Saturday’s football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the South Carolina Gamecocks was rocking along with all the energy and passion you expect from a game in Williams-Brice Stadium. In the second quarter, though, the festive atmosphere changed in the blink of an eye to something much more serious.
Gamecock All-American running back Marcus Lattimore took a hand-off to the left of the line and cut up field. Two Tennessee defenders hit him at the same time, one at the shoulder and the other on his leg. Lattimore’s knee gave way as though it had been snapped in two and he collapsed onto the field like a rag doll.
It was one of the most gruesome injuries that have occurred in college football in many years and most people who saw it feared the worst.
At first it seemed his leg had been broken, but later medical diagnosis confirmed the injury was a hyperextension of the knee along with ligament damage. The injury, while serious, wasn’t as catastrophic as it first appeared.
Coming on top of Lattimore’s season-ending injury last year to his left leg, though, this latest injury calls into question his future as a potential NFL star. He could come back. Lattimore’s rehabilitation of last year’s injury was legendary. This is a young man with great work habits who’s committed to the game of football. Still, you have to wonder.
All this is so unfair. Lattimore is a young man of character, a leader on not just his own team but also an ambassador for college football. Following Saturday’s injury, in fact, both teams surrounded him on the field, in an unprecedented show of support.
More than his football impact, though, Marcus Lattimore is a follower of Jesus. His witness is both consistent and effective and he’s made a difference in a lot of lives. Like so many college football players today, he uses his athletic skills as a platform to witness for Jesus.
A football superstar. A man of character. A Christian. The whole future wide open. But now a hard lesson. Coach Steve Spurrier said: “We'd rather have Marcus on our team, that's for dang sure. In life, sometimes you've got to move on with whatever hand you're dealt.”
The local leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is in our church, and yesterday he shared a moving testimony to Lattimore’s situation then led us in prayer for him. His point wasn’t that the Gamecock running back is unique or deserves any kind of special treatment; people of all sorts deal with accidents, tragedies and setbacks. The FCA leader simply wanted for all of us to realize the challenges to faith that are common and how all of us have to respond.
Thinking through all this, there are several lessons for life that we can learn:
· You can do everything right and life still may not work out the way you think it should.
· Being a winner has more to do with your character than the score of whatever game you’re playing.
· Having faith in Jesus doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to you.
· Faith in Jesus is good not because it guarantees you success but because it’s true.
· Wrestling with faith during hard times doesn’t mean you’re insincere or hypocritical; it means you’re well on the way to the real thing.