Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Two Jack's In My Life- Bear Bryant Memories

Every year, I write a post in memory of Coach Bryant to honor and remember his passing on Jan. 26. Which today, marks 36 years ago. These memories are found on this blog and a Wordpress site:

Bear Bryant Memories

Each year, I begin praying in early January about the topic and was really struggling with it this year. Then, on this past Thursday, Coach Jack Rutledge went to be with the Lord at the age of 80.

Immediately, I knew I had to honor the TWO Jack Rutledges in my life and a few texts and a phone conversation with Jeff Rutledge became a huge help as well!

There were TWO significant Jack Rutledges in my life- Jeff’s dad and The ‘Governor’ who was my dorm dad and coach later at Alabama. Both men are in heaven and have a legacy of fruitful ministry from lives well lived.

Jack Rutledge- Jeff’s Dad.

Jeff Rutledge was a hero to me and now it is special to call him friend. He left big shoes to fill for all Banks High School Qb’s after he finished there and went on the lead Alabama to a National Championship, and a resurgent national prominence. Jeff later had a long and successful NFL career and has been a championship coach at the high school, college, and professional levels.

I watched Jeff as a player and then had the challenge of coaching against him for two seasons in Nashville. When we played him at CPA (he was the coach at MBA), we included the story of Jeff's dad in our football program that night.

In a phone call, Jeff told me something I never knew- Jack’s official name was 'Paul Edward Rutledge', but his grandfather began calling him Jack and Paul’s father wanted that name for his son…but mom wanted Paul. Mom won the legal name, but Jack was what stuck as grandfather used it!

Jeff laughed as he remembered how many people often confused dad Jack Rutledge with Coach Jack Rutledge after Jeff got to Alabama.

I really enjoyed getting Jeff's recollection of both men.

Jeff Rutledge:

“There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of my dad. My brothers and my mom say all the time, ‘Dad did this or dad did that’

Of course, Jeff’s dad was a giant significance in my life as well. Jack Rutledge was my very first Sunday School teacher at Ruhama Baptist church when Jeff was the Qb at Alabama. He showed us Sugar Bowl watches, took us to Alabama practices, taught us Bible stories… but MOST IMPORTANTLY, he urged us to give our lives to Jesus in light of the good news of the gospel.

I first got to meet Coach Bryant in Tuscaloosa on a trip with Jack Rutledge. Two things I will never forget: it was the day that Steadman Shealy tore his ACL and getting to meet the Bear.

We were walking up the stairs of the Coliseum after practice and Coach Bryant was walking down. Mr. Rutledge said hello and we all took turns shaking his hand.

When Coach Bryant left, Mr Rutledge whispered…but his face was filled with excitement…


At a revival, I remember Mr. Rutledge, putting his arm around me and quietly asking me to give my heart to Jesus. I tensed up and was unwilling… little did I know that those faithful seeds were going to root in time….

I would not be a Christian today were it not for the ministry of Jeff's dad. Mr. Rutledge made it clear that a being a Christ follower did not mean 'weakness' or 'being a sissy'. Jeff himself was a great role model for that.

And even though I said NO at the revival that day, years later I found Mr. Rutledge and let him know that I gave my heart to Jesus. And he was as thrilled with that news as he had been the day we met the Bear.

I asked Jeff to give me a few Coach Bryant quotes for this blog post:

I love the one about making right choices:

"It takes more of a man or woman to walk away from a fight than it does to stand there and fight! "

I also remember him telling me to “Be Brave”.


As I have written over and over again, I was a walk-on QB on Coach Bryant’s last team in the Fall of 1982. It was a magical and special experience that lives with me almost every day.

Dr. Gary White and Coach Jack Rutledge were two men in particular who kept me going… I was as lost as they come in where to go and what to do. But both of those men made sure I was taken care of!

Coach Rutledge was a GREAT coach. He was a specialist on punt protection and I wish I had a copy of the progression he used to teach it. I could elaborate further on that and how the ‘Punt Bama Punt 17-16 game’ influenced Coach Rutledge and that Alabama went ten years before another punt was ever blocked.

He was a master motivator as well.

At the beginning of that year it was Jack Rutledge who told us about Coach Bryant in his tower.

"Coach Bryant is up there, and he is not watching all that is going on. He is going to pick one player and watch him the whole day. He is going to watch you come out of the tunnel- he is going to watch you stretch- he is going to watch every drill- and if you loaf one time, you will never step on the game field for Alabama."

He was a beloved Coach. He was the JV “Head Coach” that season.

Our 1st JV game, we hadn’t gotten much work on the wishbone, So Coach Rutledge just smiled and we ran the Georgia Tech offense we had been doing all week as scouts. The offensive coordinator was 'Famous Amos' Jones and I remember Rich Wingo and Murray Legg coached the defense.

But almost everyone remembers him mostly as the dorm director of Bryant Hall- he was ‘The Governor’ and he ran that dorm with a master skill and ministry!


Jeff told some great stories.

“His son, Timmy, and I went at it in ping pong games! We had some ping pong wars in Bryant Hall.”

"Keith Pugh and I were roommates right above Coach Rutledge’s apartment and Marty Lyons was across the hall. Coach Rutledge was frequently waiting on us at night and making sure we were in on time and doing right.”

“My freshman year, I was having a terrible time getting snaps. Coach Rutledge would take me down to the study hall rooms at night and make me take snaps with Dwight Stephenson.”

“I just remember him as always being so positive and excited.”

I had the exact same impression as well.

Coach Rutledge came and ate breakfast with me one morning in Bryant Hall. He gave me the same speech that he had given may others. 

“Jay, Coach Bryant has a lot of friends in law enforcement. He has connections with Tuscaloosa police, County Sheriff’s, FBI, and Private I’s. Every now and then, he will call up one of those guys and ask them to check up on you guys. If they ever report to Coach Bryant that you are going to the wrong places or hanging with the wrong people, you will probably not be invited back next year.”

He is smiling at me the whole time he is talking… but it worked. I was deathly afraid of ever being caught loafing at practice or going to wrong places at night.

Thank you Lord, for the two Jack’s in my life. And I will be praying for Coach Rutledges family this week. Especially, for his wife, Norma- his sons, Tim and David, and other extended family.

Thanks Jeff for helping me write this and it needs to be a part of remembering Coach Bryant.

Roll Tide!

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Endless Appetite: Sample from Winning Edges Devotions

The Winning Edges Devotional Series on is a product of how I have been blessed by daily time in God's Word in the light of the gospel for over 30 years. Each month has a theme of its own, and the goal is to have every month covered in 2019. I hope each reader is encouraged in the journey!

Winning Edge Devotional Series- Jay Mathews

Here is an excerpt from the new book that will be out in Mid-February: The Temple in Disrepair

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. [20] But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:17-21 ESV)

The believer’s physical life is greatly impacted by his INNER life.

How do you see yourself?

One area that I have battled my entire adult life is over eating. In fact, I exercise at an above normal rate and would be considered generally ‘fit’. I am on no medication and feel ‘good’ most of the time.

But I also know I can easily let myself go and I can quickly put on massive weight. And though I am more successful now than in my past, I still feel like it is an area I need to improve upon.

The most crucial of all the factors in my struggle is that winning in weight control begins on the INSIDE. I have to admit there are some idolatry issues in this. Food can be a powerful idol, it combines with a longing for comfort and desire to be filled. My quest for taste and fullness, pleasure and excess, with no regard for my body as a temple is a huge deal here.

I have always laughed at how football and eating go together-
when we win- I eat and celebrate
when we lose- I eat and commiserate

And now you know why I tend to gain about 10 lbs every football season.
In fact, I would gain 10 and lose 5 each year…so after 10 years of coaching, it was no surprise to find myself needing to lose 50 lbs!

And these idols are so deeply seated in my heart that I am still very much in danger to be lured and trapped yet again.

I remember the horror of reading the above verse ( Philippians 3:18,19) and knowing that was describing me. I don’t want to be ruled by my appetites…I want to be ruled by Christ!

The beauty of the gospel was that over time, I was able to say – “Lord, this is me. My only hope is You. I trust in Your death to cover me and the truth of the gospel message to set me free.

And yet this was a 25 year seemingly unanswered prayer- but I keept praying again and again. The big things- the important things- take decades in God’s timing. “we await a Savior” –You must search Him out and wait and wait and wait- and be willing to be content that His delivery comes at a much different timetable than we can see. But He is faithful.

There are psychological tricks here as well. One is ‘Human Apperception‘.

In psychology, apperception is “the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole.”  In short, it is to perceive new experience in relation to past experience.

A rich child and a poor child walking together come across the same ten-dollar bill on the sidewalk. The rich child says it is not very much money and the poor child says it is a lot of money. The difference lies in how they apperceive the same event – the lens of past experience through which they see and value (or devalue) the money.   —Christopher Ott (quoted in wiki)

They way this impacts me is the man in the mirror. If I gain 5 or 10 lbs and look at myself, I feel disgust or anger or shame or hurt. Then if I lose 5 lbs and see myself in the mirror, I feel such victory. The view is always an extreme; and both are a warped stretch of the reality.

Photographs disturb me more than the mirror. Someone will show me a picture of me and I feel so bad about how heavy I look. A year or so later, I feel the same pain at a new photo and look at last year’s and wonder why I couldn’t at least look like last year.

This was a vicious cycle for a number of years:

The amazing difference was in ’10 year’ pictures. I would look at an old picture (that I previously thought was disgusting) and long for being that way again.
All of this though, was a sinful human heart being swayed by my sinful and tainted senses. For example: if my wife told I looked good, my image was accepted for a short time and I was OK. If she told me I had gained weight, it pushed me into that dark hole.

It is important to remind ourselves that we are not regarded by others in these extremes. I rarely notice the weight change on others and in the long run, I don’t care. If you are reading this right now, don’t feel bad about how you look. You are you– people know you as you are- and though we think that appearance is something that indicates acceptance or rejection, it is never as important as we think. A warm smile and bright eyes and a loving spirit shows through way more than what your body shape is. Stop beating yourself up.

Without sounding ‘hokey’- I also sensed that the enemy used quiet heart whispers to further push the pain. There is a demonic part to the inner voices that say, “You’ll never defeat this” or “You’re just a pig” or “How can you say you glorify God when your temple is a wreck”. Those thoughts were darker and deeper that just my heart.

How that works, I just don’t know. I don’t think it is Satan himself, but the dark forces of evil tend to do these types of whisper campaigns to torture believers.

About 15 years ago, I began to become more aware of these battles and began to confront them. As I began to feel some small victories and growing in confidence, the battle pressed harder. I had some vicious attacks come through false accusations, misunderstandings, gossip, and deadly rumors.

But God kept picking me up and I began to fight consistently and well. Not in words so much as in deep prayer and positive attitudes. When the battle was really raging I would get up each morning and say: “No matter what the devil or world throws my way today- I will rejoice- I am a son of the King of the universe- Jesus Christ my Lord loved me- He died for me- I am a blessed man- I am overflowing with joy, hope, and love.”

I also would begin to pray for people who were being used in attacks toward me. I wasn’t growing bitter toward them. The largest victory came when I felt mercy towards those who misunderstood or disliked me instead of frustration or anger. I felt true love for them. I prayed for their health, I spoke well of them to others, I looked to serve them, and when they wounded me, I copied my Lord’s prayer “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”. 

Now please, I did not do this perfectly… I got angry, at times, in the fight, I slipped at times, I accepted that I sometimes deserved the attacks…. But the Holy Spirit deserves ALL THE CREDIT!  And I slowly grew better in this fight.
I wrote some blog postings during March of 2010 ( It captures a lot of what I learned in a compressed three year concentrated and intense spiritual battle. I encourage you to spend some time in these if you have experienced some of these same feelings of shame and disappointment in yourself. Remember that you will suffer tribulation in this world and learn how to keep your joy in spite of circumstances.

Isn’t this just some kind of ‘philosophy stuff’…. ‘meaningless psychobabble’? It could be…but I lived it… and when I began to be healed on the inside, it began to show on the outside. When I learned to forgive, and love, and pray for people opposed to me by way of the Spirit… I saw results!

But I have to reiterate all of this. Do you see the long build up? Do you see the deep-seated roots of this problem? Do you understand it is not just physical? It is not so simple to say: ‘Oh well just stop eating and exercise’– and it is offensive when a thin person asks if you want to lose weight and you say, ‘yes’ and then they say, “Push that fat rear away from the table.”

I am old enough now to understand slowing metabolism, insulin resistance, and genetic pre-disposition. But this is no excuse to not fight. God can be glorified as I accept who I am and keep fighting to get better. It is not about ‘appearance’- it is a willingness to accept the mission of Christ. An example of this is in Colossians 1:

[22] he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, [23] if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope
from the hope of the gospel that you heard,

Also- without the life changing, Holy Spirit given, gospel message- what hope do we have?

Jesus loves me whether I am fat or thin. His death covers all of my failings and sin.  Can you embrace that? It is hard… so many people say “I just can’t accept that- it seems too easy” but my friend I am crying to you again-


It is a sheer gift- we call it grace.

This is a beginning for any issue that keeps holding us back. My desire is for all of us to fall on our knees and cry out to the God of mercy and say to Him: LORD- I give this to You! You are God! You are in control. Take this… take me.. I cannot do any good. If you marked my sin or counted it against me- I am in trouble- But YOU LOVE ME- your death proves it- your resurrection validates Your sacrifice.

 My only hope is Christ. In Christ alone- I have FAITH in HIM- I trust HIM- I don’t even understand how it all works- but I lay everything I have- my life- my eternity- my affections on Him.

And when it is all through- at the end of the day- what I just did is by HIM TOO! What a God! What a Savior! How can I not proclaim this to the world!

What a message!

Finally- the fruit of victory always comes at the exact right time. It is God’s timing. He prepares us for it.  Even after years of failure… if you just keep after it… the breakthrough victory will be even sweeter. Never give up!

This is an old saying that I always use:
“It matters not if you try and fail and try and fail again.
What matter is if you try and fail….
and fail to try again.”

So, I will list it out like this- How do you change from the inside- out?
Here is what happened to me…..

STEP 1- SPIRITUAL GROWTH.. I began to apply the Word more, pray more, and fight

STEP 2- RELEASING FEAR AND PAIN FROM DAILY LIFE. The realization of this was when in 2009 we finished 3-7 in football. I can’t remember a time that this had ever happened to me. Every coach in America fears these types of years.

But, it was a blessing to understand that I’M OK- I DID NOT DIE! Instead of running to food and poor self-esteem I actually found a huge desire to get better.

I stood in front of the new group of seniors in Jan of 2010 and said “Watch me- you are going to see me change- I am going to work and compete- follow my lead” and I began to take it day by day- but I was determined to be the hardest working person on our campus- and I went after it mentally, physically, and spiritually. It felt good to fight!
Every day as I ran, all I did was to pray for those seniors… I wanted them to have a great year and I wanted to lead everyone I could by my example. I had a huge set-back that year in December when I was let go as the head football coach…but I kept going!

It fueled me to run a marathon. When tough things happen it is natural to run to addictions as comfort…but  we should be seeking what the Lord wants and be willing to trust Him to break the cycle.

STEP 3- CELEBRATING SMALL VICTORIES– I did not gain weight during the 2009 season- which was significant. It did not dawn on me until after my meeting with the rising seniors. Don’t ever discount small victories in areas which you are battling.

STEP 4- FACING THE REALITY OF POOR HEALTH – When my weight got out of control from 2004-2008, I knew my blood pressure was growing and my wife kept up her concern- this was a silent killer- and what would my family do? I have to keep trying to fight the good fight here for the sake of my family.

STEP 5- GETTING INTO THE ROUTINE– In 2009, I had a good exercise routine going- I was finally healthy enough to run without pain and smart enough to know how to pace myself and cross train. (Take days off, do elliptical training, swim, ride a bike on sunny days).

I was also smart to not start a diet in January. I decided to let my body get in shape for a month. I needed to fuel my workouts. The plan was to get an initial weight in February and begin to slowly change eating habits. I started with breakfast every morning, a lot of water, and eating 5 or 6 small meals a day. I did this February and March and I lost about 10 lbs.

An April ‘Miracle’  – I have documented previously what happened in April of 2009 (I lost 60 lbs from April to August that year) but I have still struggled up and down since then. But every April since then has been an invitation to ‘do it again’– and that is my hope again even this year!

As we take a day-by-day journey…. let’s always pray that real change happens from the inside-out.

When we repair on the inside… it helps us repair on the outside.

When we feel better physically, we have more energy to devote to God’s mission.

And we discover that God’s power is a power of endurance……..