TURBEVILLE, S.C. -- NFL Hall of Fame coach and NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs told a group of 600 South Carolina inmates that they can find a second chance in religion.
Gibbs spoke Tuesday in the sweltering yard of the Turbeville Correctional Institution. He told inmates they should follow the rules of life laid out in the Bible, which he called the playbook and choose to play for God, who is the coach of the winning team.
"On the one side, I'm being told I'm an accident," Gibbs said. "And on the other side, I'm being told that it's a loving God who made me. That was an easy decision."
The inmates sat in squares painted across the yard of the medium-security prison. Gibbs' words boomed off the concrete prison dormitories, while guards dressed in all red stood on roofs, holding shotguns as they stood behind the razor wire.
Most of the prisoners applauded the former coach of the Washington Redskins, although a few booed when he mentioned beating the Dallas Cowboys.
Gibbs's NASCAR team has won three Sprint Cup titles and he has two drivers in this year's Chase for NASCAR's top title. But Gibbs mostly concentrated on his two stints with the Redskins, which led to three Super Bowl titles.
He compared being a Christian to playing a football game, encouraging the inmates to surround themselves with good "teammates" and making the most of the time they get to play.
Gibbs told the inmates as he neared bankruptcy because of bad real estate deals in the early 1980s, he prayed to God, who delivered people who helped him pay off his debts privately. Carrying his Bible in his right hand, Gibbs told the prisoners their problems could be helped too.
"God is bigger than all those messes," Gibbs said.
Gibbs' visit to the prison about 60 miles east of Columbia was part of a special program, which included a gospel choir singing several songs and a visit from state Corrections Director Jon Ozmint, who reminded the inmates of Gibbs' accomplishments and told them the former coach flew in on his private plane and could be anywhere else, but decided to speak to them.
"That's what these people are trying to get you to do -- to stop settling for second best and start reaching for excellence," Ozmint said.
Gibbs isn't the first Super Bowl coach to talk to South Carolina inmates. The same prison ministry group brought former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy to speak at a Columbia prison in March.
As he started to speak Tuesday, Gibbs studied the crowd of inmates carefully.
"I'm going to try to remember as many faces as I can," Gibbs said. "And I'll be praying for you."