Carroll Dale fought back tears Sunday.
Speaking at Hunt Memorial United Methodist Church, the former Green Bay Packer and Super Bowl champion said athletics are important but family and a spiritual life come first. He urged the approximately 50 people who attended to “build strong spiritual muscles.”
Dale, 74, became emotional when speaking about his young grandson who had had a bone marrow transplant and spent 100 days in the hospital. He attended Dale’s talk Sunday and was in the audience with Dale’s wife.
“He’s the miracle child, so we appreciate him,” Dale said.
Dale played football in high school, and several Southeast colleges recruited him. He originally committed to the University of Tennessee but had second thoughts. He was worried about the temptations for a young man from Wise, Va. in Knoxville and liked the Virginia Tech coach’s approach and perspective.
“He said, ‘We’ll give you an opportunity to get an education and all of the football that you want to play,’ ” Dale said.
He entered Virginia Tech and said he would walk from campus to downtown Blacksburg and attend church. But there were still temptations. As a freshman, he attended a party and was offered a beer. He refused and said the other college students understood.
“I wanted to have God first and work everyday to put things in their proper order,” Dale said.
Dale said being a religious person was an important part of his life but he understood sports and religion were separate. An athlete needed talent, and perhaps a little luck, to win.
“I don’t think God cares about wins, he cares about our heart,” Dale said.
But being a religious person helped him make better decisions in life, he said.
Dale played 39 games for Virginia Tech, which was no small feat. In those days, a player participated in every play – offense, defense and special teams. Dale said he received a few minor injuries during his career, including a couple concussions, but feels lucky that he never suffered a serious injury.
The Los Angeles Rams drafted him after college and he spent five losing seasons in Los Angeles. Then, at home in Bristol, he learned that he had been traded to the Green Bay Packers in 1965.
“I said, ‘whoopie,’ because that was like Christmas coming,” Dale said.
He was a member of the Green Bay Packers teams that won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.
When Dale signed a contract with legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi, he placed a 10 percent tithing provision in the contract. The money went from Green Bay to his home church in Virginia.
Dale said he could have been in Indianapolis at the Super Bowl on Sunday but he chose to speak with the people at the church. He said he places a huge emphasis on giving back to the community.
“Priorities, putting first things first, is a life-long message,” Dale said. “It’s not just for athletes.”