Hale County coach helps students understand God’s pursuit, purposes

By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist

Growing up Royce Brehm was a little guy with a whole lot of fight.

“I didn’t hit the 100-pound mark until I was a freshman in high school,” he said.

That year he was suspended from school for 31 days — all but two for fighting. 

He’d started punching as a defense mechanism way before that. His dad, a Vietnam vet, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with a drinking problem. 

And Brehm was doing what he thought he needed to do to survive.

“I was the little guy on the block, the smallest guy on every team I ever played on,” he said. “So I felt like I had to establish myself.”

In high school the family went to a local church but Brehm didn’t grab hold of what it offered. He took all that fight and poured it into football and even though he was small he became good at it. 

“Football became my god — it was what I woke up for, what I lived for,” Brehm said.

He became good enough to get looks from some small universities but along the way he discovered the NCAA rules had changed — he would graduate high school but he was a couple of credits short of college football eligibility.

“I sank into a deep depression,” Brehm said. “I started blaming the God my mom always told me about.”

He ended up at Troy University as a walk-on but got a terrible shoulder injury. It was ultimately a career ender — and an addiction starter.

“I dropped out of [college] and my plan was to join the Air Force,” Brehm said. “I’d always been fascinated with weather and they had a good path to meteorology.”

Plans unraveled

But he failed the physical test.

That was breaking point number two — but God didn’t have his attention yet, he said.

“My dependency on alcohol turned into a dependency on oxycodone which I’d started taking because of my shoulder,” Brehm said. His girlfriend got pregnant and the two had a son — and started a “godless marriage.”

“We never talked,” Brehm said, and one day it all unraveled — and she left and took their son with her.

“I was at the same point where I was when I lost football,” he said. “My son was the most important thing in my life and now he wasn’t going to be around every day.”

Brehm’s dive went deeper. His dependence on drugs grew worse and he got into the underground fighting scene, hurting people and getting paid for it, he said.

And then something happened, something that changed everything — his dad died.

“My dad spent the last year he was alive clean and sober, serving God and working at the nursing home,” Brehm said. 

Then one day in 2006 he was found in bed unresponsive. He died four days later in the hospital. 

During those four days, as Brehm sat in the hospital by his dad’s side, people from the church came and prayed over him — for healing, for miracles.

“Nothing happened and I struggled with that,” Brehm said. “I blamed God. More things were being removed from my life.”

Three weeks later, as Brehm prepared to walk his sister down the aisle in his dad’s place, he felt he couldn’t take anymore. 

“I was highly intoxicated because I knew it was going to be a rough walk,” he said.

He did his best to make her laugh and together they walked down the aisle to the place where they would light a candle in honor of their dad.

“In that moment everything changed,” Brehm said. “I was sober when I reached the candle. While we were lighting that candle the intoxication was gone and I surrendered to Christ. I went from internal pain and misery to complete comfort.”

In the years that followed Brehm’s walk with Christ deepened, his struggle with drugs ended and his fight was channeled into helping students recognize God’s pursuit of them — even, or especially, when He takes things away.

Opportunities opened up for him to assist with football coaching at Hale County High School so Brehm packed up and moved to Moundville. In 2011, Moundville Baptist Church called him as minister to students.

Brehm “has a unique story of how God has transformed his life and is using him,” said Jason Duckett, pastor of Moundville Baptist Church. “God has powerfully used his life to impact the lives of many young people in this community.”

‘Unique story’

Now a teacher and coach Brehm has written his story in a book called “Hindsight Joy: A Story of Removal and Redemption.”

“I had no joy for that first 29 years of my life,” he said. “But now as I look back, everything taken from me I count as joy because had He not removed it I wouldn’t have found Him. And as hard as it was to lose my dad, if I hadn’t gone through that I’m not sure I would’ve survived — things were that bad then.”

Brehm tells his youth group that every person’s story — whether dramatic or not — is a powerful testimony of what God has done.

“To me as a former drug addict, to hear the story of someone who has been faithful to Christ from a young age — that’s powerful stuff,” he said. “Whatever our story is it’s not ours to keep — it’s ours to share for His glory. It’s an opportunity to get in front of people and give them a little hope.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week’s TAB News podcast focuses on addiction recovery and features an interview with Jason Rice and Roger Boaz, co-hosts of Soberholic Podcast. Listen to the podcast at tabonline.org/podcasts or anywhere you get your podcasts.