Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)

Last week, the Kingwood Country Club was home to a Hollywood sneak-peak for one of our hometown celebrities – George Foreman. Foreman’s family gathered to share a glimpse of what it is like to be George Jr., George II, George III, George IV, George V, Michi, Freeda, Georgetta, Natalie, and Leola Foreman by previewing their new reality show “Family Foreman” soon to premiere on the TV Land network. Of course, a big Foreman preview wouldn’t be complete without hotdogs cooked to perfection on the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine!

My first introduction to George Foreman was in the summer of 1968. George claimed the highest honor in sports – a Gold Medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. His performance in the ring was spectacular, but it was his patriotism after his victory that propelled him into the spotlight. At only 19 years old, Foreman defeated his Soviet opponent to win the Gold and celebrated by walking around the ring, holding high a small American flag.  It was one of the most patriotic moments I had ever seen. For that moment on I was hooked – and so was America.

Foreman and I both grew up in Houston during the 1950s, though not in the same neck of the woods. Foreman’s teenage years were far different from the life he leads today. In his younger years, he was in-and-out of trouble with the law and had established his reputation on the streets of Houston as the meanest, most feared fighter long before he set foot in the boxing ring.

In an effort to turn things around, he decided to join the Job Corps and shipped off to Oregon. However, he quickly learned that you can take the boy off the street, but taking the street out of the boy proved to be a challenge. His quick temper and hot head landed him in more than a few scrapes with his fellow trainees. It was here that he discovered his talent for fighting might be better suited for the ring.

After bringing home the Gold in the 68 Olympics, Foreman began his professional career and within just four years defeated Joe Frazier to become the Heavyweight Champion of the world, only to lose the title a year later and then win it back again in 1976 – and again a decade later at 40. He finally called it quits after unsuccessfully going 12 rounds with Evander Holyfield at the age of 45.

The list of his accomplishments, comebacks and legendary skills in the ring are too long to list. It is his life outside of the ring that shows us the kind of man he really is. A few World titles, Olympic Gold Medals, Hall of Fame inductions and a championship comeback later, George found himself starting another chapter of his life. While he struggled to be true to his faith from time to time, it was at this point in his life that he chose to focus his life on being a father, husband, pastor and mentor.

Prior to his comeback, he established the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ here in Houston and the George Foreman Youth and Community Center to provide an alternative for kids, like himself, who find themselves in trouble on the streets. These days, between his big-time TV series and business ventures, Foreman can be found talking to kids about responsibilities and choices in life.

For my generation, Big George will be synonymous with boxing, with 1968 Olympics, the Rumble in the Jungle, and Howard Cossell’s “Down goes Frazier!” But to the younger generation, he is the face of Meineke, Clothing mogul, the Lean Mean Grilling Machine, an author and now – reality TV star. The list goes on and on to what Foreman has a hand in, we even share the title of “former judge” – mine throwing the book at crooks, his looking for the next big thing on ABC’s American Inventor.

Houston, especially the Second Congressional District, is lucky to have George as our neighbor.   He has repeatedly shown us all that you can overcome all odds and obstacles.  He is a shining testament of hard work and determination, and I applaud all of his accomplishments and service to the community.

And that’s just the way it is.