Art Briles never planned on two books about his life being released within a year’s time. In fact, at the start, Briles said he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to write one.
But that’s the way it turned out.
A new autobiography about Baylor’s head football coach will hit the shelves July 15, entitled “Beating Goliath: My Story of Football and Faith.” This book follows last year’s “Looking Up: My Journey From Tragedy to Triumph,” which was written by Nick Eatman, a columnist for DallasCowboys.com, and was released last September.
“It’s a little strange, the closeness of the releases of the books,” Briles admitted. “It wasn’t planned that way, it’s just kind of the way it transpired.”
Briles said that the seeds for “Beating Goliath” were actually planted back in 2011, during the 10-3 season that resulted in Robert Griffin III’s Heisman Trophy run and the team’s trip to the Alamo Bowl. Don Yaeger, a former associate editor at Sports Illustrated, and the publishers at St. Martin’s Press worked with the coach on getting the framework started. But Briles worried that the timing wasn’t right, and the project stalled.
In the meantime, Eatman, a family friend, approached Briles about a book idea of his own, and the “Looking Up” project took shape. Then after Baylor’s 2013 Big 12 championship season, Yaeger and Briles reunited to collaborate on “Beating Goliath.”
“It was kind of an intimate story with Nick, and it really came about fast,” Briles said. “It was more of a regional book, whereas this one may be more national.”
“Beating Goliath” is written in the first person by Briles, with coauthorship from Yaeger. That’s a deviation from the first book, in which the coach would tape record thoughts and send them to Eatman to write.
“Honestly, I’m a little anxious to see this one, because it’s more or less in my own words,” Briles said. “My two main objectives were to not offend anyone, and to make it as humble as possible.”
The newest book covers some of the same ground as the other, including some stories from Briles’ days growing up in Rule, to his years as a high school football coach.
But there are new revelations as well. Briles relates how Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw mentioned that he’d received death threats when he chose not to hire Mike Singletary as Baylor’s head coach in November 2007, ultimately choosing Briles.
The coach also writes openly about Josh Gordon, the former Baylor receiver who was dismissed from the school in July 2011 after testing positive for marijuana following an earlier drug-related offense. Gordon turned in a monster 2013 season with the Cleveland Browns, catching 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games, but on May 9 the NFL suspended him for the entire 2014 season after a second failed drug test since reaching the pros.
Asked why he hasn’t distanced himself from Gordon, Briles said, “Why would we? When we recruit these kids, we take them in, and they’re part of our family. We certainly hope they turn out to be good human beings, but just like you’re not going to turn your own kid away because of a mistake or if they skipped a meal, we’re going to stick with them through thick and thin.”
“Beating Goliath” again provided Briles a forum to reflect on the loss of his parents Dennis and Wanda and his beloved aunt Tottie. The three died in a car accident on Oct. 16, 1976, while driving to Dallas to watch Art play for the Houston Cougars against SMU.
Briles was struck hard by tragedy again last fall when his brother Eddie died after a fall in his home. Art chronicles some of his thoughts about Eddie in “Beating Goliath” as well, but stopped short of calling it a cathartic experience.
“I don’t think you ever fully heal, I think there are just varying degrees of suffering,” Briles said. “Some lesser, some deeper. I’m sure it has certainly made a difference to talk about it some. The thing with Eddie is more recent, and it’s gotten to the point where I’m an orphan now. That’s not fully true, but that’s not far off. That’s been extremely tough. It’s so strange, so recent and so unexpected, that it still doesn’t seem real.”
Briles donated his profits from the sale of the last book to the American Red Cross, and said “we still don’t know what we’ll do with these (royalties from “Beating Goliath”), if there are any.”
He just hopes that readers will enjoy a bit of an insider’s view behind the Baylor coaching curtain.
“What I do when I read a book is try to place myself into those situations and see how the outcome might be,” he said. “That’s what is interesting to me, and that’s what I hope happens with this book. Because it’s never exactly how it seems from the outside, it’s always a little different view from the inside.”