Monday, September 11, 2006

Touchdown Alexander with Cecil Murphy - Review/Interview

Touchdown Alexander: My Story of Faith, Football, and Pursuing the Dream
by Shaun Alexander with Cecil Murphy
hardcover, 2006, Harvest House Publishers
ISBN 0736919376
224 pgs.

Written with well-known author, Cecil Murphy, "Touchdown Alexander" is a moving story about trusting God and living in true obedience.

Shaun lived in a small Kentuckian town in a two bedroom apartment with his mom and older brother. His brother was a member of the local peewee team and encouraged him to join. Shaun’s response? He didn’t mind staying indoors and watching T.V. one bit. Football did not interest him–especially the running part. But his brother persisted, and when Shaun joined, he found he actually liked the sport.

Through his school days Shaun not only became better and better in a sport he grew to love, he also learned the importance of living a godly lifestyle. Shaun shares stories of his mother’s strong faith, the coaches that aided him in his game and his spiritual walk, and the experiences that challenged and changed him.

Choosing a college was done in a unique game of elimination. He’d throw their letters over his shoulder toward the wastebasket. If they hit the basket, they stayed there. If they landed on the floor, he picked them up and read them. But the final choice came down to having one of the Alabama football players invite him to church.

After college, God added several factors into his life that didn’t deal with just football and becoming an NFL player. Shaun started the Shaun Alexander Foundation (SAF), an organization that today empowers young men to be the role models for the next generation. He met his wife, Valerie, and they agreed not to kiss until they were married. After they were expecting their second child God showed them His perfect timing with something as seemingly simple as buying a house.

No one can argue that Shaun Alexander is a great football player. But in the telling of his story, Shaun shows us that although he's an NFL player, his life doesn’t revolve around career. He is a child of God first, a husband and father second, and the MVP for the Seattle Seahawks third.

His story if filled with instances he's chosen to follow God's prompting and the blessings he's recieved from doing so. If your young men are looking for a God-honoring role model in NFL football, Shaun's story is the place to start.


Paula: You've ghostwritten numerous books over the years. Is there a special reason you've chosen to use your gifts in this way?

Cecil: I can't say it was a conscious choice. An editor at Revell asked me to ghostwrite my first book in 1982. He liked my first effort and other projects came along. I didn't know if that was God's path for me, so I made a promise to God. I said I would never take the initiative to seek ghostwriting projects. I've kept that promise: All the project have all come to me.

Paula: Tell us a little about how ghostwriting works. What's your process? Who contacts who first?

Cecil: The contacts come from individuals (Shaun Alexander) or from a referral from someone else (Don Piper for whom I did 90 Minutes in Heaven). A few times it has come directly from the publisher (Franklin Graham's Rebel with a Cause and Gifted Hands).

Paula: What did you learn while writing "Touchdown Alexander?"

Cecil: I can't say that I learned specific lessons. I can say that in trying to capture Shaun on the page, it meant I had to go within myself. I had to open myself and try to hear his voice and grasp his values. I think of the process as one in which I try to understand the other but in the process I learn more about myself.

Paula: Your books primarily focus on three areas: Spiritual Growth, Christian Living, and Caregiving. Why these topics rather than others?

Cecil: Because I care about those areas. The caregiving books came about because my wife and I took care of an elderly relative for 6 1/2 years. It wasn't easy--and going into the situation we knew it wouldn't be. But we did it because it seemed the right thing to do.

I want to grow and I want to live in a way that honors God. Much of my own writing speaks of my own spiritual progress.

Paula: If you could have only written one book in your lifetime, which would it be? Why?

Cecil: I don't think that way. I can say that when I wrote Committed but Flawed, it was the most self-revealing thing I had ever written.

The book of which I am the most proud is Gifted Hands that I wrote for Dr. Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins Hospital. The book came out in 1990, has never been out of print, and Zondervan recently slapped new covers on it. I hear from people occasionally who say, "I read that book in school and now my children are reading it." That gives me a satisfied feeling of accomplishment.

Paula: You've also mentored several people who are now authors themselves. What motivated you to become a mentor?

Cecil: That's an easy question to answer: Because I couldn't find my own mentor. I knew several professional writers, but when I asked for help, they didn't respond. Very early in my career I made a double commitment to God: I would never stop learning to write better and I would do whatever I could to help other writers.

I suppose it's like not having a father figure, so I tried to become one to others.

Paula: I love finding out how people meet their spouses. How did you meet your wife, Shirley?

Cecil: I am an adult convert and Shirley is a cradle Christian. I started to attend her church and she noticed me but there were so many young, unattached females, I didn't notice her. A few weeks later I went to a series of meetings and the ONLY seat left when I got there was next to Shirley. We started to talk and...

Paula: What experiences while living in Kenya for six years have helped develop you into the writer you are?

Cecil: Kenya taught me more about myself, God, and life than any single experience. While there I wrote letters to supporters. (We were with a faith mission and had no denomination behind us.) I wanted my supporters to know I appeciated their help and I wrote a different letter to every person. Sometimes I used some of the same stories but I tried to tell them differently. I learned a great deal about writing from typing 30 or so personalized letters every month.

Paula: Tell us one thing about you that most people don't know.

Cecil: I'm an avid runner and have been running since about 1975. I try to run about 30 miles a week.

Paula: Do you have another project on the burner or can't you tell us about it yet?

Cecil: I always have projects going. I wrote my first cozy mystery because an editor challenged me to try one. Barbour brings it out in January (Everybody Loved Roger Harden). After they read the completed manuscript they asked me for a second. Based only on the title (Everybody Wanted Room 623), they send me a contract and I finished the book last week and it comes out in September 2007.

I have a three-book contract with Berkley (Penguin) for follow-up books with Don Piper. The first one, Daily Devotions Inspired by 90 Minutes in Heaven comes out in November with an initial print run of 110,000. We are now working on the next book with a tentative title of: When Life Isn't the Way It Used to Be.

Beyond that, I wait. My agent has four book projects for which we expect to get a thumbs up within the next month or so.

Thanks Cecil!