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Grbac, Kyle talk faith, football to St. John the Evangelist Leadership Guild

News of the Diocese

April 18, 2024

Grbac, Kyle talk faith, football to St. John the Evangelist Leadership Guild

Two local football legends – Elvis Grbac, a former NFL player, and Chuck Kyle, the recently retired Saint Ignatius High School football coach – drew a large audience when they addressed St. John the Evangelist Leadership Guild at the group’s spring meeting. Bishop Edward Malesic also attended.

Father Dan Schlegel, pastor of St. Raphael Parish in Bay Village and SJELG chaplain, hosted the gathering. He became pastor last November and shared a history of the parish, noting he grew up there. “I never expected to return as pastor,” he added.

After prayer in the church, the group moved to a large meeting room for refreshments and the program.

Grbac, Kyle talk faith, football to St. John the Evangelist Leadership Guild

Grbac shared his background, telling guild members that he is the son of Croatian immigrants who spoke no English when they arrived in the United States. “Faith, family and work were important in my family,” he added.

After attending St. Felicitas School and St. Joseph High School, Grbac went to the University of Michigan where he was a football standout. He spent nine years as an NFL quarterback, playing for the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens.

Faith and football do relate, he said, noting work is a focal point of his life. “You don’t know me well, but you know my career. When you get to know me, you will know how important my faith is to me,” he added.

Grbac, Kyle talk faith, football to St. John the Evangelist Leadership Guild

His older son was born with spina bifida, which caused angst and concern. Faith helped Grbac and his wife through the tough times, including a delicate surgery that allowed his son to do things like play sports. The experience strengthened his marriage, Grbac said because he and his wife focused on their son, doing all they could to help him. Kyle lost an older brother in a car accident, he said, and that also affected him, making him stronger.

“We all face things in life and the priests and bishops help get you through it,” he said, emphasizing again the importance of his faith.

“As physically and mentally prepared as you are, sometimes you just need faith.”

Grbac said earning a master’s degree from Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology is one of the most rewarding things he has done. There is much more to life than football, he said, noting the most important thing is to live a good life and teach young men to be good men.

“Football is a tool,” he said.

Grbac, Kyle talk faith, football to St. John the Evangelist Leadership Guild

As for Kyle, Grbac had high praise saying, “I learned more from him than anyone from the NFL … he can coach the coaches. The great ones know how to live it. Chico knows that. He takes young men and makes them men for others. My two sons went there (to Saint Ignatius) and he coached them.”

Kyle brushed off the praise, saying his job was to “teach those young me and prepare them mentally, physically and spiritually for any challenges in life. I looked at what I did (teaching) as a vocation and I wouldn’t trade a second of it.” He also was the head coach for the Wildcats’ track and field team.

He made a distinction between coaching and teaching, noting he spent 50 years at Saint Ignatius, high alma mater, teaching English. “Teaching was my vocation. I served as a teacher. It’s not about me.”

Grbac, Kyle talk faith, football to St. John the Evangelist Leadership Guild

Kyle said he used football as a vehicle, explaining that hopefully, the players took their talent and learned from it.

You can throw a football in the air but you don’t know where it will land, so you have to be prepared mentally, physically and spiritually, he said.

Reflecting on the Bible, he said St. Joseph is mentioned only about 14 times. However, he was know to have a good work ethic, something he taught to Jesus. “Young Jesus watched him and learned. Then Jesus picked his apostles not from people in the temple, but from people who had a work ethic. He needed people who would carry on with his work and who shared his work ethic. “He found fishers of men,” Kyle added.

Over the years, Kyle’s teams amassed dozens of trophies and titles. “But the trophies get locked up in a cabinet. That’s not why you do it,

“Roll up your sleeves and get things done. That’s what you can do for the Church,” he told guild members. Kyle said attending Catholic schools from grade school to Saint Ignatius and John Carroll University then returning to Saint Ignatius to teach and coach had a profound impact on him.

Now, a new generation – his grandchildren – are carrying on that legacy.

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