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Collected wisdom: Caesar Rentie, former Oklahoma football player

by Jason Kersey Published: March 23, 2013

She was quiet for a bit, and she said, “I'm not scared. I'm ready to go home, whatever that means. Going home to God, or going home to my house, I'm ready to face it.” Here we are, we're sitting there having this conversation and it makes me think of my own mortality. It makes me think of my own life, where I've been. What legacy will I leave?

When I got drafted by the Bears, I remember getting ready to go to training camp. I'd been training all summer long, getting in shape. Before I got ready to go to training camp, I thought I needed to go to church. I wanted a minister to pray for me before I went to training camp.

I looked in the phone book and found the Apostolic Church of God on the south side of Chicago. I got in the car Sunday, me and a couple other guys, and we went to church. I needed some prayer and luck going into training camp.

Church was over with, and this minister came up to me, and it was so eerie. She came to me and said, “God said to come and pray for you.” I said, “Wow. That's luck.”

She asked me what she needs to pray for. I told her, “I just got drafted by the Bears, and I really want to make this team. Will you pray that I stay healthy and make the team?” So she started praying for me.

When she was done praying, she said, “Now I know this is gonna sound crazy, but God just told me that you want to be on the Bears, but that he's calling you to the ministry.” That was the furthest thing from my mind. I was like, “You are out of your mind.”

I talked to her a couple years ago. I hadn't been to Chicago in I don't know how long. I called the church and asked for her. I asked, “Do you remember that prayer?” She said, “Yes, I remember the prayer and I remember what I said to you.”

After I retired from football, I took a graduate assistant position at TCU, and about the same time, I accepted the calling to ministry. TCU has a seminary on campus, and so I took seminary classes while I was coaching the football team, coaching offensive lineman.

After several months of coaching and going to seminary, it was almost like the call on my life was so strong that I had to let football go.

I talked to Coach (Pat) Sullivan and I talked to the administrators at TCU, because I didn't know how I was gonna pay for school. The administrators made arrangements, and they paid for my school so I was able to walk away from football and go to school full time.

I always pray for TCU when OU's playing them, so OU won't beat them so bad.

One summer, I needed some extra hours. My professor came to me and said I should consider doing pastoral care and chaplaincy work in the hospitals. I started doing some research, and I figured I could pick up six hours.

That summer, there was a young kid who was murdered. I was there when his family decided that they were gonna do organ donation. I walked through that whole process with organ donation, all the different things they went through. It was difficult to be there, needless to say, but it was really where I felt like God was calling me to be.

Before the summer ended, I got invited to a recipient gathering that the Southwest Transplant Alliance put on. They had recipients get up and talk about what organ donation meant to them, and how blessed they were from it. One of the recipients received the heart of this young man.

He told this story, this amazing story. He was days from dying, and he got the news that there was a heart, and he realized how young the man was. He knew that he was getting a heart because somebody else had died. I remember him saying how he wept all night long before he went for surgery because he knew the person who died was a young man, and that he was about the same age as his son.

He eventually went to surgery, and he said after he went to surgery, he immediately could feel how healthy he was and realized how sick he'd been.

While he was recovering, he got a letter from the mother of the donor, asking if they could meet.

So they met at an IHOP. The story that he told was that when he saw her pull up, he knew immediately that it was her. He stood up in the IHOP, and she walked into the IHOP and didn't even say anything to him. She just put her ear on his chest to listen to his heart beat.

From that day on, I was sold. To be a part of that ... to sit with somebody who went through something so tragic, and then to watch at the very end, reconciliation, hope. The continuation of life. All of these things happened in the midst of that. I realized that it was difficult for me to leave. You don't get paid a whole lot of money to be a chaplain, but I just can't leave it.

When I see people doing sign language, I can communicate with them. I'm not as fluent as I used to be because I don't use it as much. Every once in a while I'll come across a patient that's deaf, and I'll use it there. I can certainly get the gist of what they're saying. But sign language has progressed so much; the words that I know in sign language are really old.

They're surprised by it. I'll come in and say, “Hi,” and they'll ask if I'm deaf. I'll tell them, “No, I'm hearing. My mother and my dad were deaf.” They're always impressed by that. It makes an instant connection with those patients. I'm not good enough to communicate medical terms, but I can say I prayer and listen to what they're concerns are, and things like that.

My faith has always been important to me. I guess when you grow up poor and you don't have a lot, you do a lot of praying. Faith plays a bigger part in my life now because I realized how important it is. Not so much about right and wrong, but how to live life fully and in a way that is abundantly rich.

That's what I think is so important about faith. More than about denomination. Working in the hospital, you come across so many people with so many different beliefs. I've pastored people who are Jewish. I've pastored people who were Muslim. I've pastored people who didn't have any belief at all. I've pastored people who were heterosexual, homosexual, it didn't matter.

Faith is that guiding point. It's like a compass that points you in a direction that helps you make decisions regardless of the situation.

Getting my degree was a proud moment in my life. Both of my parents were there to see me receive my degree. That meant a lot to me, walking across the stage. It was a special day for me because college wasn't the thing I was looking at. I didn't know how it would affect me six years before I graduated. I didn't know where those five years would take me.

I was scared when I left Hartshorne. I remember being really homesick. I remember getting discouraged when I'd almost flunked out several times. I didn't start, I remember getting discouraged about playing.

But I just always tried to maintain my focus on doing what it was I was supposed to do.

I look back at it, I feel so blessed. So blessed.

by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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