My column on Tony “T.C.” Stallings, minister, actor and former University of Louisville football player, barely scratched the surface in today’s paper. Tony is outspoken and eloquent in talking about his beliefs and experiences, and I thought a more complete transcript of his comments might be of interest to some people. Be advised, Tony is a minister. He talks with an unabashedly Christian perspective and viewpoint. I only mention that so that anyone who takes offense or would rather not be “preached to” can know that ahead of time. When faith is an integral part of a column subject’s make up — regardless of what that faith is — I have no problem with it showing through. And I think Tony’s telling of his own story is worth reading, long form.
EC: So talk to me about your life after football. I know it has been a long road to this place. TC: Oh my goodness, man, I’ve known football since I was 12. And it’s brought me so much joy. It’s all I’ve ever done. I’ve been in a season, on a team, ever since I was 12 years old. So when I turned 29, 30 and I started to get released by teams — and I was a guy who was always rewarded for my hard work and I always believed that playing hard and making plays should keep you on a team — after getting released by the Calgary Stampeders, on my anniversary, after a 132-yard performance on five carries, I did not understand life very much. It was the first time, what is it? And that’s when this word that I’ve grown to hate was introduced to me. Politics. You can get released for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with your talent. I didn’t really grasp that right away and didn’t want to accept it.
I kept fighting, and in my naive fight to stay in the league, I got evicted from a home because I was using money to fly to different places, fly to Buffalo to try out for that team or go to Cleveland and camp out in front of that place and say, ‘Look, I’m staying here until somebody watches my video or watches my highlights because if you see it you’ll understand I can make it.” My gas and lights get cut off and my family is sleeping in the attic of the home because it’s the warmest place. So finally I’m laying there one day and I’m like, what am I doing? You’ve got to wake up and realize that the world that you live in, politics do exist. Unfairness does exist and you’ve got to get a different game plan.
So I settled down and wanted to know what the Lord wanted me to do as opposed to just trying to chase my dreams. I just backed off a bit. That’s when I started teaching Sunday School at Southeast Christian Church and acting in the acting ministry, and uh, went on and decided to go on to Europe to play where they wanted me. Europe had wanted me all along, but I wanted the NFL. I wanted the CFL. And I ignored the Europe stuff. Finally took what the Lord had blessed me with, which was Europe, made good money over there and won a European Super Bowl and got the MVP. Came home and asked God what he wanted me to do on the home front. Teach at Southeast. Act at Southeast. Forget Hollywood. Forget all this other stuff. And I’m enjoying teaching every other Sunday and helping kids learn about the Lord. My Hollywood was Kidway, a simple teaching acting program that I helped do every month, and I just contented myself and grounded myself with where God had me. Once I did that, He could move me forward. But not until I yielded my heart. After that, I got the vision for Triumph Fitness, then came this chance for Sherwood.
EC: I know there’s no pay teaching Sunday School and acting at church, and you had to make ends meet. What kinds of things have you had to do besides those things? TC: When I first got back from the CFL that was a real hard thing for me. I never really worked a regular job. I’d always done odd jobs but never worked a regular job where it was going to have to pay the bills. I had a Sociology degree and thought I might want to work with children, but I didn’t want to be behind a desk. This is stuff I hadn’t given much thought to. I thought I would be playing football on a high level and make it to the NFL and all that. So I thought, what is something I would be good at right away, and sales popped into my head. Being a people person, I thought I could use my name to get people to talk to me and be truthful and up front.
So I joined Insight and wanted to get into sales. And mostly I joined Insight for the freedom it gives you. You set your own schedule and meet your quota selling cable. So I started doing that and thought it was going to be a piece of cake. And I thought I could work out when I wasn’t working and stay in shape and wait for that phone call from a team somewhere. So I hit those first doors, this is door to door, you’re wearing Insight stuff so most people open their doors to you. . . . I was doing just fine for that and you get paid pretty good to nail down just one contract, and you nail down two or three and you’re done for the day.
Well I walk up on this one porch and open the door and a little kid looks up to me and his face just glows and his eyes get big and his mouth is open and he shuts the door and runs away. And I put my foot in there and say no, and next thing I know his mom comes down and says, ‘My son says Tony Stallings is at the door. And I didn’t believe him and thought I’d come see for myself and it is you. How you doin?’
And I was extremely, in all honesty, I was embarrassed. Especially when he says, ‘Why you not playing football? Why you selling cable?” And I stuttered around and told them I couldn’t find opportunity to play and it’s time to work a job now. I didn’t know what to say. He brought me something I had signed for him, and then he brought me more stuff to sign. So I’m standing on this lady’s porch signing things, and then I can’t even remember if they bought cable from me. So when I walked away, as I’m walking, I don’t feel very good. Then it starts to rain, by the way. And one of the rules is that it doesn’t matter if it’s storming, I’ll work through it. So I started to get depressed doing this job. I was embarrassed and I shouldn’t have been. Working that job was an honorable thing. I went to church that weekend and the message was about humility, and I realized I had just been too caught up in my pride. I wasn’t too good to do this job. It was a good job. But I’m sure people have to understand that it’s hard to go from scoring touchdown and hearing the cheers to knocking on people’s doors, and having them tell you to get off their porch before they come after you, that type of stuff. It’s no knock on anyone who sells cable. I just had to mature in the area of knowing I needed to do what I needed to do. It was a lesson for me. But I didn’t think it was God’s will for me to be doing that.
EC: Now, one last thing. What about the name? Are you Tony? Are you T.C.? TC: It will be Tony, and then the quotations, T.C. Stallings. Like Don “D.C.” Curry. My middle name is Charles. There is even a backstory to my name. I hated my name, man. When my father left, well, my mother kicked him out, she wouldn’t let him see me when I was
born. And he said, first he threatened her life saying he was going to kill her, and then he threatened said, ‘I’m going to always be a part of that kid’s life.’ She didn’t know what he was talking about until she got the birth certificate. Both parents have to sign in Florida. He went down there and, out of spite, and my real name is Anthony, and I’ve seen it on my birth certificate, “Anthony C. C. C. Stallings.” And that stands for Anthony “Claude Charles Carter” Stallings. “Claude Charles Carter” is my father’s name, first, middle and last. And he stuck that in as my middle name. And when I found out how that got there, I hated it. And so I immediately looked for change. I was 16 years old when I found this stuff out. Tony was short for Anthony. I remember telling my high school coach that I wanted him to call me Tony because there were three other Anthonys on the team and I didn’t want my name getting mixed up with theirs when I started scoring all these touchdowns. So that’s where Tony Stallings came from. . . . When I had my son, his name is Antonio Ciril Stallings. He has my same initials, A.C.S., because I dropped all those C’s in mine and just kept Charles, which seemed to make the most sense. So, you know, I’m thinking, ‘My son is gonna be cold! He’s gonna be great in sports. He’s gonna play for Louisville, do this and that.’ And I thought A.C. Stallings sounded so cool. And then I got to thinking about it, and I thought, ‘He can’t have a cooler name than me. I’ve got to do something.’ So being as I’ve been going by Tony Charles Stallings on all my documents, I just became, “T.C.” when I was picking an acting name.