Receiving grace: OU's Ryan Broyles has different outlook on life

by Jenni Carlson Published: August 30, 2011

Something clicked inside him during that trip.

Longtime girlfriend Mary Beth Offenburger met Broyles at the airport when he returned from Haiti. The person who hugged her as tears streamed down his face was not the same person she'd told goodbye a week earlier.

“There's no going back,” Broyles told her.

No going back to the way he was.

Offenburger marvels at how much Broyles has changed. He eats better and stretches more because his body is a gift from God. He takes bike rides just so he can enjoy God's creation. He studies the Bible daily with her — and sometimes without her.

“Listen to this verse I've been memorizing,” he'll sometimes say.

“When have you been doing this?” she'll wonder.

She laughed.

“It wasn't something that hit him and then like two weeks later he went back to normal,” Offenburger said of Broyles' spiritual transformation in Haiti. “It's crazy how different he is.”

Broyles said, “I felt like I had purpose and meaning. I felt like I could do more for people than just play football.”

* * *

Ryan Broyles has never looked forward to the start of football season quite like this.

His faith, you see, hasn't made football less important. If anything, he cares more about it than ever.

How does that work?

Allow Adam Barnett to explain. One morning a week, Broyles meets with the college minister at Journey Church who was also one of the organizers of the Haiti trip. During one of their meetings a few weeks back, Broyles mentioned a Bible verse, Colossians 3:23.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.”

That includes shuttle drills and suicide sprints, route running and film watching.

That includes football.

“I can honestly say that I have seen more interest and passion and excitement for football ever since he has been walking with God,” Barnett said of Broyles. “He cares deeply about his influence, and he wants to set the right example.

“He knows that this pedestal that he's on is not a burden. It's an honor and a privilege.”

It's also an opportunity.

Broyles can set an example for teammates who look to him as a leader. He can be a witness to fans who see him interviewed, read his quotes or follow him on Twitter.

Broyles tweeted to his more than 8,000 followers on Tuesday morning, “Let's be active Christians today! Control our thoughts and watch our tongues! Let our voice be sweet to each others ears! Think b4 we speak!”

Those closest to him have noticed his change.

“It's really affected his maturity and how he deals with everybody here,” Sooner wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said. “He used to want to just want to sit in the shadows and not have the attention on him. That's changed now.

“I think he's just really excited to lead and affect his teammates.”

Jones, who Broyles credits for helping him along his spiritual journey, said, “God definitely opened up his eyes.”

The impact goes beyond the walls of the Switzer Center.

Over the weekend, one of Broyles' Twitter followers wrote that his son had accepted Christ as his savior.

“You have inspired him,” the man said.

Broyles shook his head at that.

“It's really amazing,” he said, adding that he'd heard from two others who had been moved by his testimony. “Before, I was in my own life. I didn't really want to stand out. I didn't want people to follow me. Now, I'm really pushing to be a better person. I've actually found something that's allowing me to do that.

“I know I have so much influence; I just want to keep doing it the right way.”

If not for football, if not for the spotlight and the hype and the attention, Broyles wouldn't have the same audience. He wouldn't have the same opportunity to witness.

“Football,” Offenburger said, “is his stage ... to show what really matters in life.”

Broyles said, “There's no way I can't talk about it. I'm not ashamed at all.

“I'm not ashamed of my Lord.”

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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