Sam Bracken and Bill Curry reunited Tuesday, Oct.8 to discuss the challenges Bracken faced as child growing up in Las Vegas where he was put through constant hardships.
Looking back at his own childhood, Bracken said, “I would tell myself to not be so uptight, everything will work out eventually. Just take a chill pill.”
Bracken was on drugs and addicted to alcohol until he was 13. He spent his high school years without a home, crashing on friends’ couches after his mother abandoned him at age 15.
Bracken stayed with several friends throughout high school where he was exposed to a stable household.
“At the age of 18, I was baptized after being around wwa family of devout Christians and seeing the difference,” Bracken said. Bracken fell in love with football after he turned his life around and sent a college application to BYU.
“I originally wanted to go to BYU, but Georgia Tech quickly became my first choice and my only choice,” he said.
BYU gave Bracken’s scholarship to another student and shortly afterward, he was injured at an all-star game.
He said he had to reevaluate what he was going to do and was encouraged to begin writing to schools.
Several schools responded to Bracken, but only Georgia Tech offered him a scholarship. “It was like an answer to my prayers,” Bracken said. “At that point in my life, I had never had a big break-that was my biggest break.”
Bracken played as a starting outside linebacker his freshman year at Georgia Tech under head coach Bill Curry.
During a game, Bracken sustained significant injuries to both shoulders.
“They were very serious and it began to look like he might not ever play again,” said former coach Bill Curry.
“It never crossed my mind that I might not play football again,” Bracken said. “I could not let my mind entertain that thought.”
Bracken began working with his roommate who was known as the strongest man in the world at the time.
“He really was the biggest inspiration in gaining my flexibility and strength back,” he said.
When Bracken returned his junior year he started as an offensive lineman.
Curry, who helped Bracken receive medical attention, also became a great source of encouragement. Curry had formal meetings with all the players once a year, but whenever Bracken needed him, he was there.
“Most people are not cut out for football, but Sam was,” said Curry, who commended his competiveness and ability to handle collisions.
Bracken played the rest of his college career and was voted on the ACC Newcomer’s Team and graduated with honors.
“I had to play in such pain and football stopped being enjoyable, Bracken said. “I had developed spiritually, mentally and emotionally over the last few years so I considered other things.”
Bracken then went on a mission to Toronto, Canada where he met his wife and later started a family.
“I have three jobs with my kids,” he said, “to preside, provide and protect.”
In addition to raising his own children, he has worked in juvenile detention facilities as a motivational speaker to help other children.
“That is the most magnificent thing I have ever seen, is a young man or young woman dig deep inside their souls and go after their hopes and dreams,” he said.
Bracken and close friend Echo Garrett began The Orange Duffel Bag Foundation to help underprivleged kids in similar situations that Bracken was once in.
Bracken said they wanted to do more than just write a book.
He describes his life now as being very blessed, but admits that he has had to overcome several challenges.
“It’s amazing that I get to come speak to students at KSU,” Bracken said. “I loved coming to talk. It was a wonderful experience.”
“Looking at him now, I just glow at what he’s managed to do for his family and for his children by loving his life the way he has and making sure to not replicate the horror he endured growing up,” Curry said about Bracken’s life.
The main advice Bracken gives to others: “Unlock your own passion to change, be the one who helps someone change and do that through love and acceptance. Love is a verb.”