“We’re going to absolutely crush Southwest!”
“I can’t wait to get out there and show them who is boss!”
My high school football teammates and I had been looking forward to this game against Southwest more than any other on the schedule. It was a chance to prove ourselves against a highly favored opponent. Southwest was well established, coached, and organized as a team, with plenty of hard-working players. We were a first year football team, still figuring things out, with only 13 players, but we had some talent on our team and a lot of confidence—a little too much. This was the third game of the season, and so far we were undefeated at 2-0.
I was starting at quarterback and this was my first opportunity to play football on a league. I was 17, a homeschooled senior, and taking some courses at the local community college. This was the closest thing to the fulfillment of my life-long dream of playing college football. In my youthful pride I walked from class to class on the community college campus thinking to myself, “I am a student-athlete.” I loved the sound of that.
Game-day morning against Southwest finally came. This would be a mid-day game. The sun shone brightly and the weather was pleasant, but as I strapped on my pads and went through warm-ups I was especially jittery. My adrenaline reached an all-time high as I glared at the Southwest players across the field going through their stretch routine. I dropped back to threw a couple of warm up throws to my teammates, tingling with excitement.
We had a tradition—if you could call it that for a first year team—of getting pumped up before we ran back out onto the field right before the coin toss. My buddy Daniel and I would push each other and yell, “You ready boy!?” as the rest of the team stood around us in a circle. Then we would turn to them and push and shove them a little, yelling to get them pumped up. There was a special energy today as we turned from our pregame tradition and charged through the poster that separated us from the field and Southwest.
A lot of thoughts raced through my head as I stood impatiently on the sidelines. Southwest got the ball first, taking the opening kickoff far down the field. “Come on guys! Tackle!” I yelled. A couple of plays later, Southwest scored an easy touchdown on a pass from the quarterback to a wide open receiver.
“That was too easy. Just wait until I get out there. I’ll run over, past, and through their defense.”
I loved playing physical; I was determined to be a tough runner that defenders feared to tackle. I never slid or stepped out of bounds to avoid hits—I wanted to deliver hits on the defenders, so they would be less eager to try to bring me down the next time.
Now was my chance to prove myself. Time stood still and the noise of shouts from fans on the sidelines seemed to fade to a hush. I walked up to the line and scanned the Southwest defense.
They were big. They looked fast. My gaze stopped and rested on their linebacker who was tauntingly pointing at me. I wasn’t going to have any of that. No intimidation for me. I was confident he would be sore by the end of the day. I smiled a taunting smile and pointed back at him. “You won’t be so cocky after I run you over.” I thought.
“Down! Set...” I heard the cracking sound of helmets and grunts as the linemen collided as I dropped back to pass. Bobby was running right out of the backfield. We had successfully run this play before, but as the ball left my hand, my heart melted. A Southwest defender leaped up out of nowhere and intercepted the ball, sprinting for their second score.
Anger and fear welled up within me at that moment. I had to catch him before he scored; my ego depended on it, and maybe the game.I streaked down the field the fastest I had ever sprinted in my life, and I doubt I will ever run that fast again.
After the game, my Mom even told me that she looked up and thought to herself “Is that my son running down the field so fast?” I was gaining rapidly on the Southwest defender. I was going to knock him down so hard he would fumble, or at least regret that he intercepted my pass.
We reached the ten yard line…the five…I dove toward him with all that was within me and landed face down out of bounds as he waltzed into the end-zone for the score. I touched him, but barely.
I slowly got up and there was the linebacker rubbing it in a bit with a “How about that?” gesture. I shook my head and looked down. “I deserve this.” I thought. I remembered Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Immediately I felt God convicting my heart. He seemed to say, “That wasn’t Christ-like. Are you playing for my glory or your own?”
“You are right. Forgive me, Father. Forgive me for my pride.”
We lost that game. Though we no longer had a winless record, I learned a valuable lesson. After the game I shook the Southwest linebacker’s hand. “Good game man! Hey, I am sorry for taunting you like that out there. That wasn’t Christ-like.” He accepted my apology, and even apologized for the taunting on his part.
God’s Word says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV). As a Christian, not only do I owe everything to God as my Creator and Sustainer, but also as my Savior. Jesus paid my sin-debt with His own blood, and now God doubly owns me. This is a lesson I am still learning each day. I have by no means arrived, but I will always look back on that pick-six against Southwest as God using adversity to reveal my pride so that I could repent and live more for His glory in all that I do.
For that, I am grateful.