There are often misconceptions that success is something that you can trip and fall into. That if you are in the right place at the right time, or if you know the right people, it’s the only way that you can get a break in life. While those things definitely help, there is also the good old-fashioned idea of work and faith that still get the job done.
Vernon Fox III is someone who has in many ways lived a life that some only dream of. From playing Division-1 college football, to playing in the NFL, winning a state championship as a head high school football coach, speaking internationally, and even most recently authoring a book, you would think he was all done seeking any greater achievements, but if you ask him, he will say he is just getting started.
Vernon grew up in Las Vegas and attended Cimarron-Memorial High School, where his jersey hangs retired on the wall of the gymnasium. After graduating with Honors and going on to Fresno State University on a full-ride athletic scholarship to play football, he achieved his goal of graduating in four years and graduated cum laude, being recognized as an academic All-American. As he was racking up the hardware on the field, being recognized as a 2-time 1st Team All Western Athletic Conference defensive back (a drastic shift from his high school days as a star running back), he also collected recognition for his work in the classroom. In 2001, Vernon was recognized as a finalist for the distinguished Vincent dePaul Draddy Trophy, now known as the William V. Campbell Trophy. This award is known as the “Academic Heisman” and given to 1 out of 16 finalists annually that exemplify excellence in the areas of on-field performance, community service, and academics. All of these things would be the lead-in to an amazing college experience that ended in an opportunity to achieve a childhood dream of playing in the NFL.
Despite being projected to be selected as high as a 4th round draft pick in the 2002 NFL draft, to his disappointment, Vernon went on to go to the then San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent. It is what he has referred to as his “handshake and opportunity.” While he was a far-shot from making the final 53-man roster and came in as a 6th string strong safety, that previously mentioned hard work and faith landed him a spot on the final roster and he found himself in an unexpected starting role by his second official NFL game. This game would end with him snagging an interception from his former college teammate David Carr (the big brother of Raider QB Derek Carr), who ended up being the 1st overall draft pick that year to the Houston Texans, in their inaugural season. Talk about irony! The first pick competing against the overlooked and rejected 6th stringer standing on the same stage with the same amazing opportunity to live out a dream.
Success was never easy for Vernon. That’s why it has always been intentional. He has always believed that you must take intentional steps towards the goals that you have set for yourself. That you can’t expect success to just happen. Four teams later, with stops in Detroit, Washington, & Denver, Vernon ended his 8-year NFL career and waddled in the often encountered “where do I go from here?” thoughts that pro athletes often arrive at. The easiest thing to do was to parlay the simple gifts and talents that he already possessed into his next venture. Well, it wasn’t that easy. He had to endure the grieving of being separated from 18 years of doing the same thing and living a dream. A new dream had to be established.
Vernon often served as a motivational speaker and that seemed like the most suitable choice of a career path versus jumping back into the game of football, since there was still the bitter sting of a premature abrupt ending to his playing career. As a man of faith and one whose life was built and led on Christian principles, Vernon leaned on the self-appointed mission statement to “give back a portion of that which was first given to him” and went on a mission to serve and pour himself out for the betterment of others. Whether that was in youth camps, speeches at schools, sermons in churches, or motivational spills to those looking to advance their lives and live out their potential, you could find him emptying himself out regularly. That all came to an abrupt pause when an unexpected phone call led to his next mission, which would be to impact the lives of a group of young men at a local Christian high school.
Without pursuing, Vernon was offered the role of head high school football coach at Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School, the largest Lutheran school in the US. After much prayer, Vernon accepted this role and his life’s mission continued, only this time he would be combining two of the most integral aspects of his life. Vernon would be connecting both football and his faith in a new uninhibited role. By then he was a proud husband and father and that was as big of an accomplishment as anything he had experienced. Family has always been the most important thing to Vernon. Growing up in a stable home with the love of two amazing parents, he and his sister learned the value of family. Those values are what has pushed him to be the best husband and father that he can be for the last 16 years.
Even though he had no experience as a coach, he believed that if he took the same intentional approach that landed achievements like being named a team MVP on every level of competitive football, including the NFL, as a special teams MVP of the 2005 Detroit Lions, he could experience success as a coach. The only difference was that his plan was not to earn accolades or championships to determine success. His approach to winning would be built on surrounding himself with great men that could help perpetuate a vision of developing men of character, integrity, accountability, and excellence. Not only was he able to be a part of that, but the by-product was that the other accolades came as well. In his first season at Faith Lutheran, he was blessed to be a part of leading the team to its first state championship in the school’s then 34-year history. He would receive the first of his two coach of the year honors and be a part of a climb that would take the program from a 3A to a 5A classification in 7 seasons. He maintained his dual focus of athletic achievement and classroom achievement and his team was also able to earn the first of two academic state championships in that first season. This opened doors for Vernon to continue speaking all over the country, sharing his lessons of faith, success, and leadership, and eventually led to his first international speaking engagement in 2019.
1 state championship, 2 academic state championships, 3 conference championships, and 1 region championship later, Vernon stepped away from coaching in 2020 to answer the call to expand his service in full-time ministry and as a speaker, coach, and consultant. He was ordained as a minister in 2014 and certified as a life coach in 2019. He developed frameworks to holistically meet the needs of individuals in faith, life, leadership, character, and success coaching. He launched this transition with the lifelong accomplishment of completing his first book and becoming a published author. His arm of influence extends as he currently continues in a life of service to the personal, ministerial, corporate, and community needs of those that he reaches. None of it has ever been on accident. The intentionality continues. A life of service. A life of help. A life of real success.