Faith, Family & Football
NFL Player Engagement.Com
This week’s Faith, Family, & Football feature is: O.J. Brigance, Former Baltimore Raven
O.J. Brigance is a Senior Advisor to Player Engagement for the Baltimore Ravens and a former Ravens and Baltimore Stallion LB. He first started as Director of Player Development for the Ravens in 2004 and has made significant contributions to the department serving as a resource for players and their families, as well as empowering their continuing evolution into well-rounded and productive citizens.
Brigance’s football career began in the CFL with the British Columbia Lions. He spent 3 seasons with the Lions (1991-93) and was named an All-Conference LB. Brigance then joined the CFL’s Baltimore Stallions from 1994-95, helping the team earn a Grey Cup Championship in 1995. He entered the NFL in 1996 with the Miami Dolphins and was voted as a team captain twice in 4 seasons. Brigance earned a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens in 2000 where he was a key contributor to their special teams. He is one of a few players to have won both a CFL and NFL championship, and is the only one to accomplish the feat with teams from the same city.
In 2007 Brigance was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron disease. He is determined to win his fight against the disease and has created a foundation to assist ALS research called the “Brigance Brigade”. Since its launch Brigance Brigade has raised several funds to improve the quality of life for ALS patients and support research to find a cure. Despite his circumstances Brigance continues to invest in the lives of Ravens athletes and many others within the community. Who better to do so than a man that has achieved great success throughout life, persevered through many challenges, and stands strong in his faith. NFLPE is delighted to present one of our very own, and share his views on Faith, Family, & Football.
PE: Why is faith important to you?
Brigance: Faith is important to me because it gives me the strength to challenge the conventional thinking and limitations of this life. It gives me vision to see beyond present circumstances to achieve all God has in store for me. In order to ever see greatness in the physical, we must first see it in our spirit.
PE: Tell us about your family and the impact they’ve had on your life?
Brigance: I have a wonderful wife, of 18 years and extended family who have been a great support structure for me. They believed in me when others didn’t and challenged me when I became complacent. Though it may not be the traditional family setting, people who love you enough to stretch you beyond your comfort zone and believe in you are priceless. Value their counsel and guidance.
PE: What does being a father mean to you?
Brigance: Though, I don’t have biological children, the opportunities I have had to mentor my players has been extremely fulfilling. To see them take the knowledge given and utilize it to improve themselves gives me great pride. Players evolve from college players, to professionals, to men, to husbands and fathers. It is very gratifying to be a part of their journey.
PE: How has your faith and family helped you develop off the field?
Brigance: My faith and family have helped me develop off the field by challenging me to not be self-centered, but God centered. To be successful in any endeavor, it requires great focus and sacrifice. It will cost you something. Too often the singular focus of being great at what we do causes us to lose perspective of who God has
called us to be. My relationship with Jesus has taught me the value of family and friends. What I have been blessed to do for a living is only a platform to affect the people and world around me for Christ. Matt. 6:33
PE: How do you balance faith, family, and football?
Brigance: I used to think I did a good job balancing faith, family and football, until I was diagnosed with ALS in 2007. More commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, it is a motor neuron disease that robs its victims of all voluntary muscle movement, while leaving the mind unaffected. There is no cure and it is fatal, giving a 3 to 5 year life expectancy from the time of diagnosis (visit www.brigancebrigade.org to learn more). This news forced me to reexamine where I was in regards to my balance of the 3. Putting in long hours at work caused me to sacrifice my faith and family time, which became very evident after my diagnosis. I have learned communication and time management are critical to ensuring faith, family and football time are well balanced.
PE: What advice would you give to student athletes and current professional athletes in regards to their faith, family, and football?
Brigance: Faith, family and football all require time and dedication to be successful. Prioritizing the three, in the exact same order will always pay exponential dividends. A strong faith walk will give you vision and purpose for family and football. If you have been blessed with athletic talent, please understand it is not only for your benefit. It is a tool to glorify God and to honor family. Your God given talents are a platform to impact the world around you. Find a cause to make a difference in the lives of others.