Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman received a rousing standing ovation following his keynote address at “A Day for Men,” Saturday, March 14, at St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere in the Green Bay Diocese. Not bad considering he almost passed on the opportunity to share his message about the need to allow God to work in your life.
Sherman admitted he was hesitant when first asked nine or 10 months ago to speak at the event. Judy Turba, director of the Norbertine Center for Spirituality, continued inviting him, and Sherman continued putting her off.
“I didn’t want to come up here and not have something to offer you,” he said. “Judy and Jim (Norbertine Fr. James Baraniak, prior at St. Norbert Abbey and Catholic chaplain to the Packers) did me a great favor … I was able to work through some things, basically, because I was coming up here. It made me think about things in my life.”
Sherman opened his talk with humor. He and his wife, Karen, have been married for 33 years, so he offered some marriage tips as part of his “things I have learned.” He drew laughs for such tips as “never buy your wife a complete outfit off a mannequin” and “never buy (her) a present from SkyMall Magazine.”
Sherman then addressed faith, which he described as “the important stuff.”
“I’ve wrestled with God a bunch of times,” he said. “I felt like he has abandoned me at times. You are dealing with an imperfect person.”
Sherman, who hails from Hyde Park, the southernmost neighborhood in Boston, developed a strong faith during childhood. His mother’s family included priests and religious sisters. Following his first Communion, he attended Mass every day on his own and thought about becoming a priest.
Sherman, who played football at Division II Central Connecticut State University, landed a high school job as an English teacher and football coach following graduation in 1977. In 1981, he moved to the college ranks, serving at six different programs until 1997, when he received a call from now Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid about joining the Packers as an assistant coach.
Following two seasons as an assistant in Green Bay and one as offensive coordinator in Seattle, Sherman was named the 13th head coach of the Packers, where he compiled a 59-43 record in six seasons.
“For 50 years of my life, everything went exactly as I had planned,” explained Sherman, 60. “Everything was perfect. I always got the job. I had never been fired from a job. God and I were on the same wavelength. We were talking back and forth. I thought, ‘This is how it is supposed to be.’ I felt good about my Christianity and I felt very comfortable sharing that with other people.”
Sherman, who emphasized that losing a job pales in comparison to what other people deal with in their lives, said the effort he put forth with the Packers made his dismissal more difficult.
“I put so much into that job. My heart was into that job. I put more time than I probably should have into that job,” he said. “My family sacrificed because of all the time I spent at the office. My faith sacrificed. I put God in a box and took him down when I needed him.
“I always went to church. I always prayed. The intensity in which I prayed wavered.”
Sherman, who served as an assistant coach and coordinator for the Houston Texans, head coach at Texas A & M and offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins after leaving Green Bay, said he is more excited about the plan for the rest of his life than when he was young.
“God is teaching me throughout this process. The first thing I came to grips with is you have to let God be God. I think I wanted God to be somebody to do things for me … Let him do his job. Don’t tell him, don’t judge him. You can talk to him. He does things far beyond what I can see. He has a plan for everyone.”
Sherman offered three suggestions to the men: surrender to God, let Jesus lead you and let the Holy Spirit empower you. He also encouraged them in difficult times to “not ask why, but what’s next?”
Sherman, who did consulting work the past year, referenced a football phrase when discussing the need to change.
“In the NFL, we talk about getting a quarterback off his spot,” he explained. “A lot of guys want to camp out back there. Get off a spot. I’m going to move around. To live is to change.”
Sherman incorporated Scripture into his talk, including 2 Timothy 4:7.
“If you can all say at the end, if they can put on your tombstone, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,’ that’s a good legacy,” he said.