Roger Marsh: You are listening to Family Talk, the radio division of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. I'm Roger Marsh. The measure of a man is not determined by his physical strength or how much money he makes, or even what he does for a living. Rather, it's the state of a man's heart that really matters. In fact, in 1 Samuel 16:7 the Lord said to Samuel, "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Our guest on today's edition to Family Talk has had every reason to find his worth in his performance, but over the years, by the grace of God, he has come to realize that a real man is one who cares for the weak and walks in humility each and every day. His name is Ben Roethlisberger.
Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl champion, having played quarterback with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers for 18 seasons. In his first year in the league, he was selected as Offensive Rookie of the Year and was a six time Pro Bowl selection as well. Ben was chosen in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft at the young age of 23 and rose to fame after he led the Steelers to victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Upon his retirement earlier this year, Ben Roethlisberger ranked fifth all time in NFL career passing yards, eighth all time in touchdowns, and fifth in completions among quarterbacks with a minimum of 1,500 career attempts. In addition, Ben Roethlisberger had the fourth highest career winning percentage as a starter in the regular season among quarterbacks with a minimum of 100 starts and was one of six starters in NFL history to have beaten at least 31 of the current 32 teams.
Apart from football, Ben and his family have started a foundation with the mission of forging stronger families. He and his wife, Ashley, have three children and make their home in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Earlier this year, shortly after announcing his retirement, Ben Roethlisberger attended an Ignite Men event in Lynchburg, Virginia. These annual events are hosted by our own Dr. Tim Clinton, with the purpose of encouraging men to be strong leaders in their families, their communities, and the world.
After sharing some encouraging words with the men attending the conference, "Big Ben," as he's known in the league, joined his close friend, Dr. Clinton, backstage to answer a few intimate questions. That's what you're about to hear on today's edition of Family Talk. As we get ready for football season to begin, here's a special profile of a man who has experienced the redeeming grace of God, moved the spiritual ball down the field, if you will, in his own personal life in a mighty and radical way, and is continuing each day to do the work to discover his true identity in Christ.
Dr. Tim Clinton: But I know we've been talking a little bit one on one about the change. It's interesting for men, when they leave something, they really need to be thinking about where they're going. Talk to us a little bit about what's going on inside of you, your heart, your mind, as you turn the page to a new chapter in life.
Ben Roethlisberger: Yeah. People have been asking me a lot recently, what does retirement feel like, and I say it doesn't feel like anything yet, but being my wife's personal assistant is way harder than football. You know what? It's been a blessing, because I get up in the mornings, I have some devotional time and then I'm packing the kids lunches and I'm getting them breakfast and then I'm getting them to school, letting my wife have a break and do things.
The next chapter's really just about being the best husband and father I can be. I always felt like I did a good job of it, even during football, but now I can really focus on it even more. I want to pour into my kids. I love trying to reach and teach them about Jesus. That's my main focus, is getting them prepared for the world and getting ready to go.
As we're doing that, we're transitioning into doing some things that are passionate to me, which is the outdoors and my connection with my boys. Obviously, I've got a daughter, I'm not going to take anything away from my daughter, obviously. We know a father's love for his daughter.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Baylee's got some energy too, man.
Ben Roethlisberger: She does.
Dr. Tim Clinton: She's special.
Ben Roethlisberger: But I'm close with my father still, obviously he's still around. I want to do a lot of father-son things outdoors.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah, I want you to speak to our listeners out there. For a lot of us, what we do is who we are, it's our identity. I want to go back to a statement you made, that your identity in Christ, if you don't get that stuff straight, you're right, we're going to go into a total spin. We're going to get knocked down so hard that we're going to struggle to get up and find our way. As you look to the future, these are tough times, but the beautiful thing is, I really believe this, God's at work.
Ben Roethlisberger: For sure. Yeah, I've said it many times, football's what I do, it's not who I am. Like you say, sometimes we get our identity from I'm a banker, I'm a teacher, I'm a whatever my job is, but really that's just what you're doing, it's not who you are. Our identity needs to be in Christ and who are we in Him. We know how He views us, but how do we see ourselves in His eyes? That's my big thing is I want to help boys, young men. We all go through trials, we go through tribulations, and none of us are out of that woods, we're all going to go through them at some point again. I want to just equip people to be prepared and ready for it when the time comes.
Dr. Tim Clinton: "As we press into Him, He will direct our paths," that's that Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not onto your own understandings, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path."
You talked about accountability partners. I know who it is and your life, but talk to that issue, how significant it is and who and what that is in your life.
Ben Roethlisberger: I've got some really close Christian friends that are a great group of guys, a small group at our house that we meet and this, that, and the other and great couple stuff. They're great men, but there's one specific person, Spencer Tayo, he is a great, great man of God, a great family man, just had a first child. He's actually about 10 years younger than me, which seems crazy that you could have someone in such an age gap, which it just shows that you don't need to have someone so close in age or someone that's just like you. We're 10 years apart in age, but he is wise, wise beyond his years. He's my accountability guy and we get together. We try to get together at least once a week, just he and I.
What we do, we'll sit downstairs in the basement, we'll watch a game and we'll talk about life. It doesn't always get deep, it doesn't get emotional every time, but it's just, "Hey, how you doing? Anything going on?" I think that's important. I think it's important to have that accountability guy, someone that can check on you, someone that you're not afraid to talk to.
I've said many times, my wife is my best friend. We talk about everything, there's no real secrets that we have from each other, but there still needs to be a man that you can ... There's something different between talking to your wife, even though she's your best friend, and talking to a man, a guy that you trust, that you can confide in and have that time with. I've got a guy like that and I encourage people to find somebody like that, if you can.
It doesn't mean it's the first person you come to and it works, sometimes it might take a person or two until you really feel comfortable. There was a guy that I thought was going to be that person, and he's still a very dear friend, but just not the right person for what you're looking for. I just encourage people, if you can, find someone that you really can trust and that you have to be the same thing to them, they've got to trust you too. Just pour into them and don't be afraid of it.
Dr. Tim Clinton: That safety creates an opportunity for authenticity, transparency and, by the way, growth. I really believe that two are better than one for there's a greater reward for their labor, and a threefold strand, Solomon said, is not easily broken.
Ben Roethlisberger: For sure.
Dr. Tim Clinton: The power of friendships, it's transformational. Ben, as you go forward, I know a lot of people going to have their eyes on you. They're going to see how you handle all this. They're waiting to see what God's going to continue to do through you. I know here at Family Talk, our prayer is that God would do a great and mighty work continued in you and through you.
Ben Roethlisberger: Thank you.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Especially for such a time as this.
Ben Roethlisberger: I appreciate it. We'll take all the prayers we can get. We're excited for the future of what it holds. Like I said, doing stuff with fathers and sons is going to be so exciting, because I tell people, I think that's missing in society, the outdoors and fathers.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Ben, the last time you came to our event, your dad came with you, and it was a moment. Your dad obviously is so proud of you, but I know that he's an anchor in your life. Do you mind talking about, I know you have a real passion for fathers and sons, but your dad.
Ben Roethlisberger: Well, that's the reason I have a passion, is because my dad is such an amazing man. We're very close to each other. This time having my son here, it's like that full circle. I want to be the same thing to my son that my dad was to me. My dad is one of my dearest friends.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Generational legacy.
Ben Roethlisberger: Unbelievable. It's special to have someone like that in your life. I try and reiterate to my son to enjoy the time with Grandpa, with Pop, because he's still healthy and he is not super old, but you just never know. I still miss my grandpa. It's amazing how the friendship changes as we go through phases of our life. It's like our parents aren't very cool for a while, and then they're kind of cool again. I can't get enough of my dad. We're building them a new house a mile from us now. When I go over there, it's like I want to hang out with my dad. It's special, so I enjoy every moment with him.
Dr. Tim Clinton: There's something that happens, we're at a men's event, there's something that happens when men get together. Let's pray that God would raise up a generation of men who are bold and strong and courageous, willing to stand.
Ben Roethlisberger: Bold and strong and courageous doesn't mean I need to lift the most weights and be the biggest guy in the room. Being bold and strong and courageous means that I'm okay to be vulnerable, I'm okay to admit my failures, admit that I need help, because we all need it. I encourage people to do that listening, is don't be afraid to seek help, to seek the advice of a peer that you trust. It doesn't have to be a pastor, it can just be a good buddy that you trust, that you guys can just pour into.
I don't know too many people in the world that if I have a lot of problems and I run to them that are going to run to me. They're going to run from my problems because they don't want to help you. Find that one good buddy. Jesus, he's going to come to you, he's going to help you, but find someone that can be there that really you can pour into, because being vulnerable is strength.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah. Ben, such a delight to have you join us here. We pray God's special blessings over you, Ashley, and your family.
Ben Roethlisberger: Thanks, doc, appreciate it.
Roger Marsh: You're listening to Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. That was Dr. Tim Clinton's recent conversation with Big Ben Roethlisberger backstage at the 2022 Men's Ignite event in Virginia. Ben retired from his 18 season professional football career earlier this year and was sharing with Dr. Clinton a few of the dreams and plans he has for the future.
Let's join Ben on stage with Dr. Tim Clinton right now from Men's Ignite 2022, speaking to thousands of men in attendance. You'll hear Ben's heart and passion for all men to step up and to lead their families. Let's go to that presentation right now, here on Family Talk.
Ben Roethlisberger: Y'all trying to give me to come out of retirement, huh? They wanted me to throw footballs, I said, "No, I'm retired."
Dr. Tim Clinton: How many of you were at the last event when Big Ben was here with us? Say, give a shout out real quick, give a shout out. That's right, that's right. You guys, I'm going to tell you what, Ben, you've got some pressure on you, probably a little nervous.
Ben Roethlisberger: A little.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Because he has the boss in the room, y'all, and his son. Would you guys please help us welcome Ashley Roethlisberger and his son Benjamin over here. Ashley, give a shout out, stand up.
Ben Roethlisberger: Oh, she said no.
Dr. Tim Clinton: There we go. Benjamin, here we go.
Ben Roethlisberger: Yeah, it's cool, because the last time my dad came.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Yes, he was.
Ben Roethlisberger: My dad was here last time and this time my son came, so was kind of cool, the whole circle. I think my dad didn't want to come because he didn't want to cry again. I know y'all going to try and make me cry again. 2017, how long it's been, but watching, we just talked about my kids being here now, my oldest son being here, and that's what it's all about, being a dad and the husband.
Also, before we have gone too far, I think, what did you say, 250 men raised their hands or stood up to give their life to Christ? To me, I tip my cap to y'all because that's being a real man. You could say what you want about being a tough football player and outdoorsman, things like that, to raise your hand, stand up, whatever y'all did, and be vulnerable, being vulnerable in a room full of other men is not easy to do. I just want to take a moment to say congratulations, thank you. Vulnerability is not easy.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Ben, a few years ago, I got a phone call. You and I chatted for a little bit. We talked about where you were at in your life. God was impressing on your heart about baptism. We talked back and forth a little bit. I want you to share a little bit of what was in your heart and what happened.
Ben Roethlisberger: Right. I was baptized as a baby, which we dedicated or called dedicated, but I was baptized. Growing up in life and everything, I never made the decision to be baptized myself. As my faith grew over the last few years, coming to the conference and speaking to everybody and just realizing ... I'll go back a lot, I left school early, I left college early to go to the NFL. How can I tell my kids how important school is if I don't graduate? I went back and got my college degree and felt like that was important. Same sort of thing, how can I tell my kids how important God is, baptism is, showing the outward expression of my faith if I don't do something like that? In 2018, gave you a shout and I was blessed to be baptized by this man right here, just because I wanted to make the outward expression to my family, my parents.
Dr. Tim Clinton: That was a moment.
Ben Roethlisberger: It was, it was special. It was just felt right. It felt like I was at a point in my life and my walk that I wanted to express to my kids, to my family, where I was and where I want to go. Probably a couple years ago, I said football's about fourth on my list of importance, and that didn't sit well with some Steeler fans because it's football, and I get it. It doesn't mean that I didn't care and I don't love it, but God was first, my wife was second, my kids were third or my family were third, and then football fell into it. That doesn't mean I can't get on the football field and give everything I have and live, die and breathe for it, but off the field, it has to fall into place.
I think the last five years, it really was easier for me to put into place because my faith had grown so much. Because I was able to do that, it made everything else, as the trickle-down effect happens, everything else just became easier. Football became easier, being a leader and a quarterback became easier, giving my testimony became easier, talking to people about my faith became easier. I think that's what it's all about, because I would say early on, football's what I do, it's not who I am, I don't think I really believed it until more recently. Football's what I do, well, not anymore, but it's what I used to do, not who I am. That's kind of where my life has transitioned to the last few years.
Dr. Tim Clinton: 18-year career in the NFL, 2021 season started. When they went through that three game losing skid, social media, everything's blowing up, this guy's taking so many hits, he's old, whatever, blah, blah, blah, and all this gibber jabber is going on. All of a sudden, they win against Denver and things begin to turn. All of a sudden, Pittsburgh, everybody's starting to believe, Hey, wait a second, who knows what's going to happen?
Let's fast forward to December, setting the table up for a Monday night game in Heinz Field. Hey, the journey up to this point has been, is Roethlisberger going to retire, could this be the last game, could this be the moment, and at the same time, they've got to win, hopefully they'll get a win here against Baker and maybe somehow this thing will work out and they'll keep going on. But Monday night football, this is the deal. I'll tell you what, early in that week, you and I talked briefly. We just chatted about that moment that was coming, it was a big night.
What was interesting to me was God was setting a table here for a second because I think something special was going to happen. All eyes were going to Pittsburgh, ESPN, everybody comes in, people are commentating. Kurt Warner said, "Tim, I was there." Was there anybody who didn't watch that Monday night game because everybody thought they're witnessing history and the end of an era?
I want to ask you, Ben, leading up to that week, you love Pittsburgh, man, Pittsburgh's done so much for you and you represent that steel city in so many ways, just hard-nosed let's get it done, let's get out there and go to battle, how do you get ready for that moment?
Ben Roethlisberger: I was nervous, I was scared. You have so many emotions running through because Pittsburgh is home. Pittsburgh is where we're going to live, we live there now, we're going to stay there. I remember saying, "Man, what if I go out and don't play well? What if we lose?" Those doubts start to creep in sometimes. It's like, yeah, I've had a great career, I've won Super Bowls, I've won a ton of football games there, but to me, I felt like if I lost that one game, would it all be erased? That was just my insecurities there creeping in, the devil, whatever it was, was creeping in just telling me, "Man, you've got to go out and do this."
I think sometimes we worry so much about getting measured as men and as people by what we do and we don't live in the right here and right now. If I would have lost that game, at the end of the day, who cares, just understand what it's all about. Going into that game, I was a wreck. I tried to make it as normal of a football game as possible, but it's impossible when you that it's probably your last home game in front of the fans that have just meant so much to me and my family. It was emotional.
Dr. Tim Clinton: That night, I really believe this is all my heart, America became Steeler fans. I'll tell you what, it was emotional because I think everybody knew this was the last time we're going to see Big Ben in Heinz Field. We knew what God was doing in your heart and life and we were resonating with, you know that, and saying let's just celebrate this and make God uses it a platform.
Let's fast forward. Game is crazy, it's all over the place, Najee Harris scores a touchdown.
Ben Roethlisberger: I thought, okay, when Naj scored, it was great, I'm on the sideline. We just won my last game at Heinz Field and it was against the Browns, even more special. I'm just standing there and guys are coming up to me and this, that and the other. Then the interception happens and it's like, 'Holy cow, I have to go back on the field." Mason Rudolph, the backup, he grabbed his helmet. I'm like, "Huh? No, no, sir. No, young man."
Not yet, not yet. I ran back out there and I was shaking. I was like, "Just don't fumble it. Please don't fumble it," take that knee. Then Derek Watt and Naj just grabbed me and hugged me. It felt the emotions and guys were hugging me. The other team, the Browns guys were coming up, and just the emotions were through the roof and it felt so special.
Dr. Tim Clinton: You guys, if you were watching the game that night, I don't know if you remember, ESPN did not leave the game, no one left the stadium. It was amazing, it was surreal. Next thing you know, you were going around the field.
Ben Roethlisberger: It's one of those things that you don't even know, you're not even thinking about anything. It's just like I started going and giving high fives to around the stadium.
Dr. Tim Clinton: In the middle of COVID, man, you kept going.
Ben Roethlisberger: The funny thing was, I got halfway and I was like, "It's really cold out here and that's a long way to go. I'd better just stop here pretty quick." But the coolest thing about that whole night, even more than the win and all that was having my family there. I had so many friends and family came to that game. But on the field, I didn't know you showed the picture, out of the tunnel, all three of my kids came and ran and about tackled me. To have them with me, and then Ashley was there, and then my parents, my sister, my agent, all people that mean the most to me, that meant the most to me, is having my family there. They were at every game, they were at every step of the way, but to have them on the field with me, to walk off like that together, to get hugs, it just meant the most to me because are everything.
Dr. Tim Clinton: It reminded me of my dad, one of my last times with my dad. He said, "Tim, remember this, it all started with my family," and he said, "It ended with my family." He said, "Remember that, keep that in your heart."
Ben, you're in retirement. A friend of mine, Jack Graham, retweeted a piece that you did. In one of your interviews, they said, "What are you going to do?" You talked about advancing the kingdom of God, it was about ministry, "My family, do some ministry work and advanced the kingdom of God." Ben, talk to us about what you're thinking. Where's this going?
Ben Roethlisberger: I feel like that's been my mission now for the last four or five years. Then about a year or two ago, I really felt God was telling me that he wants me to do something with fathers and sons. I'm very close with my dad, obviously I've got two boys. I feel like what's missing in today's society are two things, there's a lot of things missing in society, but a father, a father figure and the outdoors. I started thinking, man, I would love to take fathers and sons and let them reconnect together outside somewhere.
About a mile down the road from our house where we live now, a beautiful farm went for sale. We just felt like we should buy that and do everything there, do a father-son retreat on this property so that I don't have to travel and be away from my family. They literally can just go and be right there. The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation used to do canine dogs and we gave almost $2 million to police and fire and rescue dogs. Yeah, we loved it. It was special, it really meant a lot, yeah. We're in the process of transitioning to the Roethlisberger Family Foundation because we want to help families, the family unit. Fathers and sons are a part of that, we want to do marriage things.
We have this beautiful farm, this beautiful property, fishing, we'll have horses on there, we're going to have a big farmhouse my wife is redoing for people to stay at. We want to connect fathers and sons because I feel like that's important, I feel like it's lost to a certain extent. It's what I'm feel passionate about. That's where we are transitioning into.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Awesome.
Ben Roethlisberger: What you talked about, we all get knocked down and life is full of peaks and valleys. It's easy to give God the glory when we're on top of the mountain. It's can we give God the glory even when we're in the valley? I told you guys that got vulnerable out here and raised your hand in front of other men, that's what I want to do at my retreat, is I want, as a father, to get up in front of other men and get emotional and talking about my son, because there's nothing wrong with communicating to my son or to other men that it's okay to cry, it's okay to be vulnerable, it's okay to communicate. That's what I'd tell y'all, is just be vulnerable, communicate with your spouses, communicate with your kids.
The last thing I would say, if I have a moment, is find somebody in your life that's a friend, that you can trust, that you can share with. We always talk about my wife is my best friend, there's no doubt about it and we share everything, but there are things that you need a man in your life to communicate with. If you have someone, keep them tight, be a close friend to them and let them into your life, because as men we need somebody like that, that we can be close with, we can be vulnerable with, that we can communicate with.
Roger Marsh: Inspiring words from one of the most successful and effective quarterbacks over the past two decades. Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, earlier in 2022, Ben announced his retirement and he now has much more time to pour into his kids, encourage and serve his wife and to focus on the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation. Please visit drjamesdobson.org/familytalk to learn more about Ben or to hear any part of this program that you might have missed today. That's drjamesdobson.org/familytalk. Well, thanks again for listening to Family Talk, I'm Roger Marsh. From all of us here at the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, may God continue to richly bless you and your family as you grow deeper in your relationship with him. Please join us again next time, right here, for another edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.