Eric Hinderer once slept in a sand trap for a few weeks, having rolls and iced tea for dinner, while working as a golf professional in Georgia.
Born and raised in West Louisville, Hinderer is now a successful businessman.
“After I was successful, I took my kids down to see my house in the West End,” said Hinderer, 56. “I said, ‘Yea, that’s it with a little milk crate basketball goal on the garage.’ Mallory and Brandon both started apologizing. I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m proud of this little house. This is what made me who I am today.’ I see the difference now that I’m opening up with God that I didn’t see back then.”
Hinderer knows that money means nothing compared to knowing Christ.
“When you live a life of emptiness, it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got,” added Hinderer, a Southeast Christian Church attendee. “I learned quickly that the love of money is the root of all evil. I was happier when I couldn’t afford a bucket of chicken to go have a picnic than to go to Jeff Ruby’s every night and take eight to 10 guys with me.”
Broke with baggage
Hinderer’s parents divorced when he was young, and his mom tried to raise two children on a secretary’s salary.
“It made me grow up fast,” Hinderer said.
Hinderer, at 6-foot-3 and 350 pounds, played football for a Shawnee High School football team that didn’t win a game in four years.
After graduating at 17, Hinderer left home and worked as an assistant golf pro at two different country clubs in Georgia. He had a brief stint on tour as a professional golfer.
He married his first wife, Leslie, at age 21, and they had two daughters together.
He became an embalmer and funeral director to “get a real job and support his family” for about two years.
Hinderer and Leslie divorced after seven years of marriage, and he moved back to Louisville, needing gas money from his mom to make it home in his $600 Mazda. His two daughters stayed with their his ex-wife.
They lived with his grandmother for a short time.
The price of success
Hinderer got a job as a project manager at Adkins Export Packing and Machinery Movers, a company owned by his stepfather.
Hinderer married his second wife, Tami, who had two children, Mallory and Brandon, in 1993.
Hinderer managed projects in Florida for two years while Tami and the kids remained in Louisville.
While the distance put a strain on Hinderer’s marriage, his stepfather promised to sell him the company if he would do one more year-long job in Texas.
At 30, he came back to Louisville and bought Adkins in 1994 for $1.2 million.
He paid child support and supported his family on $500 a week, not changing his salary after buying the company. By 1998, Adkins was doing $5 million in sales, and Hinderer had soon paid back his stepfather.
“The CPA of the company did my taxes and said, ‘How does it feel to be a millionaire?’” Hinderer said. “‘What are you talking about? I make $27,000 a year.’ He said, ‘Eric, you’ve paid your dad off.’ That’s when I went from earning $500 a week to $40,000 a week. Try to take that leap when you’re a kid from the West End.”
Rich with baggage
Though he was working long hours and making more money than he could spend, Hinderer felt empty. For the next decade or so, he struggled with using cocaine and marijuana. His second marriage ended in divorce after 10 years. Tami later committed suicide.
Hinderer, who went to church off and on over the years, was compelled to visit his grandmother’s Baptist church around the time Tami died.
“I had been to church a lot; I just never really listened, but I believed in God and prayed, though I didn’t feel like anyone was hearing me,” Hinderer said. “My two children were there with me and during this service, I could not stop crying, and I didn’t know what it was. My grandmother said, ‘That was the Lord stirring your heart.’ From that point forward, it kind of clicked—that there’s something better feeling than drugs or anyone else.”
Hinderer was baptized at 44.
Shortly thereafter, he began attending Southeast while dating a woman he eventually married. The marriage lasted 34 days.
In December 2010, Hinderer sold his business and retired, though he still earned money from real estate he owned.
Hinderer met his wife of six years, LeAnn, on Christian Mingle, and she has played a major role in his relationship with Jesus.
Meeting Eric Wood
At a University of Louisville fundraiser in 2016, Hinderer purchased a trip to New York to watch Southeast member and former Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood play and have the opportunity to meet him after the game.
Wood did much more than that—even after a big loss to New England. He met Hinderer and his wife at his house and took them out to dinner with several of his teammates.
“Every time I called him, he’d answer,” Hinderer said. “I’m like, ‘Man that’s wild.’ Here’s an NFL player, Pro Bowler, starting center, and he’s returning my calls.”
When Wood retired from football, he got involved in Man Challenge at the Blankenbaker Campus and invited Hinderer to join in 2018.
“When I walked in, I’m thinking 12 guys were going to be sitting at this table, and I saw 200 men,” Hinderer added. “Eric Wood and Pete Nochta took me in like I had known them my whole life. They pour into me every day.”
To say the least, Hinderer’s relationship with God has changed.
“Growing up as a kid in the West End, you couldn’t show vulnerability or you’d get taken advantage of. I had six bikes stolen as a kid,” he said. “I thought God was in my life until I met a group of people at Man Challenge who showed me a better way to get there. It isn’t all about reading the Bible. It’s about sharing each other’s stories and realizing you’re not the only one who has an issue. You’re not the only one whose wife is doing this, who has a porn problem, who gambles too much. We’re all in it together, and you’re looking at it through all the other guys’ eyes.”
Hinderer has seen God not only change him, but also his marriage.
“If it wasn’t for Man Challenge and those men when we were in full-blown attack, the change in my husband is what brought us through it,” LeAnn Hinderer said. “I will forever be grateful for those men for how they showed Eric love and, because of that, it’s been a ripple effect that our children have seen.”