LA Raider Willie Gault Speaks Out About Alcohol And Other Drugs

The Truth About Drugs 1993 - Narconon publication

The Truth About Drugs 1993 - part 2

The Truth About Drugs, Issue VI, Editor John S. Duff
A Narconon International Publication

LA Raider Willie Gault Speaks Out About Alcohol And Other Drugs

What are your reasons for getting involved in Narconon’s drug prevention efforts?

When I first heard about Narconon from Kirstie Alley, I thought it was definitely a worthwhile program. I had been affected indirectly by alcohol and other drugs throughout my life. I grew up with peers who at that time used marijuana and I had relatives who had drinking problems. So, I saw it from a distance and I felt there was a need for me to speak out against substance abuse.

I want to be able to do whatever I can to encourage someone. We all can’t reach everyone, but there are some people I can reach who other people can’t, and vice-versa.

How did you become a professional athlete, now playing for the Los Angeles Raiders?

I grew up in Griffin, Georgia which is about 30 miles south of Atlanta, Georgia. When I was brought up I had special talents. I knew I could throw a rock a little further or run a little faster than the next guy. So I developed this athletic will, if you will, to play baseball or football or do anything athletically whether it be running or just chasing my dog.

I played baseball in the park league for some eight or nine years. Then in junior high I began to run track. I enjoyed it a great deal and then started playing football. So, everything sort of fit into a pattern. I knew, of course, that it was a God-given gift; that I had an ability. I was also able to get the right coaching and have the right mental attitude to succeed. The family support of my mother and father was great. They encouraged me to do what I wanted to do and pursue my goals.

In high school I did quite well. I received an athletic scholarship to the University of Tennessee for football where I participated in track and field, even though it was actually a football scholarship.

Would you say track and field was your first love?

Yes, it was. It is such a natural sport. You do not have to rely on the quarterback to throw you the ball, the coach to call the play, the lineman to call the block or the defensive back to play a certain defense. It is you against the clock. It is a pure and natural sport and I enjoyed it tremendously during that season. During the football season I liked the change though. So, track was great for me and football was also great for me. They both complemented each other very well. Track gave me the respect and speed that I needed for football and football gave me the mental and physical toughness I needed to be a good hurdler and a good track participant. As I attended my first year at the University of Tennessee in 1980, I made the Olympic team and I started on the football team. I had a lot of success and, to make a long story short, four years later I was drafted by the Chicago Bears first round. It took a lot of hard work and dedication to get that far. I can remember in high school walking three times a day over four miles to practice. A lot of guys would look at me and say, “Why are you doing that?” But it took a lot of that, a lot of preparation, a lot of going that extra mile.

I had a vision, and I knew I did not want to be in the position I saw a lot of my other friends, my family, my uncles and aunts, and just friends on the street that had problems with drinking and smoking.

In talking with other professional athletes it seems one of things they have in common is the idea they needed to put in the extra time. Was this the case with you?

Anything you do, whether it’s athletics, business, theatre or acting, to be the best you have to put in extra time. Rarely does it come naturally. There are some cases where someone says, “Oh, he is just a natural actor; he has never acted before but he or she is a star.” That happens maybe one out of a million. So, for the rest of us, you have to have to take your time. It is like being a doctor. I’m not going to let anyone operate on me who has never been to med school. You have to go to med school, do your internship. Those are the steps that you have to take. It is all preparation. You have to prepare yourself for the future. Being an athlete is somewhat different because a lot of the things you do are physical. A great deal of it is the mental capacity to be able to do the physical. When you get tired you don’t want to do it and the body tends to want to quit, but if you are strong enough mentally to say, “I am not going to quit. I am going to do another mile.” Instead of doing one mile, do two miles or three miles and you then condition your body to do what you want to do from a mental standpoint, not what it wants to do. That is what I have been able to do.

How long were you with the Chicago Bears?

Five years with the Bears-one during the Superbowl in 1985. I was traded to the Raiders in 1988, and I have spent five years with the Raiders. This is going into my sixth year. A total of eleven years.

What kind of recommendations do you have for youth interested in professional sports, acting or being a doctor, things that normally take longer to accomplish?

Well, first of all, schooling and education are so vital in anything you do. Even being an athlete. People don’t think of athletes as being very studious but you have to realize that we have to memorize some five hundred to a thousand plays. Sometimes two thousand plays. So, you have to have the capacity to recall.

In acting it is the same thing. You have to learn the script. You have to know the script by heart and you have to believe in it. You have to say the lines in a way that you are believable and not just reading.

In any business you have to be able to be aware of what is going on in the stock market, and so forth. I wouldn’t advise a young male or female who wants only to be an “athlete,” a professional athlete, to pursue just that. You always have to have something to fall back on.

Willie Gault

There are only 1300 professional football players in the United States, or the world as far as the NFL goes, out of millions who come out of college who want to be-so, the chances are unlikely that you are going to be one. Not to say that you won’t if you are good enough and have the God-given talent and skills and are willing to work on it. There have been people who have gone against the odds or have been somewhere where they shouldn’t have been but are there because they key to anything. If you dedicate yourself to something, put a goal out there and go for-it realistically then you can obtain anything you wish. But it takes a lot of dedication, perseverance and patience.

What are your reasons for getting involved in Narconon’s drug prevention efforts?

When I first heard about Narconon from Kirstie Alley, I thought it was definitely a worthwhile program. I had been affected indirectly by alcohol and other drugs throughout my life. I grew up with peers who at that time used marijuana and I had relatives who had drinking problems. So, I saw it from a distance and I felt there was a need for me to speak out against substance abuse.

I want to be able to do whatever I can to encourage someone. We all can’t reach everyone, but there are some people I can reach who other people can’t, and vice-versa.

If there is one thing that I do or say that can help someone go in the right direction, then I’m all for it. That is what humanity is all about, helping each other, loving one another and giving our best to each other to try to make our lives and their lives better.

How have alcohol and other drugs affected you and your family as a professional athlete?

Well, I have been very fortunate and blessed when I grew up. I was always intelligent as a little kid and able to observe things and suck them in like a sponge and keep them in my memory. I always saw bad things happening with cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs and never wanted to take them. I was very fortunate that I was able to comprehend that. I had other peers and friends who didn’t, and they indulged and bad things happened.

What about when you were at the parties in high school and people were drinking and smoking?

I got called square a lot and “country.” All those things and I would just drink water or juice or whatever. It never really affected me. I just laughed it off and thought, “Well, it’s okay.” They got on me a lot, but I didn’t care. I guess I was a little cocky in a sense. Not so much to say I’m better than you but I just am going to do my own thing, and I was very fortunate to have been able to do that.

Peer pressure is the number one thing facing young adults today influencing them to drink or smoke. They do drugs because they are doing something with their friends.

What is your view on why so many high school students drink alcohol?

It is acceptable. It is advertised so much and made to be this big mystery on television. You see commercials with the nice sexy lady drinking alcohol. It is made sexual, sensual, and so forth, and it is made to look like you have to be rich or somewhat famous. It gives you the persona and perception that when you drink you’re cool. They are influenced by this or alcohol is already in the house.

Can parents influence drinking?

If young children see their parents drink they are probably going to try it. I think it is a combination of several things. So, if you have it in your house and you yourself drink, your kids are probably going to drink.

You are a parent yourself now. Are you worried your children are going to get involved with drugs?

Well, I think as a parent you are always worried. But the only thing you can do is be the best parent you can. First of all, live your life as an example to them. Talk with them in an adult way about what happens when they ask, and be honest with them. My little girl is six now. And when she asks questions about AIDS, we tell the truth. We tell it in plain terms; we don’t try to sugar-coat it or anything else. We try to tell her what’s what, because if she asked then she is old enough to know.

So, sure you’re concerned about it because there are so many people around you. But what you have to do is teach your kids to be leaders not followers. As leaders they are going to do the things they want to do at the right time. They are not going to follow the crowd just because it is a popular thing to do. So, that is the first thing you do. You try to teach them to be leaders. Secondly, you give them the facts. Make sure they have all the facts so they can make an intelligent decision on anything, whether it be sex, alcohol, other drugs or whatever. You give them all the facts so they know about it when they have to make those decisions. Such as when they are confronted with the boys saying, “Hey, I want to go to bed with you.” Well, I want them to know the facts; I want them to know what is happening.

What would you say to a young person who has become involved in alcohol and other drugs?

I would first talk to them to find out why they are doing it. And then try to tell them to talk with people who have experienced both the good and the bad. If there is such a thing as good. The thing with me is that I would never want to tell someone that they shouldn’t do something. Whether it be what I believe or not. All I can do is give them the facts. Tell them how I run my life. This is the path that I followed.

Do something because you want to, not because your friends want you to. This goes back to being a leader. We need more leaders today, and less followers. If we have more leaders we wouldn’t have a lot of these problems. We would have people who were able to stand up and say, it’s not going to help me in my career and where I want to be five or ten years down the line.

A lot of people think for the now and don’t think ten years down the road. And that is what you have to think about. A lot of my friends in high school didn’t think about the future. I go home now and see them still there in the park.

It sounds like an investment plan. You have to put the time in now to get the results that you want later.


It’s not high-risk, immediate benefit you should work towards. Drugs are like this. They affect you quickly.

Finding, setting and working towards your goals, getting yourself educated, is an investment and this is going to help you deal with and live for the rest of your life; as opposed to satisfaction now. Looking and working towards your future will payoff big.

What do you think about athletes and celebrities who use drugs and have ended up at a point where they are successful and using drugs?

I think people in general tend to look at stars or athletes as superhuman. But they are regular people. They have problems. They have a problem and this doesn’t make them less of a person. They just have a problem. You deal with or you don’t deal with the problem. The general public can’t look out and say, “Well, a star did it, and you know a star did it, and I’m going to do it.” I think the pressure of being successful can also be stressful. Once you have been on the mountain it’s hard to go back to the valley. So, I think once an athlete or an entertainer goes out to the valley, so to speak, it is hard for them to adapt to it. If they haven’t conditioned themselves in the right way.

The media portrays athletes as being somewhat superheroic, and when one of us falls or slips they are there to make sure it is well publicized. People have to realize that and they are going to get all the negative and not so much of the positive. So, it hurts all of us when the negative comes out. It hurts me, someone who has been drug-free for 32 years. Yet when an athlete dies like the tragic death this year of David Wayne, where traces of cocaine were found in his system, it hurts me as an athlete also.

Once you retire from sports, what is in your future?

The plan that I have been pursuing for the past eight years is my theater career. I have studied now for eight years. I am currently studying in Los Angeles. I studied in Chicago-Second City -the Goodman Theatre.

I have also done some television work. Broadcasting, color commentating, and so forth. But acting is basically the direction I am heading in.

I think there is a void to be filled as far as Afro-American men in leading roles. Like Tom Cruise’s roles. This void is there for the filling and I have the peaches to fill the pie with.

I think in this day and time we just need more positive Afro-American men role models in the movies. “Roots” has been done and doesn’t need to be done over and over. I would like to see more black leading men doing serious roles as being “sex symbols” like Tom Cruise or on this level.

There have been several roles we have turned down because they were demeaning to the appropriate black male image. They were stereotype roles for blacks such as pimps, hustlers, this type of thing.

People in middle America are a big part of the country. Nielson Ratings and all those things. Sometimes they never have any interaction with black or African American people. The images that they know are the only ones they see on television and in the theater. If all black guys in theaters are killing or shooting people up or being portrayed in a bad way, such as pimps and hustlers always harming people, and so forth, then that is the image middle America is going to have of us (black people). But if they see black people portrayed positively it is going to do a lot for race relations because, right now, realistically we are not where we should be. We have not really progressed since the 1960s. I want to change this.

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