John F. Croyle
The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2014.
John Frank Croyle, was born March 9, 1951 in Gadsden, Alabama. From childhood, John was an excellent athlete excelling at baseball, basketball, and football. Croyle is the founder of Big Oak Boys’ Ranch, Big Oak Girls’ Ranch, and later acquired Westbrook Christian School all with the goal of helping children.
While playing football for Coach Paul Bryant at the University of Alabama, the seed for Big Oak Ranch was planted. John worked as a youth counselor at King’s Arrow Ranch for Boys in Lumberton, Mississippi. Since graduating from college in 1974, John Croyle has dedicated his life to Big Oak Ranch.
Since Big Oak Boys’ Ranch was established in 1974, Croyle, his wife, and their staff have given nearly 2,000 children – most often abused and neglected – a new life. Every child hears these promises: “I love you. I’ll never lie to you. I’ll stick with you until you’re grown. There are boundaries – don’t cross them.” He believes these four promises cover the bedrocks to parenting a child: “love and emotional support, truth, security, and discipline.” The oldest former resident of the ranch is now 58 years old and a grandfather, Big Oak family members are high school and college graduates, military personnel, and alumni in “just about any profession you can name.”
In 1988, Croyle had a vision to start a girls’ ranch and founded Big Oak Girls’ Ranch in the young girls’ memory. Westbrook Christian School was acquired in 1990, and exists to provide a quality education in a Christian environment for children at the Ranch and in the nearby community.
Mr. Croyle’s honors include: first recipient of the Paul W. Bryant Alumni-Athlete Award, 1988; Jaycees Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award, 1989; Olympic Torch Bearer, 1996; America's Awards (Norman Vincent Peale), 1997; Inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, 2002; and All American Football & Basketball, 1969. Croyle was a scholarship football player for the University of Alabama in 1969, and was a significant contributor to SEC Championship teams of 1971, 1972, and 1973, and the National Championship Team of 1973. Croyle is also the author of Bringing Out the Winner in Your Child published in 1996, The Two Minute Drill to Manhood published in 2013, and Raising a Princess published in 2014.