As I backed up from the center I realized that I was in trouble. Nothing but burnt orange Texas Longhorns jerseys in sight. I pumped the ball, got ready to let it fly and the first guy hit me, low, from the side, right on my knee. I felt the knee give, heard it pop and I hit the ground. With two players on top of me, it took everything I could muster to holler, “My knee, get off me, my knee is out!”
It seemed as if they took their sweet time getting off of me; the refs calling the team doc over to assess my leg took forever. Fortunately, the doc was sure that the leg wasn’t broken, but my knee was toast. As they helped me hop off the field, using one leg, the player that hit me apologized as he ran back to his huddle, “Sorry, man, hope you’re ok.”
This was my senior year, I was being scouted by the pros – the scouts were here tonight and I get hurt. Could things get any worse? I laid there, with my helmet sitting on my chest and the ice pack on my knee, being driven from the field like a big baby. Once I reached the locker room, the docs evaluated my knee, gave me something for pain and then they loaded me into the ambulance. Riding to the hospital, I felt tears welling up in my eyes so I turned away from the EMT that sat at my side. I had the opportunity to get a scholarship and now that’s gone. I had hoped that my future could be built around my football abilities. I was so careful to avoid the gangs and drugs and to limit my friends to those that were good influences. Grandpa’s favorite line was “Birds of feather flock together.” I knew exactly what he meant and tried to make the right decisions. What good was that now?
The docs checked me out and told me there was no ACL damage, but that they needed to immobilize my knee for a few days, then they would look at it again. Next thing I knew, right next to me, in the next bed, was a UT player, the one that blindsided me. He was in a lot of pain with a shoulder separation. He looked over at me and said, “Guns Up, huh Raider?” I smiled back at him, “Hook ‘em Horns,” and told him he’d feel better as soon as they gave him some pain meds. Then they fitted me with a contraption that kept my knee from extending.
It wasn’t long before we were both a little hazy and talking up a storm. “My name’s Jeff.” I said. He responded, “Mine’s Dave.”
“Good to meet ya, Longhorn.”
By the end of the night, both of us were released with instructions to our parents about rehab schedules. We found ourselves in the physical therapy lab at the same time every other day. While I worked on exercising my knee, I shared with Dave about my Christian walk. Dave initially laughed at me, praying before I began my workouts. But when he realized how quickly my knee was growing stronger, he asked me to pray for him too before starting his shoulder sessions.
It only took three weeks for both of us to be back in shape to get the ‘go-ahead’ to return to practice.
I took my place in practice, reaching for the ball from the center, feeling more alive than I could remember. Sharing my faith with Dave strengthened my resolve in living for Christ. But the second stringer, Will, was not quite as happy that I was back on the field.
It was later in the season that I got Dave’s call, “Hey Red Raider, whazzup?”
“Whatcha know, Longhorn?”
“Jeff, I decided to read up on what you have been telling me about - and, well… I’m going to be baptized this Sunday, would you come?”
“Dave, that’s great, absolutely I’ll be there!”
As it turned out, I gave up my football dreams and went on to become a pastor. Later on, I officiated Dave’s marriage.
The second-string quarterback, Will? He went on to play for the Broncos and was in a small group study with me every other week.
My witness stood stronger than I ever knew.
I was drafted by the right team after all.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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