ANAHEIM, Calif. After he tore all three ligaments in his knee, he thought his dream of future glory on the gridiron was over. Then God met him in a surprising way that changed the course of his life.
From the startbefore he drew his first breathtragedy struck.
"I never had a single moment with my father," said Ed Tandy McGlasson, the former NFL offensive lineman who played for the Rams, Jet, and Giants. He is the founding pastor of the Stadium Vineyard in Anaheim.
McGlasson's mother was eight months pregnant with him when a terrible accident brought heartbreak.
"My father was a test pilot," he said "He was killed at 400 miles per hour."
The night before it happened, his mother had a premonition of disaster.
"Am I going to lose you?" she asked her husband. On that last night, McGlasson's dad read the story of Jesus walking on the water toward the boat filled with his disciples. As he read, something caused him to circle the word "Come," the invitation to Peter to walk by faith across the water toward Jesus.
"The next morning he crashed in the sea," McGlasson said sadly.
Later McGlasson's mother remarried a submarine commander.
"He was a hard man whose father tried to beat the weakness out of him," McGlasson recalled.
In his youth, McGlasson strove to live up to the image of his deceased father.
"Everything I did was about securing and proving myself to the heroic dad I never saw," he said "I pushed myself to the 'nth' degree."
Passion for football
That passion propelled McGlasson to push through his dream of playing professional football by converting his walk-on status at Youngstown State into a full-ride scholarship.
But a serious knee injury threatened to derail his plans. With three major ligaments torn, doctors said he would probably not play football again. He needed major reconstructive surgery the next morning.
McGlasson went back to his dorm room with an ice pack.
"To say I was devastated would be an understatement," he said. "Everything I worked for was gone. I didn't know what to do."
But he campus pastor, Bill Romanowski (no relation to the football player), did. He ministered to the distraught player, led him to the Lord, then prayed.
"He put his hand on my ice bag and said a very simple prayer. 'Heal McGlasson's knee in Jesus' name.'
"I didn't feel anything because my knee was frozen," McGlasson recalls.
The next morning, McGlasson saw a miracle.
"I don't understand this," his doctor said shaking his head, "but somehow the ligaments that were torn yesterday are reattached. I guess your knee is healed."
McGlasson's eyes got wide, filled with incredulity.
"I couldn't believe my ears, I was so excited," he said.
Still in his soft cast, he jumped off the gurney and began to scream.
As he walked back to his dorm room, he began to talk to God for the first time.
"What do you want with my life?" McGlasson asked God.
The still small voice of the Lord spoke to his heart.
"Ed, I want you to fulfill your dream and play professional football," the voice said.
Overcome with emotion, McGlasson turned his face toward heaven and yelled out, "I didn't know you're a God who lets you do your dream! Lord, if I knew you were this cool I'd have gotten saved a long time ago."
Emboldened by the Holy Spirit, McGlasson knew he had to tell others about Jesus. The next day Romanowski handed him "The Four Spiritual Laws," a tract developed by Bill Bright and widely used by Campus Crusade for Christ.
"Go to the quad and find somebody and lead them to Christ," Romanowski instructed.
McGlasson went into a Hardee's Restaurant and found an attractive coed who sat alone in a booth. After he read to her word-for-word from the small booklet, she started weeping, and prayed to receive Christ.
"I got addicted to sharing the love of Jesus," McGlasson recalls. "That year I led 125 kids to Christ through that tract. I've been doing that since 1977 and the Lord brings me an orphan every day."
McGlasson achieved his dream to play in the NFL and became an offensive lineman on four NFL teams in three of the nation's biggest cities. During his career, he also set a bench press record with a lift of 605 pounds.
The Father's blessing
He sees humanity divided into two groups.
"There are those who know the love of the Father and they are 'the beloved.' Those who don't know that love are orphans," he said.
"Adam and Eve lost access to the Father's house and moved humanity into an orphanage. The headmaster of that orphanage is called the 'father of lies.' His plan is to name us by our brokenness and keep us completely entrenched in what we're not."
When he meets men who have suffered the wounding that comes from a missing or distant father, he gives them the Father's blessing:
"I love you. I believe in you. You don't have to live up to my reputation or expectations. You're perfect and you're not me."
McGlasson says he came to grips with these issues at 40-years-old. He felt God tell him he no longer carried the name 'football player' on his I.D. tag.
"I became God's beloved son and my heart began to be healed of the addiction to myself," he said. "The mission I'm on is to restore the blessing of the Father back into the culture."
McGlasson has spoken at numerous conferences across the country and around the world, including sharing his testimony Billy Graham events. McGlasson's first book "The Difference a Father Makes" has over 200,000 copies in print. McGlasson and his wife Jill, live in Orange with their five children.
For more information about his ministry, visit www.edtandymcglasson.com