“You work until you get the wow,” Hank Erwin, Troy alumnus, former state senator and chaplain of Woodlawn High School in the early 1970s, said to his sons, the Erwin brothers, who most recently produced the movie “Woodlawn.”
On Monday, Aug. 22, Erwin shared with students details from his life and past experiences leading up to the release of the movie.
“Whatever God is calling you to in life, if you adopt the wow factor, God will take you on the wildest journey you can imagine,” Erwin said. “This is so exciting to see a story that happened 40 years ago going on with new legs, new life and affecting people all over the country like never before.”
Throughout his college career at Troy, Erwin, along with several others, started College Life, a student-led Bible study that met every Sunday night.
“Me and my friend went door to door in our dorm talking about Jesus,” Erwin said. “It began in Alumni Hall, and soon they packed out Sartain Hall for a rally with over 600 students around campus.”
Erwin graduated in 1972 and married his wife, Shelia. The two moved to Birmingham, where Erwin and his wife had two sons, Andrew and Jon.
These two sons are most popularly known as the Erwin Brothers, and have produced the films “October Baby,” “Mom’s Night Out,” “Legacy Behind the Logo” and “Woodlawn.”
Simonandschuster.com describes “Woodlawn” as being a “riveting true story of courage, strength, and football at the height of racial tension in Birmingham, Alabama, and tells the story of Coach Tandy Gerelds, his running back Tony Nathan, and a high school football game that healed a city.”
Lonnie Crawford, a sophomore American sign language major from Union Springs, said that he became interested in hearing Erwin speak after watching the movie.
“I saw the movie and I was really intrigued by it, so of course I was wanting to see who the speaker was and what he had to offer, and I was not disappointed,” Crawford said.
The Baptist Campus Ministries worship band led those in attendance in song before Erwin spoke.
“It was really nice to see that our band was branching out on campus, other places besides the BCM,” Crawford said.
Following the band, Erwin took the stage to share his life story, including the years leading up to and after the release of Woodlawn on Oct. 16, 2015.
Erwin said he was called to Woodlawn High School because racial tensions put the school in turmoil.
“Whether there is a camera right here in front of me, or I’m sitting in front of a desk being an anchor, it’s all God’s plan for my life, and that makes this job right here really special.”
In an interview with the Tropolitan, Erwin gave his thoughts on seeing “Woodlawn” for the first time.
“He was the first great African-American superstar in Alabama, and I was so pleased that he was honored and shown in a movie that really brought out his sports hero and all that he had to endure to open the doors for everybody else,” Erwin said. “We wept as we saw them honored as they should have been honored, and given the type of applause they deserved.”
Erwin discussed the impact of Woodlawn and its inspiration to others worldwide.
“This also makes me cry and thank the Lord for being able to live for a special moment in history where we saw a story like this happen, and not just die out and fade away,” Erwin said. “Sony (Pictures) just bought the rights to distribute it worldwide, so it is being translated into 90 languages around the world so that it can influence the rest of the world.”
In conclusion, Erwin offered some advice for students pursuing their dream career.
“First of all, put it in the hands of the Lord, give up your small ambitions and dream bigger,” Erwin said. “You’ve got one life, so make the life really count for the Lord.
“All you have to do is be faithful to what you’re doing now, pray and wait for an opening, and when it comes, use it for the glory of God.”