By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on May 26, 2021
Roman Gabriel III practically grew up with a football in his hand. He was two years old when his father Roman, a North Carolina native and NC State graduate, embarked on his 17-year career as a star quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles, winning the NFL MVP Award in 1969.
Entering the family business, young Roman — who was born in Wilmington, NC — started in organized football at age 9 in the Pop Warner League. Like his father, he played quarterback in a career that took him to the University of New Mexico, briefly to the then-Oakland Raiders—who happened to have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback named Jim Plunkett on the roster — and ultimately to the Boston Breakers of the United States Football League (USFL), where he played for one year, in 1983, before a neck injury forced his retirement from football.
“I think you’re done,” Roman recalls the doctor declaring as he inspected the nerve damage. “I tried out for the LA Express [of the USFL] the next year, and I wasn’t the same guy.” The USFL itself was done after three seasons. Roman then spent a short time coaching football at Arizona Western College.
About a decade later, having moved back to North Carolina, Roman began a career in the sports broadcasting industry. I was “starting from scratch at a little radio station with my brother,” called “980 The Wave” in Wilmington, he recalls.
That little show grew into what has now become a quarter-century-long career as a sports broadcaster, television producer, and president of his own media network: RG3 Sports & Entertainment Network. In that capacity, he has covered 26 Super Bowls and has interviewed scores of high-profile sports celebrities — ranging from WNBA star and Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie to former NFLer and Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy.
Gabriel says his focus in those interviews is not simply X’s and O’s, but life lessons, the necessary ingredients for success. Telling the stories of how these high-impact sports and entertainment personalities use faith, family, and sports to impact others on and off the field.
Faith is integral to Gabriel’s story and career. He became a Christian at the age of 13 while on a youth retreat. As a student athlete, and college quarterback at the University of New Mexico, he was active in Athletes in Action the athletic arm of the Campus Crusade for Christ and the organization that supplies the chaplains for NCAA and professional sports teams.
In 2003, he, and his wife Marsha went to work for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Northwest Arkansas, he then became the FCA State Director in Kansas. He worked with middle- and high-school students along with college athletes and coaches.
Since 1997, Roman has devoted a great deal of time speaking to students about alcohol and drug abstinence. In 2006, he started his current passion — the Sold Out Youth Foundation.
“Sold Out is a unique public and private school program that asks students to make a three-step pledge commitment: to be drug and alcohol abstinence, to hold their friends accountable, and have a conversation with their parents about alcohol and drug abstinence.” Gabriel said. “We began to create powerful online curriculum, going into schools targeting sixth and ninth graders.”
Sold Out ‘s mission, Gabriel said, is to educate, encourage, and challenge students to live a life of alcohol and drug abstinence, while helping them develop the skills needed to reach their maximum potential. That program entails holding assemblies for sixth and ninth grade students where they are asked to publicly commit to an alcohol and drug abstinence pledge. Since 2012, Gabriel estimates the program has impacted more than 400,000 middle and high school students.
“At the same time, we’re challenging students to communicate with their parents,” he adds. “Unfortunately, a lot of parents are uneducated about this, a lot of parents are hesitant to talk about alcohol and drugs, and many parents, are frankly, the problem. I applaud all the great parents out there that take this seriously, and are engaged. This is a serious problem in our country, that is killing our youth, and destroying families.”
Asked about the staying power of the abstinence pledge, Gabriel responds: “When we talk to students, we talk to them about really just following the law and remaining drug and alcohol abstinent until they’re twenty-one years old. When they’re twenty-one, they can make a decision. But we also realize that…when students carry abstinence through junior high and high school, they’re likely to carry it through college…The crux of our program is attacking the peer pressure positively.”
“We know when you tell kids not to do something and you have nothing to replace it with, it doesn’t work,” he added.
Since 2012, Gabriel said, Sold Out has served 25 school districts in four states. In response to the Covid pandemic, Sold Out morphed its program into a 100% online assembly and online curriculum for PE health classes, counselors, and athletic programs.
The Sold Out program has been operating in the Dare County Public School for three years, and was picked up by the Hyde, Pasquotank and Currituck County schools two years ago. That effort in the schools is being supported by local ABC Liquor Boards, which earmark a portion of their proceeds to legitimate alcohol education programs.
A frequent visitor to the Outer Banks, Gabriel, and his wife Marsha moved permanently to Southern Shores over a year ago to be closer to their children and two grandchildren. His stepdaughter, Whitney, is married to OBX surfing icon Jesse Hines and they own the Surfin’ Spoon frozen yogurt shop, which just opened its new Nags Head location.
For more of his work, visit the Voice’s Roman Gabriel Sports Page.)
The Roman Gabriel Show Radio Program can be heard every Saturday and Sunday at 10:00 am on the Score 98.1 FM, and the Roman Gabriel Show Minute can be heard morning and afternoon drive on the East Carolina Radio Network in Dare County NC.
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