MABANK, Texas — Between 1971 and 1982, Isiah Robertson was a terror to NFL offenses, especially to quarterbacks as he recorded 25 interceptions. He made voted first team All-Pro four times and played in six Pro Bowls.
However, his legacy will forever be defined for what he did off the field.
Once Robertson left the NFL, he descended into drug addiction. His addiction to crack cocaine began to destroy his life.
“The pastor there was making him sweep the floor, and he threw the broom down. And he walked out," Robertson's former wife Peggy said. "And the guy yelled after him: 'Well, if you’re too good for God to use you, then bye!'"
That blunt statement convinced Robertson he needed to change his life.
"And he thought about it, turned around and went back," Peggy remembered. "And he realized that what he couldn’t do for himself, he had to trust God to do for him.”
Isiah began his walk towards sobriety. At first, no rehab could help him. Finally, he made it to a rehab in California, where he achieved the bulk of his success off the gridiron.
Through the struggles, he continued to trust in his faith to make himself better.
Isiah would overcome his addiction and spend the rest of his life helping others overcome theirs.
“He often would say, I want this more for you than you want it for yourself," Peggy said. “He had a heart of gold for both drug addicts and their parents.”
Robertson would open House of Isaiah, a drug rehabilitation center in Mabank. He devoted every hour to helping others survive drug addiction.
"One of the guys that got mad and he left the program, cut every tire on every vehicle, busted vans, everything. [He] knifed every tire," close friend Pastor Barry Boatright said. "Two weeks later, the guy called Isiah back he was in a crackhouse dying. And Isiah went with a couple of guys and myself, and we went and got this guy and brought him back."
"He often would say, I want this more for you than you want it for yourself," Peggy remembered. "It was to set the captives free and to teach them 'Keep your eyes on God.'"
When Jeff Reynolds met Robertson, he himself was struggling with addiction.
"I was a drug addict and an alcoholic," Reynolds recalled. "I had lost just about everything in my life."
Reynolds remembers it was Robertson who first turned his life around, like Reynolds had years before.
"On January the 25th, I met him, and he spoke life into me on that day. He loved me when I didn't like myself. He loved me when I couldn't believe in myself," Reynolds said. "I sit here today a pastor of a church, a father."
His service was not limited to drug addicts alone.
When Kimberly Archie's son died, she turned to Robertson for guidance on how to dedicate her life without her son.
"Isiah called me a couple months after he died and told me, 'I'm gonna tell you something that's gonna make you mad, but I'm gonna tell you anyway,'" Archie said. "He told me I needed to stay focused on what God had called me to do, which was to help athletes, and not just my son, who had played football and was found to have C-T-E."
As an attorney, Archie helped file a lawsuit against the NFL over concussions. It was one of the first successful lawsuits concerning CTE.
Isiah spent time working to raise awareness about CTE to improve player safety while continuing his life's mission to help save the lives and families of addicts.
On December 6, 2018, Robertson was killed in a crash in Mabank. He was 69-years-old.
"It hurt very bad. I'm still struggling with it, but one of the things he taught me was talk to other people about it," friend and House of Isaiah graduated Scott Souder said.
"I remember that I was leaving his viewing in Mabank about a month ago and as I was driving home. There was a fork in the road. One way goes to Dallas and one way goes to Ft. Worth. And I had some fleeting thoughts of old behavior, but instead of turning toward Dallas, I called my sponsor. I called my mentor. I reached out to my support group, and I went home. And he taught me how to do that."
"He would want to say this: If you have a set back, don't take a step back because God has your comeback," Reynolds said. "And if you do want something you've never had, you've gotta be willing to do something you've never done."