College Football Hall of Famer, fighter pilot, and 3x Super Bowl Champion Chad Hennings’ new book, Forces of Character: Conversations About Building a Life of Impact, hits stores this week. In this exclusive feature, the former Air Force Academy standout spoke to Football Matters about the book, why he wrote it, and why the topic of character is so important to him.
“Having character is a choice and I’ve met some phenomenal people in my life,” Hennings said. “When I decided to write this book about character and the people I wanted to feature, I thought that these people are forces of character. I define that as somebody who lives to be their best self every day.”
In the book, Hennings talks with 10 people who he describes as people of great character: from fellow College Football Hall-of-Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, to San Antonio Spurs coach and Air Force Veteran Gregg Popovich, to a Space Shuttle Commander, a Holocaust Survivor, a White House Honoree, and even a Supreme Court Justice.
Hennings had the idea for the book when he says he looked around at our current culture and realized how often character is discussed. He believes that by having the luminaries in his book share their personal stories about character building, he can start a national conversation on the subject.
“Our culture is always about the ‘me’,“ says Hennings. “I wanted to pick people from different walks of life to highlight the idea that character is universal. It’s a choice. Doing what’s right every day is a conscious decision. I was amazed at the stories these individuals had about how character has impacted their life. From Super Bowl champions to survivors of Auschwitz to Space Shuttle Commanders, there is a common through-line of how the decision to act with character molds each of us.”
At the start of the book, Hennings discusses different moments in his own life in which character came into play, some with positive consequences and some with negative consequences. He shares that the first time he really learned about right from wrong was when, as a little kid, he stole a football card from a young girl.
“The girl was my friend’s little sister,” Hennings explains. “When she found out I stole the card, a Fran Tarkenton card, by the way, she started crying, and I remember the feeling I had that I was responsible for her tears. It was awful. I was punished accordingly and it put me on the path to understanding what having character meant.”
On the flip side, Hennings discusses the choice he had to make after graduating from the Air Force Academy, when he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys but had a five-year commitment to the military to fulfill. Rather than try to get out of his service, he upped his commitment to eight years to fly jets and serve his country.
After flying over forty combat missions in the first Gulf War and serving with distinction, Hennings was released from his commitment after four years. He then proceeded to play with the Dallas Cowboys for nine seasons, winning three Super Bowls in the process.
Forces of Character is very much a culmination of the choices Hennings has made in his life, including the decision to surround himself with other individuals of high character, including those featured in this book. Coaches, young football players and anyone looking to learn about harnessing the true power of character would do well to read this important work.
For more information, visit: forcesofcharacter.com
The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBook and most other online retailers.