We all saw it. Well, let me clarify that. “We” all saw it, if you join me in the segment of the population avidly following SEC football in the United States. In this case, I’m referring to the National Championship game that took place in Atlanta on January 8th between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Those were the two teams who emerged to the top at the end of the 2017 college football season. (And just to be 100% clear and transparent, I am a graduate of Auburn University, and my Auburn Tigers handed BOTH teams their only loss during the regular season. So there). But, I digress.
Georgia handily won the first half. At the beginning of the second half, Alabama starting quarterback Jalen Hurts was replaced by a virtually-unknown freshman from Hawaii named Tua Tagovailoa. With his running and passing accuracy, Alabama battled back to tie the score at 20-20. But, a last-second field goal attempt, to win the game for Alabama, failed, putting the game into overtime. Georgia scored first, so we were at 23-20. On Alabama’s first play on offense in overtime, the quarterback was sacked WAY back from the line of scrimmage. It looked very bad for the Tide. But, on the next play, Tua Tagovailoa threw a perfectly-placed missile to the goal line, and it was caught for the winning score. Alabama instantly became the National Champions 26-23. Pandemonium reigned. Confetti poured from the rafters. Coach Saban, generally restrained after victories, was jubilant. Reporters swarmed the field. That’s when it happened. Since Tagovailoa was the undeniable hero of the game, the microphones were immediately in his face.
Without hesitation, he gave glory to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He thanked God for being with him. He quoted Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And, the black crosses painted on his face were there for millions to see. Soon after, he raced to the stands to hug his parents and family members who had transplanted themselves from Hawaii to Alabama to support him in pursuing his dreams. It was a beautiful, tear-producing sight.
In subsequent interviews back in the press room, he continued to start out his remarks by praising God and referring to Jesus as his Lord and Savior. In one clip, he was asked how he felt about moving from Hawaii to Alabama. “Do you miss Hawaii?” His response (at least the way I remember it) was “The people in Alabama are nice. There’s religion here. And there’s football. What more could you ask?” Ha! What a great kid!
I’ve thought so much about those moments after the game. I don’t know about Jalen Hurts’ spiritual condition, but if he had been the game-winning quarterback, would he have witnessed for Christ? I don’t know about the spiritual condition of the placekicker who missed the kick, but if his kick had gone through the uprights, HE would have been the hero. Would he have spoken out for Jesus? Maybe so. I don’t know. But, I DO know that the young man from Hawaii had a microphone thrust into his face, and he used that pivotal moment to tell thousands that he belonged to Jesus.
Would I have been that vocal?
In that moment of overwhelming excitement and joy, would my FIRST thoughts have been about sharing my faith and letting the whole world know I was a Christian?
Would I have been humble enough to take the focus off of myself and my accomplishments and put them on my Savior?
I don’t expect to ever be on a stage of that magnitude, but I would so like to think I would use the opportunity to speak out for Jesus.
I’m not a Florida fan, but I AM a Tim Tebow fan because of his consistent Christian witness.
I’ll never be an Alabama fan, but I AM a Tua fan, and I hope he continues to have opportunities to speak boldly. I expect he’s going to have a huge impact on his teammates, coaches, fellow students at the university and thousands of grateful fans.
Isaiah 42:12 – “Let them give glory to the LORD And declare His praise in the coastlands.”
Psalm 115:1 – “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.”
Psalm 34:3 – “O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.”
Psalm 86:12 – “I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever.”
P.S. A friend just shared with me that on the losing sideline the Georgia quarterback was ALSO praising God. Here’s the clip. No blaming. No excuses. Just “God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.” Wow.