21 Sep Interview with Siran Stacy – Part 1
Our emotional bruises often manifest in the form of the question, “What if?” According to Siran Stacy, the only way out of this “lonely walk” is through prayer. Learn more in Part 1 of the broadcast.
In November of 2007, Stacy’s life changed forever when his family’s van was struck by a drunk driver only one mile from their home. Stacy, his wife Ellen (36), his son Bronson (10), his daughters Lequisa (18), Sydney (9), Shelly (4), and Ellie Ann-Marie (2), were all in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Tragically, only Stacy and Shelly survived.
In 2008, Stacy was asked to speak about his experience at a small church in Alabama, and this prompted him to begin his own ministry. In the following year, Stacy was ordained as a minister of the Gospel at Destiny Worship Center in Destin, FL. Now, as one of the country’s leading motivational speakers, Stacy uses his story to make a difference in the lives of others. Stacy has drawn on his international career as a professional football player and his profound faith to become one of the premier inspirational speakers in a variety of settings. Stacy has spoken to churches, corporate groups, schools, prisons, military branches, and many other groups.
EASLEY: Siran Stacy was born in the small town of Geneva, Alabama, August 6,1968. You’re a young fella! Born to parents Ellis and Marie Stacy, you were raised with a dream for playing for Roll Tide?
E: For “Bear” Bryant.
S: Yes. He’s a legend.
E: A lot of people play for “Bear” Bryant, didn’t they?
S: He’s a legend in the State of Alabama, if not all over.
E: You went to Geneva High School and to Coffeyville Junior College in Coffeyville, Kansas. You received a scholarship to play football at the University of Alabama. What was that like to get that in the mail? That you’re going to play for Crimson Tide?
S: Well I didn’t get it in the mail. I actually got a phone call out in Coffeyville, Kansas. My dream started at eight years old. I saw “Bear” Bryant on a little black and white TV in LA and that’s lower Alabama.
S: That’s where Geneva is.
S: Saturday morning I saw a man on a goal post and I didn’t know him. Then I saw a bunch of red jerseys running out and I said at an early age, “I’m going to play for that man one day.” Eight years old! And at age twenty I went out on Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama with number twenty-seven on my Crimson jersey and all these thousands of people were going crazy and I had tears in my eyes because I was staring at that goal post. We have moments! We have moments in our lives and that was a moment for me. It took twelve years to happen. I tell people this, “If it could happen for a small town country boy like me, it could happen for you.”
E: The first game you played in Division I Football against Memphis State you set a record with four touchdowns, a hundred and sixty-five yards in only fourteen carries. You went on to carry, to rush, in 1989 for over a thousand yards.
S: It was an amazing year.
E: You were on fire!
S: I didn’t get into that game until the second quarter. I didn’t start; I wasn’t a starter and I got in and was so energized and was so pumped up. You know what? I really feel I did not become a Crimson Tider until the third Saturday in October. That third Saturday in October is when Alabama plays Tennessee. (Laughter between Easley and Stacy).
E: You are in Tennessee now. We’re based here in Nashville, Tennessee. Let’s be kind.
S: Yes! Exactly. But that game was like a statement game that forever imprinted me in the Alabama Football History. Once again, I come in the second quarter and end up with four touchdowns and three hundred and eighteen all purpose yards, which was an Alabama record that still stands. I remember Walter Lewis and we were on our way back to Tuscaloosa. That’s when we would play half of our games in Birmingham and half in T-Town and I remember him telling me on the greyhound bus going back to Tuscaloosa that evening, he said, “Siran, they will never forget you.” That was just another moment.
E: How old are you then? Nineteen?
S: Twenty years old. Being born and raised in Alabama, you are either an Alabama fan or Auburn fan. That was my dream to go to the Capstone and to be able to fulfill that dream and it is one of my lifes blessings that I’m proud of. It took a lot of hard work, but you know what?
E: You didn’t just walk on the field and rush for a thousand yards? No problem.
S: No! I did not.
E: You pushed a sled; you lifted a few weights; you ran a few laps. (Whistles)
S: Hey, I ran two years out in Coffeyville, Kansas and that really equipped me for the next level. I go back to those days with my head coach at the time, Dick Foster, and he was good friends with Woody Hayes. I don’t know if you know who Woody Hayes was at Ohio State, but he had a reputation of being a dictator, a harsh dictator, so it wasn’t easy getting on a greyhound bus and thirty three hours later getting off in Coffeyville, but that’s where I was for two years.
E: Miserable, miserable. You know when you say that Siran, I think a lot of our younger folks have a hard time understanding the grit, and the discipline, and just the brutal hard work and they don’t want to pay the price today.
S: It costs. It costs. I learned that because nothing that good is going to be handed over to you. It’s just not. Anything could be handed to you, but something good, something tangible, you’re going to have to earn.
E: Where did you get that work ethic?
S: I grew up at an early age down in LA, with a father and mother that were hard working individuals that went to a textile mill for hours. We grew up very poor and my dad worked a shift from 8-4 and my mother worked from 4-12 so they were really together. There were six of us, four boys and two girls.
E: What’s the age span?
S: Well, I’m the youngest and I have a younger sister and the rest were older and it was very difficult at times. Poverty was an issue. Education wasn’t something prominent in our family even though my dad told us we better get our grades, but he never graduated from high school and neither did my mother.
E: But they encouraged you to work hard?
S: Continually! Continually to work hard and I saw them work hard.
E: And they stayed together?
S:They are still together, fifty years.
S: This past year, fifty years.
E: That’s rare.
S: Yes, it is. There’s been some ups and downs and some abuse in my home. There’s been some things as a young boy, he should never witness a father do to his mother, but you know, that happened and over the years I’ve been able to get a hold of that and I’ve forgiven my family and my father. We have a great relationship now.
E: You played for the Philadelphia Eagles for a season? 1995?
S: I did. It was never my goal to play in the National Football League. It was always to play at Alabama. I became that years second team, All American. I was drafted by the Eagles and I was their first pick in the second round. It was a lot of pressure; it was a lot of pomp; I was going into this new world in the Northeast, which is so different than (unfinished thought).
E: It’s a little bit different than Roll Tide.
S: Yeah! I was exposed to a number of things. There was a great deal of immaturity, on my part, at that time of my life, even though I was surrounded by great men. In fact, my first year with the Eagles, I lived with Randall Cunningham. He took me under his wings and every Wednesday night we were at Bible Study at the great Reggie Whites. We were at his home.
E: You’re twenty two at that point?
S: Yes, twenty two. I never was an individual that was, at least I thought I wasn’t, that was just bad, that was just constantly a hell raiser, constantly getting into stuff, or drinking. It always seemed like there was something that would cause me to get upset. That happened to me when I was with the Eagles. I was involved in a relationship that wasn’t a Godly relationship. Again, it was a time in my life that the maturity level wasn’t where it needed to be and I thank God for having His hand on me to prevent me from getting into more trouble that I could have gotten into.
E: You left Philadelphia and you played for the Scottish Claymores in the World Football League. What was it like over there?
S: It was amazing. I lived in Europe for practically five years, five seasons. I lived in Scotland and here’s another exposure. We would play Frankfort, Germany; we would play Amsterdam; we would play Barcelona,Spain. We would fly to all of these different places.
E: A great experience.
S: It was. It was! I’m a golfer and so I can remember the first time I went to the old course at St. Andrews.
E: Oh my!
S: Yes. I got out there (unfinished sentence).
E: Golfer’s heaven, right?
S: Yes, it is!
E: Everybodies dream.
S: I really thank God for my time in Europe because I got to witness and see so much. It’s a big world out here.
E: It is a big world. You were offered a job by Billy Taylor and Heath Quick of the Hometown Lenders. So you go from playing all over the world to working as a Mortgage Banker. What in the world?
S: Well once I got out of football I had so many high expectations of myself from the National Football League. People were saying, “I was going to be an All Pro Running Back.” and they were saying that, “I had the Marcus Allen type of running style,” and so when I did not live up to those expectations, I just kind of wanted to go into my cave. Being back in Alabama, everybody’s going to say, “Well what is Siran Stacy doing now?” and “Man, he could have been such a great player.” and “He could have been” (unfinished thought). I heard that so many times. So I wanted to get away from that. I wanted to do something behind the scenes, just to be able to have a regular job. Billy Taylor offered me a job and I said, “I can do this. I can learn.” I went to school and got educated in being a Mortgage Lender.
E: Let me interrupt you. While you were doing that because we all have it and I’ve got it too. We all have these regret demons, “What if?” “If then” “If only.” How did you process that?
S: Well you know, for me it was suppression. I suppressed the fact that I did not live up to those expectations. I just suppressed it and kind of blocked it out and so I can do this mortgage stuff and be Joe Blow. That’s what I wanted to do. I really did.
E: Was it fulfilling at any level?
S: No, it wasn’t, but it was a job and it paid the bills and I wanted to get more grounded. I left the National Football League really bruised physically and emotionally, more emotionally than physically, I think. It was just a time in my life where it’s the best of times and then it was the worst of times.
E: Where does your faith enter into this equation?
S: Well I believed all along. I grew up in church and it was a mandate that you go to church every Sunday.
E: Was that your father?
S: My mother.
E: Okay. You will be at church!
S: And my father as well. We would walk to church every Sunday and it was just a part of life. I always believed in God at a young age. I believed that God touched me and I was in church and I heard one of those sermons, “Go to hell, or you can go to heaven.” (Laughter)
E: Turn or burn.
S: Yeah! Turn or burn sermon. I sat right there in that seat and I said, “I want to go to heaven. I believe in Jesus.” I believe God touched me right there in that seat, in that church, at an early age. Then, we got baptized and so I grew up with God. But I can be honest and say when I went off to college, I didn’t live by Godly principles. So I started diving into alcohol and sex and women, and when I got to Alabama it increased.
E: Again, let me interrupt you. When you think of your past, and I’ve got a checkered past as well, how do we help a nineteen, twenty year old young man? The opportunities they have today are worse than what you and I had and we’re a little bit different in age, but it’s so much easier today than even it was for you. How do you help to stay away from all of that? And not in a legalistic way, and “Don’t do that” kind of way. What do you say to them?
S: We have to be transparent; we have to be honest; we can’t be on the stage and they’re way out there in the audience. We have to bring them to us; we have to connect and tell them the truth. Tell them the truth like just what I’m saying now on this radio station. The Scripture says, there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. That’s who I was, but that’s not who I am now, but I can use who I was to be able to bless someone else. I can use the man that I was as a teenager, the choices, that’s what I tell them. I tell them it’s the choices that you’re making right now that’s setting up so much in your life. It ‘s like Robert Frost, the two roads that diverge in a yellow wood, and sorry I cannot travel them both. You know what, he ends up by saying, I’m going to be saying this with a sigh from ages and ages hence: Two roads diverge in a yellow wood and I–I took the one less traveled by, has made all the difference. So at this time in our life, we’ve got to make this choice that’s going to make all the difference. We need people like yourself and myself, being able to be transparent with our young people, and connect with them because it’s a struggle. It’s a struggle when most of us grow up, at least I did. I heard, “This is what you don’t do.” But what I saw was different and as men we have to, not only say it, but we have to live it. Teenagers need to see leaders that are not just saying it, but they are living it. I believe to answer your question that’s how you reach them.
E: You do this not only through Bill Glass Prison Ministries, but the FCA of Christian Athletes. There are a number of your youtube’s online that folks can watch, where you’re talking to young adults, young teenagers in audiences.
Let’s go back to a horrible day in November 11, 2007. You are married to your wife, Ellen, and you have Lequisa, Bronson, Sydney, and Ellie and your daughter in the car.
E: Shelly. Tell us what happens.
S: Well it was a horrific tragedy that forever changed my life; Shellys’ life, Shelly’s grandmothers, aunts, and parents. It forever impacted us. To go back to that night, we were getting ready for Thanksgiving. You know, Michael, when I was talking about how I was not the man that I needed to be with maturity, well m aturity had taken place in my life and I was grounded; I was married; I had a job; I had a awesome church that we went to every Sunday without fail. I prayed over my family, I mean, it’s kind of like, “Who is this guy?” I rededicated my life to Christ in 2004. I got on fire per se. I started witnessing and doing Prison Ministry; I started talking to the least of these. Actually, my wife, Ellen, she was an amazing woman. She wasn’t just a wife, but a mother. She was the architect behind the forgiveness that brought forth my father and me.
E: How long had you all been married?
S: We were going on about our fourth year of marriage and cohabitated ten years. Again, I didn’t do things the right way, but by God’s grace we got married and we were here at that time making a difference in the Kingdom of God. I partnered up with Bill Glass Prison Ministries and that was on my off time. I was working with Wells Fargo. No, I was working with Country Wide. I had left Wells Fargo, so we were preparing for an awesome Thanksgiving. We went to Geneva and that’s about forty minutes from my home in Newton, Alabama. That’s where my parents and all of us live, born and raised there, and so Ellen was talking to my mom about what she was going to cook for Thanksgiving. All of my brothers and sisters were coming together, all six of us for the first time in twenty some years were all coming back together for the first time to have Thanksgiving. So my mom was telling Ellen, and I remember this, she said, “I want you to cook those collard greens that you make.” They were just talking and it was just a conversation and you know how it goes. It was getting late and I said, “Mom we need to get on home.” So I got to stop through Hartford and pick up Lequisa and Sydney, who I fathered with my highschool sweetheart before I was married again. Again, I didn’t do things the right way, but I loved my girls. Hartford was in between Geneva and Newton so we left my parents. We stopped in Hartford and picked up Sydney and Lequisa, who was in college at Lauren B Wallace Community College in Andalusia. She was playing girls softball. She was my eldest and a young African American girl who was overcoming the odds. The odds say she’s going to get pregnant at thirteen and fourteen and have babies and get on child support, and WIC, and get on governmental programs, but I would speak life over her. I would tell her, “You know what? You’re not going to end up like this next girl.” And it’s so important. It’s so important as men to speak life over our sons and our daughters. I didn’t get that. I didn’t get that as a young boy. Not to blame my father or anything like that, but I can see a difference it has made in my life by just changing of my words. How powerful words are!
E: Yes, they are.
S: So we stopped through. It was November the 19th. November the 20th, was Lequisa’s birthday. Ellen and I were going to surprise Lequisa or Tooty, my nickname for her, with a car because she was doing so good in school. She was doing a Bible Study with a lot of the girls over at the college. The coach said, “She is one of the leaders on the team,” and we were just proud of her because she was making good grades. We picked Sydney up and we were always close as a family even though we had two different households and we were on our way to my home. I got about a mile away from my home and witnesses say this: I got to the intersection at eighty-four and highway one twenty three and the light turned green and I went through and an individual who I didn’t know; an individual who was drunk; an individual who I feel was very angry. He goes over twelve to fourteen miles just recklessly hitting other cars in a four lane highway. In fact, I heard the 911 phone calls in my home in Newton, the people that he was hitting, they were saying, “Please come help us, we’re in a ditch. We’ve been hit by a man in a truck.” So he kept going. He kept on going and what the State Trooper tells me is that, “At the turn, when he saw my vehicle going through the red light, he actually went straight into it.” He hit us. That night he murdered my wife, who was thirty-six, and my eighteen year old daughter, and Bronson my son who was ten years old, my nine year old daughter, little Sydney, and my two year old baby, little Ellie Ann- Marie named after the two grandmothers. I went into a coma. Shelly was in a coma. It took the Paramedics about fifteen minutes to get inside the vehicle and when they were pulling people out many of them could not take what they were seeing. I was in a coma, Pastor, and I never got a chance to say goodby to any of my family members that night. I can’t remember anything about it. Because of the coma that I was in, they said, “He’s not going to remember what’s happened. You are going to have to tell him.” It took a year later when people were coming and telling me that they were inside the hospital holding my hand. One of them was Gene Stallings, who was my college coach, he was saying to me, “Siran, don’t you dare die.” I have five life sustaining injuries: a cracked skull, broken ribs, and a punctured lung, and my liver was bleeding. No one should have survived the tragedy. Shelly, who was four and a half at the time, they flew her to the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. They medivaced her up there. From what the pilots were saying, Shelly actually flatlined on that flight. I believed this and that’s one of the reasons that I’m on your show to thank the many people that have prayed. When they found out about this tragedy and they heard about it, that night they started praying. They said, “God, do something.” They knew I played football at Alabama and I played in the National Football League so it was on ESPN and CNN. It went nationally so whoever heard it that knew me, if they knew God, they started praying and so because of those prayers I believe that’s why Shelly is eleven years old now.
E: Does Shelly have any memory of the accident?
S: She doesn’t remember either. Ten days later was November the 29th. That was the day we were actually doing the funerals.
E: I was going to say, so they buried your family and you’re still in a coma?
S: No, I was in a coma and they released me out of the hospital because they had to put the bodies in the ground. So that day on the 29th, I saw my eighteen year old daughter and my nine year old daughter, Lequisa and Sydney, and they did the funerals in Hartford. It was perplexing and I can’t even describe it. It took me awhile to get the word to describe what I saw November 29th. After we buried Lequisa and Sydney in Hartford which is eight to ten miles away, my brother Bruce said, “We have to go to Geneva now.” I said, “Why are we going to Geneva?” “That’s where Ellen, Bronson, and Ellie are.” They had to tell me over and over and over that they were gone so in my mind there was a part of me that believed that I was going to see my wife. So we get there and it’s nighttime and I’m in the same suit that I buried my two daughters in Hartford in and I walk into a funeral parlor and I see my entire church family from Destin, Florida. That’s where we were going to church at the time, Destiny Worship Center, and I remember Pastor Steve Vaggalis and he grabs me by the coat and said, “Siran, they are just shells.” I thought, “What is he talking about?” When I got away from him I saw for the first time my two year old baby in a casket and I remember that something went through me and I hit the floor and my friends they came and they pulled me up and said, “You’ve got to get through this.” I saw Ellen and Bronson and I remember that night going home in Newton and I didn’t want to be around anybody. I remember praying that night, “God bring them back to life. You can do it.” He’s God. He can do anything. I remember I had all of my anointing oil out and I wouldn’t accept it and the next morning my brother came to pick me up and we were going to the front of the church and I don’t say a word to nobody. We get to the funerals and the church is packed and I still don’t say a word to anybody. Pastor Steve gets up there and preaches a message and I remember it. He was talking about Hebrews. He was talking about the Author and Finisher of our faith. That was all I heard. He was saying, “Looking to Jesus,” and then it came time to say goodby. They had the caskets open and I went to that casket over Ellen and I couldn’t even walk at the time. My coach had to hold me up because I was coughing up blood that morning and my ribs were broken and my lungs were punctured. I couldn’t even breath, really. I remember whispering to Ellen and it’s amazing that I’m going this deep because I rarely do, but I remember whispering to her “Get up. You can hear me. You get back up.” My coach said, “Siran, we got to go.” I said, “Coach, if you just let me kiss her before I go.” I couldn’t bend down myself; he had to help me bend over because of my ribs. When my lips touched her lips, something just shocked me because her lips were ice cold. It’s like a realization that this is a finality with death.
E: She’s gone.
S: That was the finality. I knew God wasn’t going to bring them back. We put them in the ground and the next day I started what I called the lonely walk.
E: You never get over it, do you? You walk through it, but you never get over it.
S: Yeah, you walk through it. God finally gave me a word when people would ask me (unfinished thought). People don’t know what to say, but just this last year on the back of my porch I was reading in the book of Jonah. Jonah was in the belly of this great fish and he said that he “prayed to God because he was in the belly of hell.” He said he “was in hell.” That spoke to me. If there was any word that I could describe in 11-19-07, that’s what it is: is hell. That’s what it was. I was in that hell. I could somehow connect with Jonah; his life, his mission, things that he didn’t accomplish; he didn’t do, and yet now he’s in hell and he wanted out. He wanted out. That’s what I wanted. I just wanted out from the reality of not hearing my little babies footsteps running around in the house on the wooden floor. I wanted out from the memories of the failures that I had as a husband over my wife. I wanted out from the times I didn’t show up from some of my sons games because I’m running around trying to make money and I’m putting other things first. I wanted out from the guilt, from the loneliness, from being just a single dad, alone. I have a little girl who kept saying, “Daddy, why won’t mama come home?” I wanted out, but the only way to come out, to get out is to pray.