Before today’s SEC Championship Game, the most coveted recruit in Robeson County football history will be introduced inside the Georgia Dome as an honorary SEC legend, a privilege Tim Worley would’ve likely not been here to see if not for an altercation with a police officer in 2008.
The former Parade All-American at Lumberton High was a dominant running back on the field, but struggled to keep his footing off, preferring life’s vices over athletics.
An unexpected traffic stop for drunk driving and subsequent effects from being Tased was his moment of revelation.
“When I die, I just want to be empty having given it my all,” said Worley in a recent interview with The Robesonian, reflecting back on who he is today versus his mental state after a three-week jail stint altered his outlook. “I have no regrets in my life and God has given me a gift to teach and exhort. I’m a new person, a new spirit.”
Worley’s addiction to drugs and alcohol derailed a promising NFL start that followed a stellar career at Georgia, highlighted by his 18-touchdown campaign in 1988.
Currently a motivational speaker and life skills consultant who operates Worley Global Enterprises with his wife, Dee, in Huntsville, Ala., Worley now uses football as a platform to educate youth on the terrors of immoral behavior along with the importance of spiritual healing.
He comes through Lumberton often to visit family and says the harsh realities in one of North Carolina’s most economically-challenged areas is similar to what he endured as a child.
It saddens him.
“It’s a struggle down there with some serious evil forces at work,” Worley said. “As soon as I hit the Robeson County line on a recent trip coming from South Carolina, it felt like there was a pressure over me, someone standing on my head.
“There’s spiritual bondage that needs to be broken. I’m not sure what it is.”
Worley attributes much of the problems involving local youth to the absence of fathers.
“I’m sure about 90 percent of the athletes down there don’t have a father in the house and that really damages a kid,” he said. “You can usually tell what road a kid is going to take by age 12 or 13. I see it a lot through our ministry.”
Your future is shaped, Worley says, through family and a spiritual foundation. Spreading testimony and how to overcome battles with addiction is part of his ultimate goal through Worley Global Enterprises.
“We want to implement programs that compliment the curriculum at Christian schools,” Worley said. “Our company’s biblical-based and that’s a no-go in public schools. God has put me here to make a difference and he’s given me a gift to teach.”
Though he proudly displays the oval “G” on his weekend apparel, Tim’s seen his share of houndstooth clothing the last several years thanks to his spouse, a former All-American gymnast at Alabama he first met in 1988 at a meet in Athens.
A house divided, the Worleys are SEC fans to the core with their eyes glued to Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson’s CBS afternoon broadcast every weekend.
“The NFL doesn’t do it for us like college football,” he said. “It’s just so exciting. From as soon as you get up until you go to bed, shows like College Gameday has really pumped it up.”
Worley often wonders how interesting a guest he could’ve been on ESPN’s popular morning show during his time at Georgia.
“I was the resident comedian when I played,” he said. “I kept my teammates and coaches at ease.”
As a heralded prospect before services like Rivals, Scout and 247Sports sensationalized prep recruiting, Worley witnessed college coaches lining the fence at practice and many perched on his Lumberton doorstep during the early 80s.
“I have lots of good memories at Lumberton High, ones I’ll forever cherish,” Worley said. “A month before signing day, Barry Switzer, Vince Dooley, Jim Donnan and Tyrone Willingham all came to my house. I rode the bus home after school and just wanted to keep riding I was so nervous.”
Worley says it was Donnan who ultimately convinced him that Georgia might be the best fit. He was leaning toward Clemson after a trip to Death Valley.
“When I was younger, like in the 10th grade, I was really influenced by ACC football,” he said. “UNC and Clemson had my eye. Clemson was my choice before I started paying attention to the SEC. Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson and the competition level was intriguing. I just saw Georgia as the perfect fit. I upset a lot of people going to Georgia, but don’t regret it a bit.”
His announcement as a prep senior was nothing like today’s media-friendly, live-stream events. There were no hats on a table with a room full of cameras.
“You look at all the media hype surrounding players these days and it’s a lot to live up to,” Worley said. “I went through some similar things, but nothing like now. Whether it’s college football or the pros, nothing’s a mystery any longer. Everyone has access to everything. It’s desensitized the game a bit.”
Three decades removed from signing his letter of intent with the Bulldogs, Worley will be one of 14 players honored in the 2013 SEC Legends Class this afternoon in Atlanta. On Friday night, the players kicked off the SEC’s ‘Weekend of Champions’ with a formal dinner at the Hyatt Regency.
Tim’s not into picking winners, but it’s obvious who the Worleys will be pulling for in a game with BCS Championship implications: Dee’s a Crimson Tide alum and Tim played in the East.
No love for Auburn.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.