Gary Brackett–currently CEO of the Stacked Pickle and a former Indianapolis Colt– invites us to his office to talk about his unlikely success in the NFL, his transition to the foodservice industry, and how his faith helped him through unimaginable loss along the way.

Gary Brackett was a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League, during which time he served as Defensive Captain. He started for the Colts during their Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears and their Super Bowl XLIV loss to the New Orleans Saints.

After losing his mother, father, and brother during a 16-month period beginning in 2003, Brackett felt compelled to launch the Gary Brackett’s Impact Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at empowering underserved or chronically ill youth.

Brackett serves as Owner, President, and CEO of Brackett Restaurant Group which includes CharBlue Steakhouse and the Stacked Pickle casual dining brands as well as a full-service catering company.

“My goal is to be more Christ-like and less Christian.”

“Nothing ever grows from your comfort zone.”

“In order to experience life, in order to experience your greatness and what God has put inside of your life, you’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone, deal with that fear, and do it anyway.”

Key Takeaways:
1. The greatest among you will serve.
2. Success is not transferrable; the skills you learn along the way are.
3. People build brands
4. It’s going to be harder than you think it is.
5. Failure is part of your R&D. You have to budget for it.

Full transcript:

Ray: Well, hey gang. This is Ray Hilbert, your host here at Bottom Line Faith. We’d like to welcome you back to another episode of the program where we love to bridge the gap between faith and business.

As you know, if you’re a longtime listener or viewer here, we travel the country and we interview some of the most amazing Christ followers who are entrepreneurs, CEOs, business owners, and marketplace influencers. We have these conversations that are designed to not only learn about their journey and their experiences, but the reason we do Bottom Line Faith is to encourage you as a Christ follower. Because on a daily basis in leadership, sometimes it’s quite lonely, and we want to encourage you on how you can better and more successfully live out your faith as a Christ follower in the marketplace.

I’m really excited today. I’m in my hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana, and we are speaking with Gary Brackett. This is really going to be a fun conversation, because we’re going to talk about sports, we’re going to talk about faith, we’re going to talk about business. Gary, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.

Gary: Thanks for having me, man. I appreciate it.

Ray: We’re really going to have a great conversation about business, about faith and your journey, but let’s take just a moment. You played in the NFL. Let’s start there. How long was your career?

Gary: I played nine years.

Ray: Nine years. That’s like what, three, four times the average career.

Gary: Three times, three and a half times is the average NFL career. I played at nine, so yeah, right at three times the average career.

Ray: All with one team?

Gary: All with the Indianapolis Colts.

Ray: Okay, and you had a really unique experience in 2006. What was special about your NFL career that year?

Gary: Yeah, so as a kid, one thing you always dreamed about was obviously making the team, but then winning a Super Bowl. 2006, 2007 season, we played Chicago Bears in Miami and was able to win a Super Bowl Championship. Long overdue. I felt like we should have had a couple more, but just thankful that I had an opportunity to have that experience and get one under our belt, so it’s something that’s great that we could bring to the city.

Ray: One of the things that really was special and is special about you is you were never the odds on favorite, right? But your entire life, your entire journey is about overcoming obstacles and difficulties and tragedy. What were some of the tough things that you went through in the younger years of your life? You had some, some tough experience.

Gary: I really did. I think even growing up, going to school, not getting a scholarship, coming from a small high school, I was one day away from almost getting put out of college because I couldn’t pay tuition. I was blessed to get a scholarship, so that kind of changed my life, changed my trajectory.

From that moment, I became the captain. I actually won two MVPs in college. But going to the Indianapolis Colts and making the team was an amazing experience, but then a tragedy hit. I lost my father during the first season, about the sixth game that year. Unfortunately, during that off season, my mother went in for a routine surgery and she died in the operating room, in the recovery room. Then I lost my mom. At the same time, my brother was diagnosed with the cancer, T-cell neurovascular leukemia. I became his bone marrow donor, but unfortunately that didn’t take and he also lost his life the next February.

Ray: Wow.

Gary: In a very short period of time, I lost my mom, my brother, and my father. To say I didn’t at that moment question my faith, that would be a lie.

Ray: Yeah.

Gary: One thing that reminded me in one of those moments just crying outside, it was almost a movie. I’m driving in the rain, I’m just crying, beating up the steering wheel. I’d go home and I’d go inside of my bathroom, and there is a poem on the wall that I probably read 1,000 times and it never really sunk in. It was the Footprints poem. In Footprints, when the man is questioning God, and he’s looking over his life and seeing that at the worst times of his life, there’s only one set of footprints, and at the best time there’s two sets. God’s by his side. He asks God, “Where were you at the worst part of my life? That’s when God responds, “That’s, my son, when I carried you.” That just really put everything in perspective to me. I started, questioning God and just started asking, “What do you want me to get out of this?”

Ray: Yeah, yeah. That was in, what, the first year or two of your career?

Gary: That was, yeah, 2003, 2004.

Ray: Yeah. Here you are at the pinnacle from a professional career standpoint, and going out in front of 50,000 fans every weekend, and in the papers, and in the media. What is it about the professional athlete that most people don’t understand? I mean you had these real life issues going on, and yet you also had to perform. What’s that like, and what should we understand about these people that we’re seeing in the arena?

Gary: It’s funny. I get it now, just as a fan. Sometimes we hold our professional athletes to higher standards than sometimes we hold ourselves. Even then, they don’t recognize we’re playing football. It’s a game that we love, but for us it’s a job. No matter if we win or lose, we’ve still got kids to take care of. A lot of us have wives and different things going on outside.

Ray: You’re real people.

Gary: Yeah, exactly. It was almost like if you lose a game, like, “Why is he smiling doing an interview? They just lost.” It was like, because it’s a job. Like if you have a bad day on your job, do you go home and kick the cat? Like absolutely not, right? Life goes on. I think the fact that we’re real people and we go through real things. It’d be funny when during a peak I would drive around, I’d be like pumping my gas, and then people at the gas station, “Oh my God, like you’re pumping gas.” It’s like yeah, this is what happens. It’s not magic. Like we don’t have a butler. It’s just funny that people think they put you on this pedestal and don’t realize that we go through real life stuff.

Ray: How did you work through that painful part of life, mother, father, brother all in a very short period of time? What got you through that? You talked about the poem and the footprints, but it’s not that simple always, right? What really got you through?

Gary: It’s amazing in the Bible, I think in Proverbs 27:17, it talks about iron sharpening iron.

Ray: Yes, sir.

Gary: At that point in my life, we had a lot of strong Christian men on our team. If it was not for David Thornton, Cato June, some of those guys, Tarik Glenn praying for me, making sure that I was okay, get me out of the house, taking me to Bible study, getting me to church. I think that really pulled me through, because so many times I think when someone encounters a lost, we offer, “Hey, if anything you ever need, give me a call.” Well, the last thing that person wants to do when they’re going through grief is it now call someone and potentially set themselves up for more disappointment if you were to say no.

Ray: That’s a great point.

Gary: I think what they did is they didn’t offer. They came to my house and said, “We’re going to Bible study.”

Ray: I love that.

Gary: “We’re going to dinner.” I think that really put things in perspective. Now when people are going through stuff, like I don’t want to say, “Hey, do you need food?” “I’m sending food. What is your address?” “Do you need …” “I’m sending you flowers. Where are you at right now?” I think instead of asking someone and putting the burden back on them-

Ray: I love that.

Gary: Actually taking action. If they don’t eat the food, but I know I made the attempt. I think that’s powerful, and a lot of people miss that point when someone is grieving or going through something. They’re like, “Hey, if you need anything, give me a call.” It was like, no, you can actually help someone.

Ray: Yeah. That’s faith with action.

Gary: Yeah, exactly.

Ray: Faith with action.

Gary: No question.

Ray: Did you grow up in a Christian home? Tell us a little bit about the background with your family. What was the early life for Gary Brackett like?

Gary: Yeah, I grew up in a Christian home. My mother actually became an ordained reverend by the time I had went the college. She was studying, but before then she was the choir director, so we were all in the choir. We had Wednesday revival I mean, so we were in the church quite a bit.

My father at one point in his life really questioned his faith. He was a military veteran. He suffered for alcoholism for a part of his life, and there were some dark times where we will go to church and it would just be the kids and my mom. My father went and got helped, and when he came back he was … When you ask him today, and unfortunately like I’ve mentioned earlier he’s not here with us, but he could tell you, “I’ve been sober for nine years, 27 days, four hours, and 13 minutes.”

Ray: Wow, yes, yes.

Gary: That was a badge of honor for him, man. I respect him for that, because I realize how strong you have to be to get away from some of those strongholds that we have on us. He’s just as strong, but he had a lot of faith, and I just saw what it did to him and his just outlook on life. It was an amazing experience.

Ray: Fantastic. NFL career, nine years. I want to talk about the end of that and the transition, because then we’ll get into business and what you’re doing with your life now. What was it like towards the tail end when you began to realize, “Hey, this is coming to an end”? Walk us through your thought process there, and then what began to transition you into what you’re doing now?

Gary: It’s funny. Even when my career was ending, I read a book entitled Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. I knew that it wasn’t if, it was when I wouldn’t be in the NFL anymore. For me, I was just planting seeds and I was meeting with people inside town, going out to dinners, interacting, doing internships, and really just learning about the business community and what that was going to be about. I think so many times, unfortunately players wait till it’s too long to start making those connections. But for me, because I had those connections, because I had a foundation, because I was visible and present, my transition was a little bit easier.

I’ll tell you a funny story though. When I did retire, I was about 31 years old. My wife, she’s a doctor, so she was in a residency at the time. My son was three, and he sees mommy going to work and he sees daddy’s golfing every day coming home. My son looks at me and he says, “Dad, like what are you going to do when you grew up?” I’m like, “What, are you kidding me? Like do you see this ring? Do you see this house? Like what do you …” I was offended. Like what is this kid talking about? But it was one of those sleepless nights, man, when you’re just thinking like, “Man, what am I going to do with my life?”

Ray: Wow.

Gary: At that moment, I decided to go back to school and get my MBA from George Washington University. The reason being was because I felt like we all have our own toolboxes in life, and we choose our tool of choice, right? For me, for the majority of my life, the tool of choice was a hammer. The challenge is when you only have a hammer is that every situation looks like a nail. I had to go back and recalibrate some things and learn that every situation doesn’t have to be a nail. Some things could be a ruler. Some things could be a wrench. Some things could be a screwdriver. It was just amazing opening up that skill set again and just really looking at things with a critical eye and not just being stuck in the way that I was thinking, kind of expanding my vision if you will.

Ray: That’s fantastic. Your title, what you do is you are the CEO of the Stacked Pickle.

Gary: Correct.

Ray: What is the Stacked Pickle?

Gary: Yeah, so the Stacked Pickle is a sports bar here in Indianapolis, Indiana. We have 10 locations. We have obviously burgers, wings, some adult beverages as well. But we really just pride ourselves just providing great service, great food at a great price.

Ray: Yeah. Of everything you could have done, you mentioned, hey, I went back, got my MBA-

Gary: Correct.

Ray: Going to look at different opportunities in life. You probably had a lot of options, right?

Gary: Yeah.

Ray: A lot of connections, to your point earlier. Why did you choose the food service industry and the Stacked Pickle? What drove that?

Gary: Yeah. We talked about it earlier. My mother, an ordained reverend, a lot of times in my life just struggling with different things, being a leader of the team, whatever, and just deciding what I want to do when I get older. One thing that she used to preach to me was that the greatest among us will serve. I think even in the Bible, right, Jesus bent down and washed someone’s feet.

Ray: Yes.

Gary: I think that type of mentality. It’s surprising to people when they see me bringing out their food. A funny story, one time March Madness, we were short staff, so I go to the restaurant. I’m supposed to be there just to shake hands, kiss babies, and we’re missing three people. I go back into working mode, so I’m clearing the tables, going back in the back, and I can hear some guys at the table whispering like, “Hey, I think that’s Gary Brackett. He used to play football. I think he works here.” It just was like … Really, like what is your job is really whatever it takes, right?

Ray: Yep, yep.

Gary: The CEO, you just have different things that go on inside of a business. Really whatever it takes.

Ray: What are your dreams for what you’re doing? What’s it look like?

Gary: My dreams is just really I want to grow responsible. I think a lot of times franchisees come out the gate and they grow and they take every possible person that comes that can write a check. I think they get into trouble because they get some people that doesn’t align with the culture.

I make sure I want to be careful. I want to grow about six to eight stores a year for the next five, six years, and at that point I really just assess where I’m at, and my season in life, and where that goes.

One thing that is amazing is just the opportunities that I’m able to afford people. I see people that came to me and they were a hostess, then they went to servers, then they were managers, now they’re general managers, now to helping on the franchise side. No college education, but making a good enough wage to buy a house. That’s a huge responsibility, having sort of people that work under me. I definitely want to make sure that we stayed focus on the right things.

Ray: Yeah, absolutely. I want to talk about some of the lessons you’ve learned. You started or you began this business how long ago?

Gary: I invested in 2011, and then I bought the business outright in 2013.

Ray: Okay. As you look back over the last six, seven, eight years in this business, share with us maybe one or two of the big lessons as we sit here today having this conversation. “Well, I’ve really learned this,” or, “I’ve really taken away this.” Then I want to connect your faith to those lessons. What is a couple of big lessons you’ve learned?

Gary: I think one of the biggest lessons is just patience.

Ray: Okay.

Gary: I think so many times we compare ourselves against different people and we don’t know that person’s story, but we want to be exactly where that person is right now. I thought that I could have took the elevator. No matter where you’re at in life, in order to have a successful, long, sustainable success, you have to take the stairs. There’s so much value in taking the stairs. There’s so many muscles that are built, conditioning that goes on when you’re taking the stairs. Yet, I see it time and time again.

I fell prey to this that I thought that I could take the elevator, and it doesn’t work that way. I had to learn some hard lessons in the beginning, picking some bad sites, closing locations, hire some pretty senior people, having to let go of them, thinking that, “Wow, I can hire them, and I can sit back, and I can go golf and let them run it.” It’s like, no, you need to learn the business.

That patience really plays out for me today. Then now, I’m again putting in my 10,000 hours. I go to about four or five conferences a year. I read books, podcasts, YouTube videos, and that’s just trying to be a student of the game.

Ray: You’re a lifelong learner.

Gary: That’s it, man, and that’s what you need to be. Also, it’s funny. I’m working on is course. I get asked to mentor people a lot, and it’s impossible to mentor this many people and that doesn’t scale well with what I’m doing. But I’m putting together like an eCourse, so like a webinar series just on developing a championship mindset.

With that, it just talks about how does a champion approach different things, and one thing is he never underestimates his competition or his amount of work. I think so many times we get success in one area of our life and think that’s transferable to every other area. Well, success isn’t guaranteed transferable. The skills you learn to have success are okay.

Ray: Okay.

Gary: Those skills still have to show up in that other area of your life in order for you to have that success.

Ray: In the midst of that, where does your faith play a role in all of those lessons? How does that connect?

Gary: Yeah, I think it’s having faith. I think it’s just happened that. I think for me, faith has to be active. Saying that you have faith is not enough. Practicing faith I think is how in business you should act, right? It’s not enough to say, “Hey, I have faith that this is going to work out,” but yet you’re worried, and you’re anxious, and you’re doing all these different things. I think you have to make a decision based on information that was given to you, and you’re not always going to have 100% of the information available before you make that decision.

Ray: That’s right.

Gary: But with 80% of the information, you have to make an educated decision, and then you have to believe in the system that you made and have faith that it’s going to work.

So many times, I see people managing, micromanaging, and doing so many different things. It’s like no, the goal is to make a hire, give them their job description, training them for their job, and let them do their job.

Ray: Yeah, that’s right.

Gary: I think that’s the part of having faith and having active faith that I’ve become a lot better at. I’m a firm believer that people build brands. The reason it’s not Gary Brackett’s Stacked Pickle is because it’s not about me. It’s about the brand. I want to bring people in that are brand ambassadors to help us build something. If they’re stronger than me, like if someone comes along and they’re a great CEO, right, I might have to look for something else to do.

Ray: That’s all right.

Gary: That’s all right.

Ray: Let me ask you this. As you look at your business and how it’s growing and the lessons learned, how do you see it as a ministry? How is it that God is glorified in what you’re doing?

Gary: I think for me, like I mentioned earlier, just the service aspect of what we do. We get to partner in each one of our locations with the community in what we do. We have Dine to Donates with schools, with churches, with different types of organizations. To see us being able to, one, feed people, but then two, to see sometimes being able to write a check to these different organizations is seeing how we impact the communities that we’re in I think is huge.

Ray: You really do understand that God’s entrusted you, right? You’re the steward of this.

Gary: Definitely.

Ray: Now you’ve got the platform and those sorts of things. I’m really curious. As you look back, what do you wish someone had told you in that first year of being an entrepreneur? “I wish somebody would have warned me about this.”

Gary: Had told me, yeah. No. I really think, I wish they would’ve told me that it’s going to be harder than you think it is. I wish they would have managed my expectations, because I thought I’m this big bad football player who had this immense amount of success. I had capital. I had resources. I have a great name. I’m going to roll out.

I remember games, coach would always say, “You can’t roll out in your helmet and then the guys are just going to take a knee and we’re all of a sudden going to win. No, you have to actually go out there and play.” I didn’t really realize how hard it was going to be. It’s kind of like I started off like, “Okay, we’ll figure it out.” But then when it doesn’t figure out, “Oh, wait a minute.” Then I had to kind of like roll up your sleeves.

It’s funny, because so many times as a leader … Initially, I was this guy who you see leaders that are in the back and he’s getting carried and he’s the whip. Then I see now I’m the guy in the front, right, chopping down the trees. “Hey, follow me. We’re going this way.” I think the respect I think has grown amongst my peers and amongst the people that I lead, because they see that I’m willing to kind of learn, and understand, and get down into the details and figure things out with them.

Ray: I love that. That’s just part of those lessons, right?

Gary: Yeah.

Ray: Living it all out over time. As you look back over the last six, seven, eight years, what’s been the hardest part about connecting your faith in business? What are some of those, I don’t necessarily say temptations, but situations that like, “Wow. Okay, my faith is being tested here. My faithfulness to Christ is being tested here”? Anything come to mind?

Gary: I think for us, just dealing with like HR issues and stuff that goes wrong inside of your restaurant. Because so many times, typical restaurants, right, it’s a one strike process. You get a strike, you’re gone. Then that forgiveness, and that empathy, and that grace, and when something happens with one of your employees, do you just say, “All right. You’re fired,” or …

I’ll give you an example. One of our employees, obviously we’re a sports bar, we serve alcoholic beverages. One of them, they served Excise. They come in. They put on this thing. They do this little skit where a guy comes in, girl comes in, girl leaves, guy orders two drinks for him and the girl who just left. Well, we’re supposed to ID everyone. At the time, the bartender’s busy. He didn’t look up. He saw the girl come in. He didn’t know if someone else checked their ID, because there’s two bartenders at a time, so he serves them a drink. All right, Excise, “You’re busted. Here’s your fine. Come down.”

The manager calls crying, and this is a vital employee. He says, “Man, I hate to lose this guy.” He’s like, “Everywhere else I’ve been, if someone got busted, they got fired.” I’m like, “Why are we firing him?” He like, “Because he broke the rules.” I’m like, “One, I bet you he’ll never do that again. Two, he’s one of our greatest employees. If someone else down the street did the same thing and they got fired and they came to us and was a great employee, would we hire him?” he said, “Absolutely.” I said, “So why not discipline him, show him that we do not approve, show everyone else that, but then give him a chance to redeem himself?” That’s what he did, and then he became a great assistant manager for us for a couple of years. I think-

Ray: Great example, yeah.

Gary: Acting in not just emotional, but thinking like I’m imperfect myself. I also am flawed. In some situations it’s not negotiable, but in that situation, we were able to recover him by showing him a little bit of grace, a little bit of mercy.

Ray: I love it. I’m sure that at some point in your career you busted a coverage, you missed an assignment.

Gary: Yeah, man.

Ray: Coach Dungy didn’t say, “Gary, sorry, you’re off the team now,” right?

Gary: Right. It’s just amazing how when we’re sometimes in a leadership position how we think we never stumbled when we were trying to learn how to walk. If our child was learning how to walk and they don’t walk, “Well, she’s never going to walk. I’m going to give up on her.” No. We kept on working at it. I think for me, my goal is to be more Christ like and less Christian.

Ray: Oh, I love that. There’s a difference, right?

Gary: There is a big difference. So many people think that they’re a Christian because every Sunday they show up to church, but then when they leave church, they don’t act like they know Christ. For me in my everyday walk, if someone could look at me and say, “Oh yeah, I know he’s a Christian. I just saw he just held the door for this old woman 30 extra seconds, or he spent time.”

A big thing that I do, I used to travel with my children. Sometimes my wife wouldn’t be there and sometimes my wife would travel when I wasn’t there. I know how hard that is. You’ve got a kid. You’ve got to stroller. I mean it’s crazy. Anytime I’m in an airport and I see it, I stop and say, “Hey, do you want me to get your bags and walk with you? Like I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there before. I just want to help out.” Just the faces on some of the moms are just like, “Yes, please. I don’t know you.”

Ray: You’re an angel.

Gary: “This may not end that well, but yes.” Because they’re thinking, right? Because when you stop, you land, you’re thinking like, “How the heck am I going to get this bag-”

Ray: That’s right.

Gary: “Get this stroller? She’s crying. How is that going to happen?”

Ray: That’s right.

Gary: It’s just amazing for me just to show up in different areas like that.

Ray: I love it. I love it. I’d like you to just kind of think for a moment about our audience that’s listening to this conversation. As we said in the opening comments, we really are here just to be an encouragement. Listening right now, there’s going to be business owners, there’s going to be leaders, executives, probably coaches and so forth, and they’re may be in a moment of discouragement. They’re like, “Wow, what am I going to do? I’m just so despondent. Nothing’s going right.” What word of encouragement would you have to someone who’s listening right now to kind of make it through?

Gary: For me, I think Joshua 1:9 talked about I armed you to be courageous through fear, for the Lord your God will always be there with you. I think so many times people have this notion that successful people don’t have fear. You’re so brave. The reality is I was afraid. Every game I played, I had fear.

People think fear is something wrong with that and I shouldn’t be afraid. Well, when you’re not fearful of nothing, you’re probably in your comfort zone, and nothing ever grows from your comfort zone. In order to experience life, in order to experience your greatness and what God has put inside of your life, you’re going to have to step outside of your comfort zone, deal with that fear, and do it anywhere. Because fear is always going to be there, so acknowledge that fear, right? It’s showing you there, “Hey, I’m here. Hey, I see you, but I’m still going.”

Ray: There you go.

Gary: I think so many people that feel fear cripple them, and I don’t think fear should cripple you. I think you should notice fear, you should respect it, but you say, “I’m doing this anyway, because I have faith. My faith is bigger than my fear.”

Ray: Yeah. That is so powerful. Just I want to tie into something that I know that’s a very big passion that I think has got to be rooted in this. You talked earlier, you lost your father, you lost your mother, then you lost your brother to cancer.

Gary: Right.

Ray: That could cause you to cower down and walk away from God and those things, but you’ve gone just the opposite way. I’d love to, just for a moment, talk about your foundation. Talk about those moments of darkness that have led … I interviewed someone earlier this week and they made this statement that in your pain you’ll find your purpose. You’ve been through a lot. Talk to us about your foundation, how it started, and what you do. This is amazing, what you’ve got going on.

Gary: Yeah. For me, when I was going through my dark places and when my parents passed away, my brother, at one point in my life I wanted to quit. I was like I feel guilty being in the NFL, living a great life, and my people were home struggling. What I realized is that my mom, my dad, my brother, the people that I lost would probably roll in their graves if I’d have quit. Like they worked their tails off to get me to where I am. Then I came up with this thing. It’s like you honor the dead by the way that you live your life.

Ray: Okay.

Gary: You honor the dead by the way that you live your life. For me, after my brother passed in 2007, I started a foundation, the Impact Foundation. I wanted to make an impact. The reason being, because when I gave my brother a bone marrow transplant, I walked down the halls and I saw so many kids affected by cancer. Before this day I never knew what cancer was. I saw so many kids in the hospital beds alone because their parents live four hours away and needed to go home to tend to the rest of the family. I said at that moment, if there’s anything that I could do, that I would.

In 2007 I started a foundation, the Impact Foundation. We help critically and chronic illnesses with the children inside the hospitals. We have several lockers inside of the hospitals, IU North, Riley, Saint Vincent’s. We have several events throughout the city. To date, we helped over 200,000 Indiana residents with our programs.

Ray: That blows my mind. That’s incredible.

Gary: Sometimes it’s funny. Little old me, this little boy from 107 Higgins Drive, that’s where I grew up in, across the street from the projects, a speech impediment, overweight, too short, too slow. What I did is I never let anyone’s perception become my reality. I just kept on fighting, working, and I do the best with the gifts that the Lord gave me.

Ray: That’s how you honor your family, right, to this day.

Gary: Yeah.

Ray: How can folks learn more about the foundation and what you’re doing?

Gary: is my foundation page. You can learn more about information there. For me, my Instagram, Twitter all is the same. It’s just Gary Brackett.

Ray: Okay. Can I have like one extra minute with you?

Gary: Yeah. Yeah, sure.

Ray: I would be remiss. I’m just sitting here thinking I know that this will be a fun question, then I’ve got a serious one and we’ll wrap up. As you think about over your nine year NFL career, okay, if there was one story that you look back on that just makes you laugh every time that you recall, give us that memory of just what’s … It’s okay if you tell on one of the other players. It’s okay. What’s that one story that would be good?

Gary: We used to do this thing. It was Clint Session, and I think I got Peyton in on it. We used to do this thing where we would walk out to the coin toss at home. Well, when you’re at home, the opponent calls the coin toss.

Ray: All right.

Gary: At one point, we had Clint session there, so it was honorary captain. Me and Peyton would walk out, so Clint was walking with us.

Ray: Peyton’s the offensive captain. You’re the defense-

Gary: I’m the defensive. Then Clint’s special team. I’m like, “Hey, Clint man. What you going to call, head or tails, baby? We head busting? We out there busting heads today?” Clint’s getting excited, like, “Yeah, man. Nah, nah. I’m going tails. Nah, we ought to go heads. We ought to go heads.”

We got all way to the coin toss. I’m hyping him up, hyping him up, and Peyton’s just giggling. Then he comes there and Clint was like, “Hey, heads, heads.” Then the ref’s looking at him like, “Dude, you’re home. Like you don’t get to call it.” I’m just tickled to death. This is like a serious moment before the game, his first ever coin toss, and he’s looking at me like, “Dude, like you set me up.” It was just one of those icebreaker type moments, man.

Ray: Yeah.

Gary: We’ve got like Adam Vinatieri. I mean it was a bunch of players that we had like as we walked up to the coin toss. It was just like four steps before you walk, so they’re like they can’t pick themselves out of it, right? They’ve got to make a decision. Like logic doesn’t kick in and say like, “No, we’re home,” right? It was just something funny, kind of cheesy that we used to do, man.

Ray: Something that guys just … just guys being guys, right?

Gary: Oh. Man.

Ray: That’s great. That’s awesome.

Gary: I got a good chuckle out of that.

Ray: I did too. That’s great. All right, so we’ll end up on the last question that I ask in every one of my interviews. I call it my 4:23 questions. It’s based out of Proverbs 4:23. Solomon writes these words. He says, “Above all else, guard your heart for from it flows all of life.” Gary, if you kind of think, what would be the one piece of advice, like if you are towards the tail end of your life and you have a chance to gather your family, your friends, those who are most precious to you, and you’re going to pass along the single greatest piece of advice, I want you to complete this sentence for us. Above all else …

Gary: Above all else, have no regrets. For me, so many people have so many ideals, have so much inspiration, want to do so much with their life and their worlds, but they have every excuse not to get it done. Five years later, 10 years later, on their grave, they have all this, “Man, I wish I’d have this.” I think that somewhere it said that some of the greatest inventions ever known are in the graveyard, because people actually never went and followed through with them.

For me, I believe that failure is not the opposite of success. I believe it’s a part of success. So many people will have regrets because they’re afraid to fail, because from a young age we were taught that failing is bad. But really as you grow up and as you become successful, you realize that failure is a part of the process, because if you’re not outside of your comfort zone, if you’re not addressing that fear, if you’re not experiencing failure, guess what. You’re probably never going to reach your peak greatness.

Ray: That’s great, yeah.

Gary: For me, I encourage our managers, I say, “Hey, do events. If you fail, there’s a lesson in that. What lesson did we learn?” Then they’re thinking, “Well, last time we did it, it didn’t work, so I assume we can’t do it again.” “I never said you couldn’t do it again. What lesson did you learn from that last event that you’re going to apply to this event and try it again? I’m not going to let you do it again the same way. Absolutely not.”

Ray: Yep. Right, right.

Gary: “But if you could tell me some lessons that you learned of how are we going to adjust it, then absolutely I’ll let you do it again.” They’re perplexed like, “We lost money.” I’m like, “We gained lessons.”

Ray: Yes. I love that.

Gary: It’s just that valuable, right? It’s just amazing. Another store, and I know we’re running out of time. A private equity guy bought a pharmaceutical company, and he saw this line on the pharmaceutical company, R and D. They’re spending 50% of their profit on R and D. What did he do? He cuts all R and D, right, so all that money drops to the bottom line. Oh, this guy’s a genius. Three years later, all of his competitors with R and D budgets make drugs that are better than his drugs, so five years later he goes out of business, right? Research and development in pharmaceutical companies are value. It’s what makes them billions of dollars.

Ray: That’s great. That’s great.

Gary: Failure is a part of your R and D. You have to budget for it. You have to allocate for it.

Ray: That’s fantastic. Gary Brackett, thank you for being on Bottom Line Faith today.

Gary: Man, thanks for having me.

Ray: Well folks, another conversation with an amazing godly leader who is living out his faith every day in the marketplace. That’s what we’re about here at Bottom Line Faith. We’d like to encourage you, if you haven’t been to the website, go to We have over 100 other interviews just like this on that site. You can check us out on Stitcher, iTunes, Google Play, all of the normal platforms as well. Hopefully you’re a regular subscriber. If not, click on that link and become a regular subscriber here at Bottom Line Faith. Until next time, I am your host, Ray Hilbert, encouraging you to live out your faith every day in the marketplace. God bless and we’ll see you next time.