I was born in the south, namely the beautiful state of Alabama. And I soon came to realize the second most important thing after baptism is a person’s undying affection for College Football. For me I am proud to be a die-hard Crimson Tide devotee. In fact, Paul “Bear” Bryant’s birthday is one day before my own (although decades earlier). So it just seemed a natural fit.
As of this writing, The University of Alabama holds 15 National Titles, 24 SEC Championships, has played in a record setting 61 post season bowl games, and received one Heisman Trophy (thank you Mark Ingram). And if that were not enough, game-day in Tuscaloosa is home to some of the best tailgating on earth. What’s not to love!
With such an illustrious storied legacy, it’s easy to understand how the fans would have a wide array of wonderful game-day memories. I too have a list of personal favorites. However, I’d like to share one that may seem a bit unusual because it’s not about how great the Crimson Tide played or the score. This game-day stand out is all about the Coach. It’s all about Coach Bill Curry.
It was a beautiful crisp fall Saturday. Bryant Denny Stadium was gleaming with a sea of crimson and white. The anticipation and excitement from the fans was at its usual fevered pitch. Kick off was only minutes away and Coach Bill Curry was pacing the sidelines, pumping up the team before taking the field to face their mighty opponent, the defending BCS Champions, The University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
That’s right. In this game Bill Curry was not coaching Alabama. He was leading the newly formed, greener than green Georgia State Panthers to play against Alabama. I’m not sure how it happened, but on the very first game of their first year as a football team, Georgia State was slotted to play one of the toughest teams in the nation.
By the end of the first half, it was apparent to all this was going to be a seriously lop-sided game. But Coach Curry’s demeanor was incredibly calm. No matter the mistakes, no matter how many fumbles, incomplete passes or missed tackles, he remained unflappable and focused on the game plan.
Situations that may have shaken the players did not shake him. But then again, it wasn’t his first experience with difficult odds or adversity. It was definitely not his first rodeo.
You see, on January 15, 1967, Coach Curry was simply known as Bill Curry when he played center for the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I. Suffice it to say the man knows a thing or two about the game and all the pressure that goes with it. He’s probably forgotten more football than most people will ever remember.
On the big stage in Tuscaloosa, he understood more than anyone what his team was facing and how to guide them through each and every play. He was intimately familiar with what they had yet to discover. In other words, the Coach had their back.
When a player made a mistake they received encouragement in return. Whether with a pat on the back or a hug around the neck, Coach Curry worked to keep their spirits high.
Though the Crimson Tide was unstoppable in marching, and sometimes skipping to the end zone, Curry was equally unstoppable in his determination to help his players persevere.
And while 100 thousand people may have considered it a hopeless situation based on the scoreboard, the Coach treated his team like champions. He loved them and was committed to the plan he had for each individual, regardless of their performance.
I believe the same is true for us. Sometimes the odds seem stacked against us. Sometimes we feel ill equipped, ill prepared or inadequate for what life has handed us.
Sometimes situations make us feel like rookies in an arena with the world’s great champions. In those moments, we need to keep our eyes on our heavenly Coach. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. Because the things that shake us don’t shake him at all.
You see, God was there on Day One. Suffice it to say he knows a thing or two about life and how to be an over-comer. He’s forgiven more mistakes than most people can even think of. And no matter what stage of life we may find ourselves in, his love and grace is there to guide us through each and every play. He loves us with an unflappable love. He’s unstoppable in his grace and mercy towards us. sincerely. Nothing can undo the plans and purposes he has in mind for us.
No matter the mistakes, no matter how many fumbles we make, no matter how many incomplete passes or missed tackles, his grace is the pat on the back, the bear hug around the neck and the gentle whisper of encouragement in our ear when the score is lop-sided and not in our favor. Regardless of our performance, our inadequacy or the setbacks we may experience, God’s grace and love is always there to help us persevere.
I can’t recall a single play Alabama made during the game against Georgia State that day. The truth is, GSU barely moved the ball. Yet watching such an amazing display of leadership, dedication and poise moved my heart in ways I will never forget. Coach Curry may have been coaching a football team, but God was coaching me about himself and life through the actions of this man.
Georgia State played four quarters of football and walked off the field with their heads held high. Beat up and banged up, yet still standing with each other and with the commitment and encouragement of their Coach. On paper, they were the losers, by a score of 63 to 7. But in their hearts and in the eyes of their Coach, they were never defeated.
We need to have that same attitude regarding our life. No matter what we think the score might be according to the world’s standard, through Christ we are never defeated. Because of God’s unwavering love we are more than conquerors. We are his champions. We are his trophies of grace and restoration to a lost world.
I love the words of Paul the apostle. In Romans 8:38-39 he defiantly declares, “I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Some people say that the game of football is the game of life. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe the game of football is just one more opportunity to learn something about the love and goodness of God. Maybe it’s a venue for displaying the character and nature of what it means to be an epistle written of God and read of men.
Want to discover ways to engage God’s love for the daily demands of life? Check out my new book, 5 Easy Steps to Life Changing Prayer , available now on Amazon.