Brodie Croyle is the associate executive director at Big Oak Ranch, a home and school for children from troubled and abusive situations that was founded 40 years ago by his father, John. Prior to joining Big Oak, Brodie worked in the land and timber real estate industry and played in the National Football League (NFL). He and his wife, Kelli, live in Gadsden, Alabama, with their two sons.
When did you start playing football?
Football has always been a part of my life because of my dad. He was an All-American in high school in both football and basketball. In college, he played football at the University of Alabama under legendary coach Paul William “Bear” Bryant. Yet my parents didn’t let me play until I was in the 7th grade. They raised me to love football, but they didn’t want me to get injured or burned out.
And you ended up being pretty good, huh?
In my sophomore and junior years of high school, we had a great team and played really well. As I was heading into my senior year, I was blessed enough to be considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country. I was excited about the season—an opportunity to prove to myself and everyone else that I was worthy of that ranking. In the first game, though, I tore my ACL, which caused me to miss my entire senior year.
So how did you end up playing football at Alabama?
Alabama recruited me based on my entire career, not just my senior year of high school. And I’m so thankful they did because I loved playing Alabama football. I set numerous school records, was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and led the team to the 2006 Cotton Bowl Classic, where I was named the game’s offensive MVP.
Off the field, though, I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror. I was super successful in the eyes of the world, but I was torn up inside. I felt like God was saying to me, “I’ve given you everything you wanted. Are you fulfilled?” And the answer was, no. I wasn’t fulfilled. I craved something more.
Did you find that “something more”?
I ended up playing in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Arizona Cardinals, but significant injuries led to my early retirement. I then moved back to Alabama to work with a friend in real estate. One day, as we were coming home from a timber sale and talking about the future of the business, I told him that I eventually wanted to get back to Big Oak. That night, I felt like God was asking me, “What are you waiting on?” When I told my wife about it, she immediately started crying, and I thought, Well, this isn’t going well. But then she said, “Your dad and I have been praying about this for five years. We knew it had to be God’s timing.”
How has working at the Ranch been for you?
You know, God never wastes anything. Growing up at Big Oak taught me that “success” is much bigger than professional achievement, and then God used my own career to drill that point into my heart. For me, success is becoming the man God made me to be—to love him and serve others. Today, I get to live out that vision with the kids at Big Oak every day. They come to us as “injured players” needing years of “rehab” and “coaches” who believe in them. We give them families that support them and give them courage to break the cycles in which they’re caught. It’s such an honor to be a part of God’s redeeming work in their lives.
Editors' note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are condensed.