On New Years Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. Late in the second quarter, Georgia Tech handed the ball off to their running back, Jack “Stumpy” Thomason, who then fumbled the ball and California recovered the fumble. The player that recovered the fumble was Roy Reigels. He picked up the ball and began to run as hard and fast as he could – but all the players just stood in complete shock because they had never seen anything like it before. You see, somehow, when Reigels picked up the fumble he became confused and started running 70 yards in the wrong direction. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, chased him down and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team – Georgia Tech. When California attempted to punt, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety which gave the lead and the victory. The Rose Bowl consider it to be the most famous play in Rose Bowl history, and it gave Georgia Tech an 8-7 victory as 71,000 fans watched.
The play happened in the first half, and everyone listening to or watching the game was wondering what Coach Nibbs Price would do with Roy Reigels in the second half. The players filed off the field and went into the field house for half-time. They sat down on benches and on the floor – all but Reigels. He put a blanket on his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby. That day Coach Price was quiet, no doubt thinking about what to do. One of the refs came in and announced 3 minutes before playing time. The coach looked at the team and simply said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players all got up and started out, all but Reigels. He did not budge. “Roy, didn’t you hear me?” he asked Reigels. Reigels, looking up with tear stained cheeks, said “Coach, I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you; I’ve ruined the University of California, I’ve ruined myself. I can’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.” Coach Price reached out, put his hand on Reigels shoulder, and said to him: “Roy, get up and go on back, the game is only half over. Roy Reigels went back, and Georgia Tech players and coaches told everyone “You have never seen a man play football as Roy Reigels played that second half.”
Some lessons are obvious:
1. It doesn’t matter if we are playing ball, in the classroom or on the job, we are going to mess up and go the wrong way. Time and again we will blow it. We will fail. We will mess things up. Even as Christians we will not get it right or always do the right thing. But Failure is never Final. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we can get back up, start fresh and give it our best. Who knows, we may “play” better than we ever have before. Thank God for his forgiveness and allowing us to get back in the game (1 John 1:9; James 5:16). God is the God of second, third, fourth . . . . chances.
2. Many have quit because they can’t live with the mistakes they have made. But if Jesus promises to forgive, (and he does) then we need to rejoice in his forgiveness, and in His wonderful love get back doing what we are supposed to be doing. Love must be the motive.
3. We need men and woman like Coach Price, who will allow and encourage those who have made mistakes to get “back in the game.” In Galatians 6:1-2 Paul said, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, consider yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We need to listen to the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 12:12-13 “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”
4. As long as we are on this earth, we are still playing in the second half. For some, the “game” has ended (as we have noticed the last few weeks). Some are closer to ending the game than others. Yet, none of us know when we will make that last play. Hence, as long as you are alive, you need to keep playing the game. DON’T QUIT.
It is my hope that these words may encourage all of us as we live for the Lord and for his glory. Remember, we have the greatest coach, Jesus, that showed us how to live, and he wants us to win!
This was adapted and enlarged by an article from Joshua Posey, Wrong Way Reigels, May 2011