How the Dallas Cowboys Changed Jerry Ford's Life

OK, so that's a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, the latest issue of Time attempts to pinpoint exactly when it was Gerald Ford got his religion, and the closest it came come up with is a pre-game prayer service conducted by Gospel Films president Billy Zeoli in Washington, D.C., before the Cowboys played the Redskins. Now, the magazine doesn't give an exact date, but it would have been sometime between 1965 and '73, when Ford was the Republican minority leader in Congress.

Interesting note about Zeoli, incidentally: In the 1970s, he also used to write Christian comic books starring celebs, including the infamous Hello, I'm Johnny Cash book in which a shirtless Cash goes into a drug-fueled rage while on the phone with wife June. In 1973, Zeoli, who would go on to become a motivational speaker, co-wrote the comic Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys, which was, like the Cash title, published by Spire Christian Comics. Copies of the comic sell for about $40 to $200 on eBay (the more expensive edition is autographed by Bob Hayes, if you're really interested).

Anyway, what Time has to say about that day -- whenever it was -- is after the jump. --Robert Wilonsky

Among their bonds was a love of sports: Ford had been an All-American football player, and Zeoli created a ministry for professional athletes. It was at a pregame "football chapel," Zeoli says, that Ford renewed his personal commitment to Christ. Zeoli was holding a service at a Washington-area Marriott hotel for the Dallas Cowboys, in town to play the Redskins. Ford, who was then the Republican minority leader in Congress, went to hear his friend preach on "God's game plan." Ford was especially moved by the sermon and hung around to talk with Zeoli privately afterward about Christ and forgiveness and what it meant.

The inquiry felt real and raw; was that the moment Ford committed himself to Christ? "It's hard to say when a man does that," Zeoli says plainly. "That's a God thing. But I think that day is the day he looked back to as an extremely important day of knowing Christ." Ford later affirmed in a published tribute to his chaplain that he and Zeoli "both put our trust in Christ, our Saviour, and have relied on Him for direction and guidance throughout our lives."

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.