Movie Star and Former NFL Player Brian Bosworth
From Headstrong To Humble, Brian Bosworth Beats The Odds
Written by Megan Camaisa
Going from the gridiron to Hollywood was never what Brian “The Boz” Bosworth intended to do when he began his collegiate and NFL career in the 1980’s. Playing for legendary football coach, Barry Switzer at the University of Oklahoma, he quickly became known not only for his talent, but also his outspoken and larger-than-life personality. Despite his outlandish character, Bosworth became a two-time All-American player and was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 1987. His career with the Seahawks would make Bosworth into the now infamous character, “The Boz.” Unfortunately, a shoulder injury would bring his three-year NFL career to a screeching, premature end leaving him to try to recreate himself at a young age. Soon after leaving the NFL, acquaintances wanted to capitalize on “The Boz,” and lured him into Hollywood. Bosworth has made appearances in many films such as The Longest Yard, with Adam Sandler, but never landed any big breakout roles. Living what most would consider a dream life in Malibu, California, Bosworth was losing it all… his family, fortune, mind, and faith. Now, after giving his life to Jesus, Bosworth is a successful star in Christian films. He tells Risen how he turned his life around and about his latest role in the movie Do You Believe?
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: You were an All-American linebacker for the University of Oklahoma and went on to play in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks in the late ‘80s. The Seahawks franchise has had quite a couple of years, with back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. What did you enjoy most about playing, and are you still a fan now?
Brian Bosworth: I’m still very much a fan. It’s an emotional rollercoaster to go through a season and start with great expectations, and then they [Seahawks] were down a little bit in the middle of the season. You just got to have faith. Coming from being the previous Super Bowl champion, you know you’re going to get the best of every game that is on the schedule, because everybody wants to knock off the Super Bowl champions. It looked like they were going to create that magic and get wins back-to-back. That last Super Bowl play was a heart crusher.
Any time you put any kind of work, and emotion – your heart, and soul, and sweat, and tears, and blood – all that into something then you become connected to it; for me, it’s always been that way. My days didn’t work out as well as I would have liked them to, but a lot of that is on me because of my pride, and where I was at the time, kind of lost. Overall, I’m super thrilled that I was able to watch them. I was just heartbroken that they lost.
Risen Magazine: It certainly seems like the Seahawks have set themselves up to be a top NFL team for years to come.
Brian Bosworth: A lot of it has to come from the leadership that they have. I’m really encouraged that their main leader, [quarterback] Russell Wilson, is a Christian, very focused, and very humble. He’s kind of like a David and Goliath in that world, given the size and stature of all these players that are around him. His heart is so big, and the way he plays above and beyond the game, and the way he handles himself, I think that extends into the organization, it extends on to the field. He helps keep the team focused on the ultimate goal, which is the success of winning as opposed to the success of individual achievements. I think having a leader like that is one of the main reasons why they’re destined to be a contender for the next half-decade, as long as he stays healthy and leadership is always going to be first in his mind.
Risen Magazine: Speaking of the importance of good leadership on a team and Christian influence, when you played in the NFL you were known for your outlandish personality, do you think your behavior would have been the same if you were a believer back then?
Brian Bosworth: My intensity on the field would have been the same. My humility would have been…would have just been present. I didn’t have any humility; that’s the one thing that I lacked. Your life is like a high-speed bicycle, and God is the training-wheels that keep you on the straight-and-narrow. Somewhere along the way I decided to take the training wheels off because I felt like I could balance the bike on my own. Sometimes in life we’re just so full of pride. It’s very easy to get off track because of distractions, or you listen to other people and you read your own press. You have an inflated vision of yourself. There was an opportunity for me to have a bit of a Christian relationship back then because there were two [NFL] guys that were really heavy into their relationship [with the Lord]. The first one was Steve Largent; he and I spoke briefly. The other one was Eugene Robinson; not quite as deep; more on the surface of it.
With Steve, he was so heavy-handed into it, that from where I was, it felt like we were canyons apart. It just felt like I was being force-fed the worst vegetables that you could feed a kid. You can’t force them to eat, you have to bring them along. Where I was, I think I was so far gone; it would have taken years. I was humbled with an injury and I think that was my first test, and I failed miserably. When players get hurt, they get depressed. I was depressed a lot while I was up there [in the NFL], especially the first year. I was depressed because I didn’t seem to be able to do anything right in order to make everybody happy, then I got hurt. The second year it seemed like I couldn’t do anything right on the field to make anybody happy. It just seemed like I was in a state of darkness and I didn’t have anybody to lean on.
It would have been nice to have had a relationship with Jesus to lean on, so that I understood that I’m not in it alone. It doesn’t mean that the struggles that you go through aren’t going to be there, but they’re going to be handled much differently because you’ve got somebody to basically hand them off to, and refocus what your mission is and you’ll be grateful for it. In my vision, I would have slowed down instead of sped up. I sped up my own ending of my career. Had I slowed down, it might have, in some ways, facilitated a better relationship with Jesus; just getting a relationship started. It would have hopefully put that seed of humility into me and made me realize how delicate this gift [of football] is and how quickly it can be taken away. I think in those days, I was abusing the gift for fame and fortune and gain that wasn’t real gain, it was kind of false gain. At the same time, a lot of those decisions were made by people that I had allowed around me, to help guide where I was going.
Instead, if I had a strong relationship with Jesus, I would have sat back and thought about particular choices that I was making, whether it be a book, whether it be going on a TV show, whether it would be just a certain way to say a certain. Questioning, “Is that what Jesus would do? Is that the best decision that I can make, or am I making this decision because I’m chasing something that somebody else wants me to chase, because that’s what they feel like I should be doing?” They want me to be more famous, they want me to be more outrageous, they want me to say and do all these other things because the expectation is to make me bigger, and badder, and more well-known. That always bothered me when I was playing. I never liked taking on the external villain role; I didn’t mind playing “the very aggressive football player” because that’s what I was. I always felt uncomfortable having to play this role, where you’ve got to come up with something new, you’ve got to come up with another angle, you’ve got to say something more outrageous, you’ve got to inflame the other side. When you say something, and it comes out of your mouth and you hear it, you go, “Man, that’s not going to be good.”
Your life is like a high-speed bicycle, and God is the training-wheels that keep you on the straight-and-narrow. Somewhere along the way I decided to take the training wheels off because I felt like I could balance the bike on my own. Sometimes in life we’re just so full of pride.
Risen Magazine: You have said publically that you had a longstanding feud with God during your NFL years and beyond. Has that feud been resolved and what started that battle?
Brian Bosworth: That feud carried on until 2013. That feud was not only about my Heavenly Father, but it also included my earthly father. There was a lot of darkness and depression; hurt and anger and frustration circled my heart. I felt like this was just who I was going to end up being because that was the role model that was my father. I figured the DNA is already in there. You basically mimic the behavior of those that you’ve been around, and are around.
You have to be around your parents, even if you don’t agree with what your parents are doing. There was a lot of contradiction in my life that I was going through, especially in the ‘90s, and then couple that with severe physical pain that I was in the entire decade of the ‘90s, up until the early part of 2000. I understand how people get mad and they get aggressive against God. Physical pain, especially when you feel like it’s an unnecessary burden or cross you have to bear because you don’t know why it’s become part of your life. You tend to want to point the finger someplace and most people, the last place they’ll point a finger is in the mirror. They’ll point it to God, they’ll point to their spouse, they’ll point it to their workmates, somebody who’s done them wrong, but they won’t ever point it to themselves until the very end.
Risen Magazine: In your testimony, you said when you signed on as part of the cast of Revelation Road, you had a negative connotation of Christian movies. You were in the midst of this feud and through your role in the film you actually reconciled your relationship with Jesus. How did the healing process occur during the film?
Brian Bosworth: It wasn’t so much through the course of the film. I think things started to stir up a little bit over the course of the film. If I was to put it in some sort of analogy or visualization, I started the film, basically, either stuck in mud or frozen in time, just knowing I was where I was because that’s where I accepted where I was.
In the role in Revelation Road, when I read the script, I just realized that character was exactly who I was. It was all of the hurt and the anger, and the frustration, and the hatred from my past, but I didn’t realize that until I took the film on the road and started doing a screening in Oklahoma. I woke up one morning and kind of had a premonition or dream or whatever you call it, and felt like this [the role] had been laid upon me. I have to do this; I don’t know why, but I have to do it. Through the course of the screening process and going back home and talking to people, I saw their reactions, and found that other people had similar stories and experiences with life. I wasn’t the only one that was angry and I wasn’t the only one that was frustrated.
By meeting those people, I could tell that there was something that they had that I didn’t have; they had peace. My pastor actually helped me break the walls down, Tim Hayes in Chickasha. He had a saying; he said to me, “You think this is accidental that you’re here in Chickasha, Oklahoma, and all these things have happened? You think it’s a coincidence that all these things are happening to you? That you’re at this moment, or do you think there is a higher power? Do you think it’s providential that these things are happening because He’s brought you to this place?”
I think the movie helped plant that seed and started stirring things up and loosening the concrete that I had put myself into, and helped break down that wall. It wasn’t until I came into fellowship with others around me that I could see that happening and they helped me recognize it. They invited me in basically saying, “It’s okay. We understand all the bad stuff that’s happened in your life, and we’ll accept you one hundred percent. We’ll accept you just the way that you are.” I think that was the defining moment for me.
You tend to want to point the finger someplace and most people, the last place they’ll point a finger is in the mirror. They’ll point it to God, they’ll point to their spouse, they’ll point it to their workmates, somebody who’s done them wrong, but they won’t ever point it to themselves until the very end.
Risen Magazine: You’ve gone on now to do multiple Christian movies including your current role in, Do You Believe? Your character helps others and brings about change for the better. What was that first step in your own life that helped you to choose change?
Brian Bosworth: Recognizing where I was. I use this mantra as part of my journey – four questions I ask myself, “Where are you from? Where are you at currently in your life? Where do you hope to go?” And, “What are you willing to give up to get there?” That mantra is kind of how I realized that I was lost, I mean truly lost. Knowing that you’re lost and accepting that you’re lost is a big step. I just think people get lazy and complacent in the fact that they live their life and this is as good as it’s going to get, so I’m just going to be okay with it. If I’m lost, I’m lost, whatever. They’re afraid to do anything about it because they don’t really know what to do about it. They don’t know that there is something that can be done about it, but they have to choose to recognize it. That first step for me was understanding that I was lost, and knowing where I am.
Risen Magazine: Your character also shows extreme kindness and selflessness to a homeless mother and her daughter. Has anyone ever shown you that amount of compassion and what lesson did you take from it?
Brian Bosworth: Right after my career ended in Seattle I really didn’t know where to go. My agent kind of convinced me and said, “Hey, come out here [to California] and we’re going to make movies and stuff, and that’s how we’ll resurrect your career.” I was very, very uncomfortable with doing it because I never ever thought of myself as an actor; I always thought of myself as just an athlete, because that’s what I trained for my entire life. This to me was like stepping into foreign territory, trying to fill a void in your life with the wrong stuff, for the wrong reasons. He wanted to do it because he wanted to capitalize on my name and fame. I felt going in that it was going to be a tremendous struggle because of the negativity that was surrounding me at the time, this is back in the early ‘90s.
To me, this is where I think the biggest part of being lost is, in recognizing when you feel like you’re entitled to something, and that you should be looked at as a higher being or looked at as a better person. I decided I would build this gigantic 15,000 square foot house on this hill overlooking the ocean. I felt that I’m entitled to do that because I’m “’The Boz” and I live in Malibu, California. The entire time I was building the house, anything that could go wrong went wrong – bad builder, people stealing money, people not doing their jobs right. Just every sign telling you that this is the worst decision that you’re making, but you keep on going with it. It got to the point where we finished the house and I’m sitting in this giant house, looking over the ocean and I thought; “Now I’ll be happy.” But I was miserable. I had everything that I thought I wanted. I had the nice cars and the big house. The whole time I’m thinking I should be ecstatic, but yet I’m miserable; I hate it. I felt like I was trapped in this giant prison that I just built for myself. This big temple, that’s the temple of Boz that I don’t need, and I don’t want, but here I have it and I’m stuck with it.
Then I began to lose everything. I’d chosen to get a divorce; I knew that would be a terrible, emotional and difficult time for my family. I’ve can’t sell the house because there was a drug rehab home [on the street complicating sales], my divorce turned bitter real fast, and my financial advisor tells me I don’t have any funds left, so now I’m going broke real fast; it’s all going to be gone.
But to answer your question, I was helping out some friends that were opening up a restaurant, and I ended up getting a DUI that night, right in the middle of a custody battle, which my ex-wife took complete advantage of. Then I get a call from my coach’s wife who saw me on TMZ, and said, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. I have a gentleman friend that would like to pay for your attorney’s defense, in your DUI, because it’s going to cost you.”
It costs like $10,000, or $15,000, whatever it is. I was like, “Really? Why would he do that?” She said, “He just wants to.” I had met this man one time at a golf event. He and I chatted, but we really didn’t get into it like, hey man, let’s exchange numbers and be long-life friends. It was just a one-time deal and he reached out to me this time. I called him up and I thanked him. I asked him why he would do that. He said something to me that was pretty earth shattering. He said, “You know, we love you and we just want to help you come home.” This is 2007, so this is long before I ever even thought about a relationship with God. The wall around my heart was good, and thick and strong.
I said, “Brother, if I could get home, I would. I’d leave in a minute; I just can’t. I’ve got this house anchored around my legs and it’s pulling me straight down to the bottom of the ocean and I can’t do anything about it.” He asked me, “Well, what do you need?” I kind of explained I was going through this divorce, and it’s ugly, and we’re fighting over everything, I got a house on a drug rehab street. I said, “I’m slowly losing everything. I’m buying time here. I really don’t know what to do. I’m doing whatever I can to survive.” He said, “Why don’t I help you. Why don’t we take the one thing that you have left that has any value? Why don’t we just take that off the plate so you can stop fighting [in the divorce and custody] because that’s the first thing you need to do is stop fighting and realize there’s nothing to fight over. You guys just need to move on with your lives because your kids are becoming affected by it.”
Then he ostensibly just bought my house. He said, “I’ll buy the house and we’ll partner on it. We’ll figure out a way to get it fixed and then we’ll sell it.” For somebody to come in that didn’t know me at all, to take that kind of risk; he just took a great step with me and said, “You know, I believe in you. If this is what we’ve got to do, then let’s get it done.” It worked out. We got it fixed, and got it sold and I paid him back plus, plus. From that moment on, I was free to leave. He said, “So, what do you want to do?” I said, “My biggest fear is I don’t want to just leave my kids.” So I hung around my kids for an extra year, and then realized that the only way that I was going to move forward and be an effective father would be to get back up on my feet and start churning again. I’ve got to start working; I’ve got to start doing something. At that moment is when I got the movie [Revelation Road].
Risen Magazine: God has definitely put you on a path and placed people in your life for a reason. How do you approach life differently now?
Brian Bosworth: My life is completely opposite of the way it used to be. For years in Malibu, I lived in beach houses, and really nice homes, and then the big mansion on the hill, and for the last seven years I have lived in little condos, and I live in a little 1,300 square foot, three bedroom condo in Austin, Texas, and that’s mainly because my son is here, and I get to raise my son through high school. I just realized you don’t need all that stuff. You don’t need to go get a new car just because a new car is out there; you don’t need a new shiny this, or a big square foot that; you don’t need all that stuff to be happy. The only thing you really need is just to be reminded that the moments that you have are gifts and to enjoy those gifts. It’s really kind of a humbling lesson to say, “You know what, I’m thankful for what I have, instead of thankful for what I think I’m supposed to have.”
Risen Magazine: Your personal story definitely will impact others. How do you hope your character from Do You Believe? will impact audiences?
Brian Bosworth: His main goal is to really help plant seeds and save as many souls as he possibly can, because he does live with a lot of regret, as all humans do. What he doesn’t have is resentment. That’s the difference between where I used to be and where I am now. I used to have not only tons and tons of regret, but I used to be full of resentment. You can’t be an effective Christian if you have any resentment at all, because your heart is constantly battling that resistance, the resentment of your past. Your past is gone; there’s nothing you can do about it. What you can do is you can help others by letting them see that you don’t have resentment.
That’s the beauty about the framework of the film. We so delicately intertwine our lives that you don’t know how you’re going to affect another person, whether you know them or you don’t know them, until that moment that your paths cross. You can help people or you can hurt people; those are your two choices as you go through life. You can walk through Starbucks and be angry at the person in front of you because they cut in front of you, or you can let that anger go. People just don’t realize the affect that others have on them through the course of the day, and I think that’s what I wanted my character to really do, is just leave people with a sense of hope, that there is hope in mankind and everybody has that power to provide hope to anybody at any time.
Risen Magazine: What would you say to people that try to dismiss God’s transforming love with science instead of faith?
Brian Bosworth: I would pray that they would have that moment of realization when they take in that first deep breath of God’s air and their heart actually fills up with His emotion, that they would immediately get it; there’s no science to that. People can come up with whatever scientific theory they want to come up with, but on that day, on March 3, 2013, when I sat down and gave all my anger to Jesus I wasn’t drinking a funny cup of coffee, and I didn’t have a prescription pill, and there wasn’t any lightening bolt or standing up… it was just me standing in the middle of the high school, outside the auditorium, with three gigantic redneck, Oklahoma boys and a Baptist preacher. It’s funny. People go, “I want to be saved,” and they try to set it up, this fancy place. You can’t dress up being saved. When you get saved, it’s going to happen in the place you least expect it, at the time you least expect it, but in the moment that you most need it.
My life is completely opposite of the way it used to be. For years in Malibu, I lived in beach houses, and really nice homes, and then the big mansion on the hill, and for the last seven years I have lived in little condos, and I live in a little 1,300 square foot, three bedroom condo in Austin, Texas
Risen Magazine: From sports to acting, both careers allow you to have a sphere of influence. What responsibility do you now feel when it comes to using your fame positively?
Brian Bosworth: I’ve always wanted to use my fame positively. Even when I was playing the villain role, I guess, in the football stuff; that was all for the show and fodder for whatever money-maker-machine-thing that my agent had on the table at the time. I always tried to take the time out to spend some time with kids.
When I was at Oklahoma I had a very special relationship with a kid that had a heart disease, and he had to have multiple heart surgeries and they didn’t expect him to live. He and I ended up having a very strong, solid relationship all through the time I was at Oklahoma. I think he was probably eight or nine years old at the time. We still stay in touch. He’s alive, and healthy and happy and now has a family. I loved to see the impact.
It’s strange that people still recognize me, even though I don’t think I look anything like I did back in those days. People come up all the time and they’re inspired by the way I did things. They knew that I had passion. They may, or may not, have been a fan because the of things I said, or the way I did things, but they all appreciated the way I did what I did on the field, so they got that. My biggest concern was I hated playing a villain because I hated disappointing people on the character front. I never felt like that’s really who I am, you guys don’t really know who I am or where I come from. I think that’s why the 30 for 30 [ESPN Films short] piece kind of helped explain a little bit about the misconceptions of who I was, the manufactured part of who I was was just that, manufactured. It was manufactured for a purpose, not necessarily one I agreed with, but I went along with, which means if I go along with it, that means I have to own it. I don’t mind owning it, but that doesn’t mean that’s who I have to be. I can change that part of it and change it for what I think is the best part, the best decision. That’s kind of what I do now. I kind of preach that to my son and any other kids that I come in contact with. I give them the mantra; just make your next decision your best decision.
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Spring 2015