so true, is helping others, being a social creature, being able to be a small part in someone’s life. I work with football players. I also work with teenage drug addicts. I work with adults as well some. Just to be a small piece and have a kid who’s now an adult who has kids be able to send me a message on Facebook and say, ” Glenn, if it hadn’t been for you, I would’ve never been married and had a kid and love my life.” That is what I would like to see more people realize that that’s the dream. What we need to work at is to become the type of people that can help others so that they can be successful, be happy, be productive. That’s where the dream is.
We all need to have that angel on our shoulders. You mentioned where you’re in this low spot, but then somebody said, “Glenn, come over and have a look at this thing that we’re doing at this center for kids to help them get back on their feet.” For you, that might have been that person and then you become that person to go and encourage and cheer and coach and impart your knowledge and experience on all these other ones to possibly change their life. If you’re just out there changing one person’s life, that’s the game changer and that’s what it’s all about.
I think back on Dave McClain, our head coach, he was one of those coaches that impacted so many guys that are great people in this world right now. I think Jim Mora did to a degree. There are a lot of coaches that are out there that are doing that and there’s players out there doing. Stan Brock is a guy that I look at who has a lot of great messages to tell. I listen to Howie Long, I listen to Kevin Zeitler. Great NFL guys that are talking and out there helping others. I do believe that they feel probably as good as some of their accolades from the playing days when they see these other people getting help and getting better through some of the stuff that they do. It’s awesome. I love it.
It’s the full circle of life. We all have to go through own or our own journey. It has a lot of zigs and zags that are in there for all of us and I don’t think there’s anybody on the planet, given enough time that hasn’t gone through something. If you haven’t gone through something, then you’re lying. It’s just a matter of are you willing to stand up and say, “This is what happened to me,” and everybody’s got varying degrees. It’s perspective again too. You had an awful or a very challenging time growing up and then getting into some of these different things that happened to you. At the same time, I’ve interviewed guys with no arms and legs or blind and there’s just so many other situations like, “I had that but at least I didn’t have t his.” It’s one of those things.
It can always, always, always be worst and it can always, always, always be better. Dave McClain used to say this five million times and I got sick of hearing it, but now it’s one of the things that comes to me all the time. He said, “In life you never can stay the same. You either get better or you get worse. You can’t stay the same. It’s impossible.”
I say it a little bit differently, but it’s the same message which is, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Tell me Glenn, what are you doing exactly today?
In sobriety, when you’re out and using, you make the statements like, “My marriage was a disaster because I was using.” My first marriage was and unfortunately, my first wife passed away a couple years ago from breast cancer, but she and I had talked a little bit. Once in awhile, we would talk about, “What if?” Obviously, we never got back together. I was married and she was married to other people and you blame the alcohol. I’m in a marriage in sobriety and we’re having a lot of issues and it ended up where we have two beautiful daughters and there were a lot of things that went on that I’m not going to go into specifically, but we ended up getting to the point where we had a divorce and here you are in sobriety. You talk about that things happen in circles and you always have things that come into your life that changed you. At this time, I had built a school. I had added onto our agency a huge education division and helping kids. We’ve helped thousands of kids. It was going very well. The economy took a turn for the worse and a lot of money went out of the state. Our state funding went away. Some of our programs were dying and my position was one that was created by me because of the programs that I set up and it was starting to fade a little bit and I was trying to go in some different directions and having a difficult time in my personal life.
Long story short is I’m going through a divorce and I also lose my job of almost twenty years. The only thing keeping me going, Mark, from going back to using and from staying afloat was my two daughters. I knew I had to be a father for them. I knew I had to figure something out, but at the same time, I also learned that if you don’t take care of yourself and if you don’t feed yourself to things that you need to have, you’re going to be living in a miserable existence. I didn’t want to have that for my daughters and I didn’t want to have that for myself. I started to take a look at what direction and what do I need to do.
When I left the NFL, I could not stand the game of football. I hated it. I avoided it. I didn’t go to any games, watch anything on TV. I pretty much just left it. After a few years though, I started to miss it and got back into coaching and started looking at it from a different perspective. Started remembering all the things that coach has taught me, that the game teaches you for your life skills. That started to fuel my fire. It’s like, ” I didn’t get to where I wanted to be for the game of football, but it wasn’t the game of football’s fault. That was my fault. It was where I was going. What can I do to help other people to help try and find out where my purpose is and where I can help the most people?” I still enjoy working with kids that have come through rough situations. I’ve loved the last few years coaching kids in football and teaching the life skills that I learned, teaching them how serious that these skills can change your direction that you’re going. A guy that used to play at Wisconsin, he’s quite a bit younger than me, but he and I hooked up and we started a business, coaching offense and defensive linemen. Basically, our whole philosophy is to help the big kids stay in the game, help them learn how to play the o-line the way we played it back in our day. With the way the offenses are changing, they’re going away from the traditional tough guy line play to doing this spread offense and just telling the kids just stay in front of them.
I’ve also watched the NFL now and the college and everything. The coaches in the NFL are saying that the college kids coming out are taking a year or two before they’re even able to play in the NFL because they don’t play football in college the way the NFL does. The guys are not prepared and ready to go into the NFL and play the way they need to play. I’m blessed to know the head coach at Wisconsin real well. He and I played together. I coached with his father. I was with him when he died at Platteville. Wisconsin does a great job of teaching their o-line and d-line the way it needs to be and that’s why there are so many offensive linemen from Wisconsin playing in the NFL right now. Steve and I, my partner, we’re trying to carry that down to the youth kids and teach them the proper way of playing the game so that they can play it like they do in the Wisconsin, Alabama’s, Iowa’s and those places that are producing linemen that are going in the NFL. We started a business a couple years ago and it’s been fun. It’s been challenging, but it’s been rewarding. We’re working hard to get it off the ground and I enjoyed it. I’ve got a job opportunity possibly that I might go back into a residential facility and work with some troubled kids again, but I’m enjoying just raising my girls, watching them play basketball and volleyball and helping kids through coaching football.
[Tweet “In life you never can stay the same. You either get better or you get worse.”]
Where can people find you?
The best place would be to go to our website, which is TrenchTraining.com. I tell kids all the time, it’s one of those things that this isn’t a sometime deal. You either want to be it or you don’t, and if you do, you’re going to love it and you’re going to have fun. If you don’t, maybe you need to find something else to do. I don’t like to force kids into it, but I also don’t like to have kids just quit because they aren’t getting taught the correct way and they’re not feeling part of and being with and learning the whole love of being an offensive-defensive lineman. It’s a great fraternity. You have it with your wide receivers and that, but I think the linemen have a fraternity that’s a little different than a lot of other positions.
You guys are your own breed of cat. I totally appreciate that. Glenn, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for opening up and sharing your story. We’re all in a journey and it never ends as you know. You’ve been certainly one to be on that path and it’s great. I feel like I’m a better person because I heard your story. It’s all about perspective and a lot of the things you talked about, I’ve experienced. We’re just still trying to take one step in front of the other, the mountain cliché of trying to get to that summit and then what’s the next summit? That’s just all part of the journey.
I appreciate it, Mark. I’ve been honored that you invited me on here and I’ve watched a lot of what you’ve done and it’s all awesome stuff. I’m glad to be a part of it.
Much appreciated. Have a great day.
Talk to you soon.