Gillespie builds muscle, character

He holds 44 world records and over 20 world champion titles. He is a former member of the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff, and now he serves as the strength and conditioning coach at Liberty University. He is Bill Gillespie.

Committed — Prior to joining Flames, Gillespie trained the Seattle Seahawks. Photo Credit: Ruth Bibby

At 35-years-old, what he said should be past his prime, Gillespie was bench-pressing 450 pounds. Now, at the age of almost 53, he is still setting world records.

“I am currently the strongest man of all time over the age of 50, with a bench press of 766 pounds,” Gillespie said. “I am also the oldest man to have ever benched over 800 pounds at 49.5 years old at 804-pounds at a open-age competition, and my son and I are the strongest father son duo.”

Just a month ago, Gillespie’s 804-pound record was beat by one pound. Gillespie is proud to admit that he is a lifetime drug-free athlete. He volunteers to get drug tested every time he sets a new world record.

“I’m still hoping and dreaming about coming back and breaking another world record,” Gillespie said. “If I could bench 800 pounds one more time, that would be phenomenal, but I haven’t decided.”

A 1983 graduate of Liberty, Gillespie said that he loves it here. He loved it when he went to school at Liberty and never complained about the dress code, which included wearing ties for men, or the food from the cafeteria. Even after Gillespie graduated and moved on to a successful career, he was always cheering for Liberty and hoping they would have a great football team.

Gillespie said that he trains insanely hard, about three to five times more a week than most of his competitors, and tries to instill a great work ethic in his players.

According to Gillespie, he wants the football team to learn that being a man means that you have to work. He said that the most frustrating thing is trying to make athletes see what they are capable of.

“I feel fulfilled when I am able to help other people. I want to build them bigger, faster and stronger,” Gillespie said. “You owe it to God to give it all you have, and if you’re going to call yourself a man, then you better know how to work. And if you don’t work, then don’t call yourself a man, and that’s what I try to teach these guys.”

“You have a responsibility to your teammates, parents and to your coaches,” Gillespie said. “You made a commitment to come here, and you’re going to work. When you work hard and work smart, then things happen.”

Competition between Gillespie and the athletes is never an issue.

“I’ve never lifted in front of the athletes because I don’t want them thinking I’m competing with them or I don’t want them thinking that what I do is more important than they are,” Gillespie said. “I’m always focused on wanting to help them become as good as they can become.”

Alumnus — Gillespie graduated from Liberty in 1983, returned in 2005. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

From a player’s standpoint, Gillespie is a terrific model to emulate.

“He’s been a role model for me because when I came to Liberty I wasn’t a man — everything he’s taught us, the hard work he’s put into us and how he talks about God and putting Him in your life,” offensive lineman Stan Herring said.

“Coach Gillespie is…the description of what a godly man should look like,” tight end Brandon Apon said. “He is excellent at his profession and takes pride in what he does, but at the same time, he’s not afraid to be transparent about his faith in his work. He has been a good example of someone who doesn’t sell out and someone who can unite the two. He’s passionate and so hard-working, and that sets him apart from other men.”

Gillespie said that God has blessed football at Liberty as it makes incredible progress, striving every year to reach Dr. Jerry Falwell’s dream.

“I knew I could be committing coaching suicide to walk away from the NFL,” Gillespie said. “But I walked away from it and came to Liberty. Every time I come here, it has had to be a sacrifice. The first time I came here for school, I had to ride a bus for 84 hours from Tacoma, Wash. with no money, and this time I had to walk away from the NFL.”

The football season has begun, and the test of hard work will quickly be shown, Gillespie said.

“I know that this is the most powerful football team we’ve ever had, but we also have the toughest schedule we’ve ever had here at Liberty,” Gillespie said. “We could end up with a win-loss that doesn’t really represent how good this football team is because our guys have worked hard, and they’re excited and believe in coach Gill and where he can lead us.”

Considering that his children have been able to experience Liberty, Gillespie says that the move from Seattle to Lynchburg has been well worth it. Furthermore, having total freedom to share the word of God has provided Gillespie an opportunity to develop an incredible ministry with his players.

“Coach Bill has been a father figure for me from a distance,” Apon said. “We haven’t gone fishing together or gone out to eat, but just to come in here everyday, he’s always intentional about what he says and does. He’s taught me that real men work and real men love Jesus, and it isn’t a girly thing at all, but a very manly thing.”

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