Retired NFL player J.D. Hill speaks to inmates at CSP-Solano.

Retired NFL player J.D. Hill speaks to inmates at CSP-Solano.

Story and photos by
Lt. Marlaina Dernoncourt, AA/Public Information Officer
California State Prison, Solano

Bill Glass Ministries recently held a “Day of Champions” event at California State Prison, Solano, drawing athletes, entertainers and musicians.

One of those athletes was retired NFL wide receiver J.D. Hill. He played for the Buffalo Bills (1971-75) and the Detroit Lions (1976-77), but on a recent Saturday, he found himself instead delivering a message of redemption to inmates at CSP-Solano.

The prison ministry, now known as Champions for Life, seeks to turn around the lives of inmates, putting them on a path to a brighter future.

Since 1972, Bill Glass and his crew of volunteers have been visiting prisons across the U.S. to promote a message of hope.

Through the event, the ministry volunteers showcase their talents to help establish their credibility with the inmates, which “goes along with their portrayal of the gospel message,” the organization’s website states.

A juggler on a tall unicycle performs for the inmates on a recent Saturday.

A juggler on a tall unicycle performs for the inmates on a recent Saturday.

Toward the end of the presentation, “volunteers move in … and engage inmates in a dialogue about the gospel. Teammates use (the ministry’s) ‘What do you think?’ tract to discuss how the gospel impacts the believer’s life.”

Attendance to the event is not mandatory.

The Champions for Life event was held Oct. 25. Most of the events are held during a single Saturday and provide the backbone of the more than 60 events scheduled each year for the ministry.

Glass is no stranger to a challenge. The former NFL defensive player competed for 11 seasons, retiring in 1969, the same year he founded his ministry.

Glass said a board member for his organization kept badgering him to take his message into prisons.

“I kept resisting. I was frightened that I wouldn’t fit in with street kids and gangsters in prison,” Glass posted on his website.

After overcoming his fears, he saw dramatic results. “I was thrown into it kicking and screaming, but the response from the inmates was just unbelievable,” Glass wrote.

He has spent much of the last 40 years taking his message ‘behind the walls.’ He has taken along other pro athletes, champion weight lifters, magicians, tight-rope walkers – as well as race cars, stunt planes, motorcycles, and just about anything or anyone else – to draw prisoners out for a message of hope and deliverance.

He said he discovered prison inmates are just like everyone else: They will listen to what an athlete has to say.

Editor’s note: Some websites may not open from a CDCR computer.

Learn more about Bill Glass Champions for Life at https://www.billglass.org/

Who is Bill Glass?

  • He was a member of the 1964 Cleveland Browns team who beat the Baltimore Colts to win the NFL World Championship two years prior to the first Super Bowl.
  • Four-time All Pro and College and Texas Sports Hall of Fame are some of his athletic credentials.
  • He played for the Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1961 and finished his career with the Cleveland Browns, retiring in 1969.
A musician performs for a Bill Glass Champions for Life event at CSP-Solano.

A musician performs for a Bill Glass Champions for Life event at CSP-Solano.

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