Today, the Jaguars battle the Titans in a divisional matchup between teams with young quarterbacks and generally speaking a long way to go before being considered a legitimate contender for a Super Bowl title. So since it is “Throwback Thursday” lets go back to the Tennessee Titans and their memorable playoff run in January, 2000. It started with one of the most memorable plays in my lifetime when the Titans WR Kevin Dyson received a lateral pass from Frank Wychek and ran 75 yards for the winning touchdown with time expiring. Tennessee called the play “Home Run Throwback” It has since become known as the Music City Miracle. In case you missed it. Here is is.
This was in the Wild Card match-up. They played the Jacksonville Jaguars 3 times that season, beating them all three times – the only 3 losses for the Jags all season. The Titans advanced to Super Bowk XXXIV against the St. Louis Rams. It was a memorable game in that it was the closest game in Super Bowl history coming down to the last play when Kevin Dyson again was stopped just short of the end zone as time expired. Here is the play now known as “The Tackle”
Both plays featured Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson. Dyson was drafted 16th overall by the Titans in the 1998 draft out of Utah. As you can read in this story from the Jackson Sun Dyson hoped to have a stellar career in football like some others that he was drafted with. However injuries slowed his career and affected his stats from matching theirs. He goes on to say that he knows God had a plan in that for him and that he is still trusting God no matter what happens. He is now a coach and athletic director at a high school in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The offensive coordinator for the Titans at that time was Les Steckel. I live in Minnesota so I feel I should mention that his only head coaching experience in the NFL was a 3-13 season with the Vikings in 1984. He was more successful as a coordinator as is evidenced by the fact that he was doing that job in the Super Bowl in 2000. He called the play that looked like it would lead the Titans to the Championship, only to fall one yard short on a great tackle by Mike Jones of the Rams. Steckel was frustrated with the loss. As he poured out his grief in a prayer to God, God had an object lesson for him. In this article from CBN, Steckel recounts that moment when God told him “Les, the team fell one yard short of victory tonight. Do you know how many people out there are one yard short of eternal victory? I expect you to go tell them.”
Steckel goes on to talk about his he has been fired 8 times in his career. It has been humbling and painful each time. And yet from those experiences, great things have arisen. In 1999, a prayer journal entry that Steckel had written talked about a call to serve in a ministry of some sort within 5 years. In 2003, Steckel was named the President and CEO of Fellowship of Christian Athletes – a role he still maintains today.
Here are my takeaways from the stories of Dyson and Steckel.
1- Highs and Lows – Within a period of a few weeks, Kevin Dyson experienced the elation of victory and the agony of defeat – both times with the ball in his hand. In the article I linked to earlier Dyson didn’t really talk about either play at the event that he was speaking at. Instead, he talked about how he is still a work in progress and that those things don’t define him. The same is true for us. We will know times of great success and times of agonizing loss. God uses both ends of this spectrum (and the many points in between) to refine us, mold us and remind us that we need to depend on Him in all circumstances.
2- We all fall short – Les Steckel felt God tell him that his task was to tell others of their need for God. Romans 3.23 tells us that we are all sinners, and we all fall short of what God requires. We are imperfect people struggling and striving to live well and find purpose. And unless we believe that Jesus is our Savior and make him number one in our lives, We will struggle to find that purpose. But when we realize that we do come up short on our own but that He has made a way for us to be forgiven and made perfect in Him, we can excitedly share the joy with others that we know a God who forgives and love us despite our shortcomings.
It is the battle of New York in one of its three NFL forms this Thursday night to start off week 10 of the NFL season.
And this week, for Throwback Thursday, I share the story of one of the guys who got in some ways inspired this blog in the first place.
I have been a sports fan as long as I can remember. I really enjoyed watching the game, any game that I could find to watch. And while my allegiances have never been with Buffalo or with the Jets, former Jets Defensive Lineman Dennis Byrd was a story that connected with me and has stayed with me over the years. November 29, 1992 was the day. The Jets were playing against the Kansas City Chiefs. The play looked routine, even like a play that Jets fans would stand and cheer. Pressure on Chiefs QB David Kreig. He steps up in the pocket to avoid the pressure. The ball is knocked loose as two Jets defenders converge on him. Chiefs recover the ball but essentially lose a down. But in the aftermath of the play, things quickly become more grim. Dennis Byrd, a second round draft pick in 1989, in his fourth season with the Jets was laying still on the ground after the play. A look at the review showed that he had launched himself at the quarterback, and when Kreig stepped up, Byrd wound up connecting with teammate Scott Mersereau and the awkward hit had left him injured.
The injury was substantial. He had broken a vertebrae in his neck and the initial prognosis was that use of legs would be limited if at all. Standing would be a challenge, walking almost too much to even dream about. But as you can read in his excellent book Rise and Walk and in this article from NewsOK.com, Byrd was amazingly up on his feet and walking (with assistance) just 3 short months after the injury. Well, I call them short months – if you get an opportunity to read his book, you will read how long those days and weeks were in his intense recovery. His book was given to me as a gift in the mid ’90s. His story is very inspirational and played a role in my appreciation of the stories of professing Christian Athletes and gave me a desire to share them – leading to the creation of this blog.
What struck me about his story was his outspoken faith and dependency on God. It was a tremendous reminder of God’s strength showing up in our weaknesses. He says ” It was on that land, through faith, family and football, that I built the foundation of my life. For my first 26 years, that foundation was the source of my joy and strength, for my 27th, it became the basis for survival.” The Jets paid tribute to Dennis Byrd by never re-issuing his jersey #90. In 2012, they retired it officially.
In January, 2012 Byrd sent the Jets jersey that had been cut off of him at the hospital following the injury to the team to inspire them for their playoff game against the Patriots. He was invited to come and address the team. Check out the video below about this moment. (apologies – it was recorded on someone’s TV so quality is not great)
Byrd talks in his book about how his faith in God sustained him in the darkest, hardest days of the rehabilitation. He knows that through the pain, frustration and realization that life has been forever changed that God is still at work and is still in control. Byrd says “I’m a Christian. It has now given me a platform and an opportunity to share with people my views and beliefs as a Christian. That’s why I was at that spot at that particular time on Nov. 29, 1992. It’s for what I’m going to do the rest of my life.”
Here are my takeaways from Byrd’s stories
1- God is with us in hard times – Last spring, my family endured a tragedy. In the midst of the sadness and pain, there was never a sense for me that God was not there. Instead, there was a comforting assurance that He was there, He was mourning with us and He was drawing us to Him. And while I do not pretend to be “over” it, I see ways that God has used that part of our story to connect more closely with Him and understand more about pain that others around us are facing when life brings challenges their way. Byrd talks about how his life-altering injury has given him a platform to share his faith with others. God uses all parts of our story – the good and the hard, the sad and the celebrations to help us see Him at work. But He does this not just for us, but so that we can connect and share His love with others that are hurting around us.
2- With God All Things are Possible – Byrd went from a prognosis of paralysis to walking in a very short time. God worked a miracle in his life. So what about those who are sick and injured and are not given a tangible victory against their issue. Does that mean that God loves them less or is punishing them for something? I don’t think so. I think He helps us through some things by removing them and sometimes he helps us by strengthening us to face the hard thing head on. Will you watch Him at work in either way and acknowledge that His plan works out the best whether it is healing us or strengthening us?
One of the things that I have learned since I started this blog is that CBN (Christian Broadcast Network) does a feature on Christian playing in the World Series and in the Super Bowl. This years video has just been released, but there is a problem with the “embed” code. I will continue to look for it, but you can click on this link to check it out until I am able to embed it.
From the Kansas City Royals, they focus on:
Infielder Ben Zobrist – Zobrist was the focus of my blog post in June 2011. I am really excited to see him get a chance to win a championship title. My post was about how he came to faith in God at a young age and sees it as his responsibility to represent Christ in all he does. He speaks on the video that despite the fame and attention that they get, they are no more important than anyone else and at the end of the day, he is just a husband, a dad and most importantly, a follower of Christ. He and his wife Julianna are expecting their third child in the next couple of weeks.
Relief Pitcher Ryan Madson – Madson was the focus of a blog post this past July. It is amazing that Madson finds himself in the World Series right now. Before this season, Madson last pitched in the majors in 2011. After suffering through injuries, and finding himself on the verge of retirement, mentoring a high school prospect. From there came the itch to try a comeback. Kansas City gave him a chance and he responded by having one of his best seasons, setting personal bests with E.RA, and WHIP. He has been a key member of the Royals fantastic Bull Pen. What an unlikely story. World Series title would be great icing to this cake!
Pitcher Luke Hochevar – I have been hearing and reading about Luke Hochevar for a few years now, but I have not yet written about his faith story. Here is a link to a Baptist Press article about him. He has played an important role in the Royals post-season bullpen.
Catcher Drew Butera – Another player that has been on my radar for a couple of years, Butera used to play for my hometown Twins. He has also spent time with the Dodgers and Angels. He is the son of Sal Butera who played for 5 different teams in the `70s and `80s. Here is an article from National Catholic Register where Butera discusses his faith in God among other things. I remember having his dad’s baseball cards in my collection.
General Manager Dayton Moore – He was not featured in the video, but I did blog about him in July 2012, so I thought I would add him to this feature. He is largely responsible for putting this great team together.
And as the Royals look for their first World Series in 30 years, they are battling the New York Mets who have not won a championship in 29 years. Let’s take a look at the members of the Mets who are featured in the CBN video.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis – Nieuwenhuis was the focus of my blog at the end of September. He discussed the importance of having others who can help us in our faith walk.
Daniel Murphy – Murphy has been the Mets post season hero this year. Here is the post that I wrote about him last season after he stirred up the sports talk radio world by choosing to be with his wife at the birth of their first child, skipping the Mets opening day game. He became a hero of mine then and this post season has been fun to watch as he has lit up opposing pitching (at least until he met up with the Royals stingy staff)
Curtis Granderson – This is the first time that I have come across Granderson’s belief in God as he discusses how everything is from God.
Jeurys Familia – Same thing for Familia.
Steven Matz – Matz has been on my blog radar since last summer. Here is his twitter account where there are some occasional expressions of faith in God.
This could be the last night of the baseball season. It has been a good one. Enjoy the end of the World Series. Once more, here is the Link to the CBN feature
Tonight is the battle of the 2 most recent franchises in NFL history who completed undefeated regular seasons. The Patriots, like the Chicago Bears in 1934 and 1942 were undefeated in the regular season but would all lose a game in the playoffs. The Patriots finished 16-0 in 2007 and won 2 playoff games before losing a close game to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII largely due to an improbable catch by David Tyree which set up the winning score for the Giants.
Here is a video of the most famous play from that game
The Miami Dolphins are the only team to complete a perfect regular season and win a championship, a feat they accomplished in 1972.
But for a brief moment, the win in Super Bowl VII was in question thanks to another one of the Most Famous plays in Super Bowl history. It was the 4th quarter. Kicker Garo Yepremian was sent on to attempt a 42 yard field goal. It is blocked, and Yepremian ends up with the ball. He decides to try and throw it, but his attempt is so poor that it isn’t even considered a pass. It is ruled a fumble, and the fumble is returned for a touchdown, cutting the lead in half with 2 minutes left to play in the game. Here is what the play looked like.
Yepremian was inconsolable for a while. As you can read in this article from the Miami Herald, Yepremian thought his life was over. “It was the worst thing”. But the article goes on to say that it isn’t the worst thing that Garo has been through. We read about the battles with different cancers that both he and his wife have battled over the years. In 1998, Yepremian’s youngest son Azad learned that his girlfriend has inoperable Brain Cancer. She was given less than a year to live. Azad and Debby-Lu married to fight the battle together, and she lived for 6 years before passing away. Inspired by her fight, Yepremian started a foundation to raise funds for Brain Cancer research. And even though Garo Yepremian lost his battle with Brain Cancer in May of this year at the age of 70, the foundation continues its work towards the goal of finding a cure.
Garo’s story is not the common football player story. Born on the Island of Cyprus to Armenian parents, Garo came to America when his brother Krikor, who had been attending University of Indiana on a soccer scholarship, suggested that Garo try out American Football as a kicker. Garo had played soccer professionally in London and was ineligible to play NCAA football. But he earned a contract with the Detroit Lions in 1966. During his rookie season, he would set the NFL record with 6 field goals in one game against the Minnesota Vikings – a record that would stand for 1 year when Jim Bakken would kick 7.
Yepremian was a 2 time Pro Bowl player, a 2 time Super Bowl champ, and was named kicker of the decade by the NFL Hall of Fame Committee. He was nominated for election into the Hall of Fame but failed to receive enough votes. As cancer ravaged him and his wife, we read “the couple trusts their faith, and also the hopefulness of doctors.” In this newspaper article from 1972, college football player Ralph MaGee talks about his faith in God. When he talks about turning to God, he names Garo Yepremian by name as one of the professional football players who has “become a true believer”. And so when battling through the hardships of chemotherapy and surgery in the battle against cancer, Yepremian is heard saying “Today is a wonderful day, It could be raining or cloudy or snowing out. It’s still a gorgeous day.”
Here are my takeaways from Yepremian’s story
1- Today is a great day – And while we don’t know what the day will hold or how the challenges we face will impact our day, there is something to be said about remaining positive. And the reason that we can be positive as Christians is not because we are experts in the art of self-deception and definitely not because everything will be easy and wonderful. No, the reason we can be positive is that Christ is with us. He will never leave us or abandon us. And this life that we are struggling through is not the final destination. We have a hope for a future without pain and suffering when we are spending eternity with our Maker and Savior. Knowing that, having assurance that that is true helps this day be a little easier to deal with. But in case we need a reminder, Psalm 118.24 says ” This is the day that the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it” Every day that we have is a gift. God gives us life and breath and that alone is worth getting excited about. How will you spend your today? May you be filled with rejoicing that God has given you this day, and an eternity to come.
Imperfect and perfect – the 1972 Dolphins were “perfect” and yet, even in their perfection, we see imperfection. They didn’t lose a game, but they made their mistakes. I know that I am not perfect. I’m not even a perfectionist – I tried it but I wasn’t very good at it (hehehe). This story is a reminder that we are not and will not ever be perfect in this life. We have moments where we make bad choices and wind up looking ridiculous. Sometimes we are able to look back and laugh at ourselves and our foolishness. Sometimes, the consequences are a little more painful. But no matter what we have done and how silly our choices have been, Jesus lived a perfect life and because of that, He offers His perfection to us. His perfection covers over our mistakes and mess-ups. And like Yepremian, even in our silliness and embarrassing fumblings, we know that He has secured the victory. What a God we serve!!
I mentioned last time that I think the Royals Cardinals series is the first one I remember watching with interest. The very next year, I was very engaged in the World Series. I had become a fan of the Boston Red Sox and wanted to see them win. It was looking good until a certain play that we won’t mention that led to an improbable game 6 win for the Mets. They would win game 7 too and break the hearts of Red Sox fans again. But I was conflicted. I was a Gary Carter fan from his days with my other favorite team – the Expos. So I was glad to see him come away a champion.
Let’s take a look at some of the members of the 1986 Mets and their stories of faith in God and the difference He has made in their lives. There are some amazing stories here!
Catcher- Gary Carter
Carter struggled against the Houston Astros in the NLCS, but picked up his game in the World Series. He hit .276 with 2 home runs. You can read the post I wrote about him shortly after his death in 2012. He was my first ever favorite player and I am glad to share the story of the great man of God that he was.
Relief Pitcher Rick Aguilera
Aguilera appeared in 2 games in the World series. He was not great in the series, pitching 3 innings and posting a 12.o0 ERA, but he was the winning pitcher in the now classic game six win. He would go on to win another World Series with the 1991 Minnesota Twins. He is a member of the Twins Hall of Fame. Check out thegoal.com to read what he has to say about following God.
Starting Pitcher Dwight Gooden
One of the best in his era, Gooden burst on the scene as a 19 year old in 1984 winning the Rookie of the Year. He not only avoided a sophomore slump, but his second year is one of the most dominating season by a pitcher in recent history. 24-4, 16 complete games, 1.53 ERA. And the next season, he was part of the 86 champs – his first of 3 World Series rings in his career. Despite his dominance, he never won a post season game (0-4 in his career including 2 losses against the Red Sox in `86). He had some well known off field issues with drugs and alcohol. Gooden is now cleaned up and sober. He has written a memoir that I will read soon. But for now, here is a video of Gooden talking about his book and his recovery. At about the 15 minute mark, Gooden talks about the important role God plays in his daily life.
Outfielder Darryl Strawberry
Another story of fame and fortune taking its toll on a young player, Darryl Strawberry also has battled addiction and poor choices. He was an 8 time All-Star, 4 time World Series Champ, He was rookie of the Year in 1983. He struggled in the `86 World Series, hitting just a hair over .200. He would go on to win 3 more rings with the Yankees mostly as a bench player. But at his peak, he was one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He led the National League in home runs once and hit more than 25 in a season nine times. Since his retirement and through his struggles off the field, Strawberry has turned his life around. He is now an ordained minister and along with his wife Tracy, has started Strawberry Ministries, which exists “to restore lives and relationships”. They have a rehabilitation center to help people battle addiction and share the change God has made in their lives. Here is Darryl sharing his story with CBN
Catcher – Ed Hearn
Gary Carter was a super star, but being a catcher is hard on the body so every team needs a back up catcher. That is the role that Ed Hearn played as a rookie for the `86 Mets. He was the only player on the roster that did not get an appearance in the World Series. After the `86 season, Hearn would play only 13 more games in the Majors. According to his Wikipedia page, he is the only player in baseball history “to win the championship in A ball, AA ball, AAA ball, and in the Major leagues in 4 consecutive years with the same franchise”. His retirement from baseball came due to illness. As you can read in this story from the Utica Observer Dispatch, Hearn’s time away from baseball has been filled with pain, pills and medical intervention helping him deal with 3 kidney transplants and other medical problems. He talks about his his faith in God and reading the bible are vital to his battle with his health. Check out these videos of Hearn speaking at churches and conferences.
Catcher- Barry Lyons
Ed Hearn was not the only “other” catcher on the Mets roster. There was also Barry Lyons. Lyons also made his Major League debut in 1986, playing in 6 games with the Mets. He did not make the post season roster and in fact did not register a hit for the Mets all season, but was given a World Series Ring. Lyons played on 253 games over 7 Major League seasons. After his career ended in 1995, Lyons settled in Biloxi, MS – his hometown. However his World Series ring and much of his memorabilia would be destroyed along with his house in Hurricane Katrina. That event and its aftermath, including the suicide of his brother would lead Lyons into a very dark time in life. He turned to drugs and alcohol, but they did not solve the pain he felt. As you can read in this article from NY Daily News, he went to a faith based rehab center and it changed his life. He now speaks about that changed life wherever he can.
Third Baseman – Howard Johnson
HoJo came to the Mets in 1985, just one year removed from winning a World Series ring with the `84 Tigers. But despite playing in 116 regular season games, he would record only one post season plate appearance – reaching on an error as a pinch hitter in the final game. In `86, he saw more plate appearances (5 over 2 games) but remained hitless in his World Series career. He would play in the majors for 13 seasons. He was a 2 time All-Star and 3 time 30-30 man. But off the field, Johnson’s career began with a choice to honor God through faith. As you can read in this article from the St.Petersburg Times from June 1980, Johnson made a focus of his life studying God’s word and leading the team chapel meetings. He talks more about his journey in this story from the Chicago Tribune
Second Baseman Tim Teufel
Here is some trivia for you. What does the word Teufel mean in German? Answer – Fiend, demon devil. Ironic that someone with that last name is mentioned in a post about Christian Athletes. He played in 2 games in the World Series, batting .444 and hitting 1 home run. Check out his story from TheGoal.com. In it we can read about how in 1991, Teufel understood the gift that Jesus was offereing. He accepted Christ as his Savior. He is back with the Mets this year as Third Base Coach, hoping for another World Series Ring.
Outfielder Mookie Wilson
The man who hit the famous Buckner Ball, Mookie Wilson came into the game as a pinch hitter. He hit .269 in the series, with 3 stolen bases. Check out this story from NY Times which Mookie talks about how even if Buckner caught the ball, Mookie would have beat him to the base. He also talks about the struggles of Major Leaguers to make the right choices and about becoming a pastor. You can also read this article about the relationship that Mookie and Buckner have now on the speakers circuit reliving their famous moment and also sharing about their common faith in God.
The Series is under way. What magic will this year hold? How will those involved be linked to each other and baseball history? Only time will tell.
Numbers and trivia have always interested me. And so I may be the only person on the planet that cares, but I find it enormously interesting that this season’s World Series will pit against each other 2 teams who last won the World Series in back to back years in the mid 80’s (Royals in `85, Mets in `86) And so in tribute to their history, check out part one of my three part series on this years World Series as I look at the faith stories of some members of the 1985 Royals today. Tune in next time for a look at the `86 Mets and then later this week as I point to the stories of the men on both teams that will play against each other this year.
First, to the `85 Royals.
Over his career, he would be named to 3 All-Star games. He was a 6 time Gold Glove winner and is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. He hit .250 in the `85 World Series, with his most notable moment being the winning run he scored in game six on a perfect slide to beat the throw from Cardinals outfielder Andy Van Slyke (whose son Scott I blogged about last season). Sundberg’s run sent the series to game seven which Kansas City won 11-0. In game 7, they took an 11-0 lead by the 5th inning. They knew the victory was won, they simply had to wait until the final out for the true celebration. Here is Sundberg talking about how that game is like our life as Christians. We know the victory is won, we are simply anxiously waiting the final out so the real party can begin.
He was the winner of the above mentioned game 6. He pitched in 4 of the 7 World Series games. This was not his first trip to the World Series. He pitched in all 6 games of the 1980 World Series with the Royals, winning 1 and losing 2 as the Royals were defeated by the Phillies in 6 games. He was known for his unique pitching style – he was the first “submarine” pitcher that I remember seeing in my lifetime. And he was quite successful with it. He was the first player to record 40 saves in a season, he led the American League in Career saves from 1987 until 1992 when he was passed by Jeff Reardon. He was a 3 time All-Star and a 5 time Relief pitcher of the Year and in 1998, he was elected to the Royals Hall of Fame. After baseball he became known for his poetry and his witty quotes. And as you can read in this article from Miscbaseball.com, he was a man of strong faith in God which helped as he battled and ultimately lost the battle with Brain Cancer in 1998. Teammate John Wathan recounts the story of the news of his diagnosis. He said ““One of the things I will remember most is back when he was diagnosed, someone asked him if he ever thought to himself ‘Why me?’ And his response was ‘Why not me? I’ve got just as good a chance to get through this as anyone else because of my faith in God.’ Through this whole thing, Quiz never once felt sorry for himself.” And while he was not able to beat the cancer, he was outspoken about his faith in God until the end.
Here is a look at his famous delivery.
I remember watching a couple games from the 1984 World Series and the Tigers winning it all. But the first Series that I really remember watching all the way through was the 1985 series. It has been a great trip down memory lane for me as I looked into this series and discovered these stories. Up next will be looking into the stories of several of the New York Mets and seeing how God has worked in their lives.
Here is my second installment in my NFL Throwback Thursday series. This time, as we prepare for Thursday Night’s game between the Seahawks and the 49ers, we point the spotlight on one of the greatest wide receivers in history – Hall of Famer Steve Largent.
It was remarkable enough that Largent was drafted in 1976 in the fourth round by the Houston Oilers. The scouting reports on him had been similar throughout his high school and college days. As you can read in this excerpt from the book “No Matter What” by Thomas Wachs, Largent was seen as too small (5’11”) and too slow to make it as a pro. He was not heavily recruited in high school and went to Tulsa. In his junior and senior years, he led the country in touchdown receptions. This led to him being drafted. But as the pre-season ended, Largent was going to be cut by the Oilers. Instead, a trade was worked out to send him to the expansion Seahawks. He would spend 13 seasons with the Seahawks, putting together 7 Pro Bowl seasons, and leaving the game at the time of his retirement holding most of the career receiving records in the NFL. While he would later be passed by other receivers, Largent was a star in his era and was recognized for his great work on the field (1995 Hall of Fame inductee) and his great work off the field too winning multiple “Man of the Year” awards. His name is also on the award given annually to the Seahawks player who “best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seattle Seahawks!”
During his career, Largent was very outspoken about his faith in God and how it factored in to his everyday life. As you can read in this 1988 story from People Magazine, Largent turned some heads in 1982 when he spoke publicly that he would not go on strike with the rest of the NFL players, saying that as a Christian, he felt he needed to honor the contract he signed. He continued to share his faith story. It is a story that has a share of successes – Hall of Fame career, successful political career (Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1994 to 2002), recognition for his humanitarian efforts. But it was not without its hardships. In 1985, his son Kramer was born with Spina Bifida. You can read about that and how his faith in God sustained him in this article from TheGoal.com.
The People magazine article talks about how hard Largent took the news of his son’s issues at birth. It reads “I was crushed,” Largent says. “I broke down, went into a corner and wept. Then I heard Terry say, ‘God planned Kramer. Having him in our lives will be one of the greatest things that ever happened to us.’ ”
Having recently read (and blogged about) the story of Hunter Kelly, son of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, I saw some parallels with how they coped with the health issues that their sons were dealing with. I am amazed how God works through the challenges in our stories to remind us that only in His strength can we manage to get by in this life.
Here are my takeaways from Largent’s story.
1- We Need Him! – It is reflected in the story of the birth of Kramer that we see Largent feeling broken and battered. And yet in his wife’s words are the reminder of the value of life and of God’s control. This week, I shared the story of the 12 spies in Canaan. The 10 that saw the giants and the problems with taking the land, and the 2 spies who were excited that this great land would soon be theirs. The 10 spies didn’t trust God’s plan or that He was truly in control. But Caleb and Joshua did. And even though they would be delayed, they would one day reach the Promised Land and see again how God is faithful and His plan is awesome. Largent was “crushed” by the diagnosis of his son, but with the help of his wife’s words, he would come to understand how precious his little boy was. In both Largent’s and Kelly’s story, I am reminded that as challenges and difficulties plague us in this life, it gives us a chance to remember that God is in control and resting in Him is way better than giving up and checking out. Trust Him, He is faithful ALL THE TIME!
2- Too Small? Too Slow? See what my God can do! – Underdog stories abound in professional sports. The Bible is full of them, too. There are countless stories of how God brings an improbable victory to a group that is set up to be defeated by their enemies. But in the end, they wind up victorious. This is our story. We seem to be against an opponent that is bigger, better and smarter than us. But when we allow God to guide our lives and fight our battles for us, we are victorious. In fact, with God fighting for us, we can stand up to our enemy (the devil) and watch him run away from us! Largent was not expected to make a professional team, let alone enter the Hall of Fame. But God allowed him to excell at the game of football for more than a decade. We may feel overmatched by what life brings our way, but trusting in God can bring us surprising successes and lead us on an adventure that is bigger than we can even imagine. God has a plan for us and will carry it out if we choose to follow Him. Our challenges and hindrances are not so big that He can’t handle them.
As I shift the focus of Living Up to My Name to football for the next few months, I have decided that trying to get all the teams represented is a challenge in itself. So instead of trying to get that done, I am going to attempt 2 blog posts a week. One from a current team from the weekend and a throwback Thursday from one of the teams playing on Thursday. I am a day late with my first one, but I think it is a great story to start with. (And not just because I am a huge Saints fan). So here we go.
The Saints have been terrible for most of my life and they have been stumbling away from powerhouse team towards struggling, rebuilding team. And while last night was a great win for the team and a solid game for 3 Saints that I have blogged about on this site,(Mark Ingram, Benjamin Watson and Drew Brees) I’m not buying my Super Bowl Ticket yet. I will instead revel at the amazing Super Bowl victory that the Saints enjoyed in February of 2010 when a particularly gutsy play call turned the direction of the game and put them on the path to victory. In case you don’t remember the play, here it is although the quality is poor.
As a fan of the Saints, I know that I can hold my breath for 63 seconds because that is how long it took to peel off the pile and reveal who had the ball. Reis’ recovery of the ball started the Saint’s momentum swing leading them to victory.
Reis would play only 2 more games in his NFL career but he is an icon and hero in Super Bowl Lore for his role in what is largely considered the gutsiest call in Super Bowl history.
And God’s sense of humor is not lost on me. How else can you explain how a NFL player who is not one of the biggest stars on his team now has a spotlight and a platform to speak about – of all possible topics – recovery. He recovered the on-side kick and now he and his father have co-authored a book about recovery. For his dad, it is recovery from addiction and surrender of life to Christ. I have ordered the book and will write a review of it once I get it read. But for now, check out Reis’ website and see what he is up to now. Also check out this interview with Chris and Mike Reis, talking about the book with CBN.
Here are my takeaways from the Reis’ story.
1- Recovery and Surrender – We are all prone to make bad decisions and hold on to control of our lives. God calls us to surrender and it is in our best interest to do just that. But it is also remarkably hard to do because we feel a need to stay in control. The irony is that when we try to keep control, it becomes more and more obvious that we are not in control at all. We put our attention in the wrong place and as a result, we either find ourselves swirling out of control or we are exhausted from the battle of trying to cover up the issues we are trying to beat. As Mike says “I felt incredible shame and low self-respect. Once again, I had blown it. My son had just made the most famous recovery in Super Bowl history. Now I needed my own recovery—a recovery from my addiction to alcohol, sex and a life filled with bad choices and poor decisions.” Jesus called us to surrender, to take up our cross and follow Him with all that we have. He is with us and He will help us. Let us surrender everything to Him, and allow Him to recover us – and bring us back to Him.
2- Ambush and the Bottom of the Pile – The play that was called to start the second half of Super Bowl 44 was called “Ambush”. Reis found himself at the bottom of the pile, holding on to the ball for dear life. The ball that he recovered now sits in a display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. That is a great picture of how life is sometimes. We can find ourselves on the bottom of the pile with the heaviness of the world weighing on us, holding on for dear life to whatever we can. Much of what we grasp at will leave us empty handed, but if our faith and our hope is in God, we will not wind up empty handed. We will be invited to join the Creator of the World in a place that is way more amazing than the Hall of Fame. And I promise you that He will stay faithful and true so even when you are at the bottom of the pile and the cheap shots are coming, keep holding on! He won’t let you down.