Packers’ ‘KGB’ shares faith at prayer event
A testimony of faith from Green Bay Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila drew a standing ovation Thursday from 800 people at the annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast at Milwaukee’s Italian Community Center.
Held in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer, this year’s event drew the largest crowd since the late Packers great Reggie White, an ordained preacher known as the “minister of defense,” spoke to 1,300 people at the 1993 breakfast, said John Fisco, event chairman and publisher of The Christian Courier newspaper.
Gbaja-Biamila, the son of Nigerian immigrants – a Christian mother and a Muslim father – amused the crowd with quips and moved it with candor as he described his family and faith journey.
Growing up, he struggled with name-calling on the streets of Los Angeles and with teachers in school who told him he wasn’t smart enough to make it. He wanted to be a plumber, like his father, but other doors opened to him as his football successes led him through high school and into college.
When he arrived in Green Bay after the Packers picked him in the 2000 NFL draft, the only person he had some familiarity with was Gill Byrd, then the Packers’ director of player development. Gbaja-Biamila, then a Muslim, bonded with Byrd, a former Muslim who had converted to Christianity.
“He (Byrd) became family,” Gbaja-Biamila said. “And for the first time, I finally saw a man walking the walk, believing in what he actually was preaching.
” . . . Growing up, I hung out with a lot of Christians. I went to school with Christians. And I didn’t know at the time there was different types of Christians. You have your noun and you have the verb. I was around a lot of nouns.”
Byrd’s personal example and biblical knowledge helped lead Gbaja-Biamila to conversion, he said. His closing remarks drew a standing ovation as he prayed “that men will become the spiritual leaders in their homes again” and that kids will see “Daddy reading the word of God.”
“When you go to church, it looks like men are forced to be there,” he said. ” . . . We need fathers to get back into the game and be the spiritual leader that God called you to be, not because you deserve it but because God said so.”
A tribute to the troops by two military officers who recently returned from Iraq and Kuwait also drew a standing ovation at the prayer breakfast.