It was Johnny’s last football game of his high school career. After three long years of practicing hard, studying the playbook, and being a good “team” player, he had spent his entire time on the taxi squad limited to returning punts. The coach said he had the desire; he just didn’t have a lot of natural talent.
It was sunny, chilly, and windy as over ten thousand townsfolk gathered for the annual Thanksgiving Day classic between two arch rivals from neighboring towns. The game had been played on Thanksgiving for over fifty years and it was a premier local social event.
Johnny’s team, the Hurricanes, was the underdog against the bigger, more talented Marlins. While this was routine year after year, Hurricane followers nonetheless always rooted heartily and hoped for a miracle against the defending state champs.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes were showing their grit, battling the Marlins to a scoreless standstill. Neither team had been able to move the ball closer than their opponent’s forty yard line. Tension was building as the Hurricanes sacked the opposing quarterback on his own twenty-five yard line, forcing a punt.
With less than three minutes to go, Johnny nervously retrieved the punt on his own forty and headed downfield. As two tacklers rapidly approached, they suddenly disappeared under two Hurricane blockers, opening a small window down the left side of the field.
As Johnny headed for the opening, he heard his two blockers yell, “Make ‘em pay, Johnny. Go get ‘em.”
Johnny needed no more encouragement. Running like an antelope, he streaked down the sideline. Only one Marlin defender was between Johnny and the goal line. As the impending collision neared, Johnny suddenly made an inside spin move. The defender misjudged and sailed past. Johnny continued untouched into the end zone.
The hometown crowd erupted into loud, gleeful cheers and the band played the fight song with more vigor than ever before heard. And Johnny just dropped to one knee in the end zone, holding the ball high over his head while quickly thanking God for his good fortune.
Now resurgent and determined, the Hurricanes played relentless defense and refused to allow the Marlins to gain ground. For the first time in six years, the Hurricanes had won. They could hold bragging rights for at least one year. And Johnny, the determined bench warmer, was the hero.
As the gun sounded sealing the victory, Johnny’s teammates raised him on their shoulders and carried him in front of the hometown bleachers on the way to the locker room. Johnny was all smiles as he finally experienced his moment of glory, a moment that would bring memories for the rest of his life
As the old man finished telling the story to his grandson, Billy, he was met with a little bit of skepticism. After all, it was pretty hard to believe that Grandpa’s moment of glory had come in the final game of his final season. But Grandpa insisted that the story was accurate and the young boy hugged him and thanked him for the story.
But Billy still had his doubts. He wanted to know what really happened; he just couldn’t get it out of his head.
Several days later, Billy was in the attic rummaging through his grandparents old steamer trunk filled with memories. He came upon an old newspaper. He was curious about the “good old days” so he started scanning the stories.
Reaching the sports section, he was surprised by what he found on its front page. There was a picture of Grandpa being carried off the field with a caption reading, “HURRICANES BEAT MARLINS ON LATE PUNT RETURN, 6-0”. Boy was he impressed, but he also felt guilty that he had doubted Grandpa.
That evening at dinner, Billy turned to his grandpa and said, “Grandpa, I found the article about your big game in the attic. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you. It was just like you said.”
“Well, Little Billy, I’ve been known to tell a yarn or two, but that’s one story I’m really proud of. And after that game, your grandma began to notice me. You know, she was the prettiest cheerleader in school. And look where we are today. God gave me my biggest wish, your grandma. I think God used that game to bring us together.”
And that’s the way God works. You sometimes don’t know he’s working, but he never rests. Have faith and good things will happen.
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