I am very fond of Pastor Joel Osteen. His sermons are moving, inspiring and provide great counsel and wisdom for me and millions of others in how God helps us deal with the challenges and problems we encounter in the world in which we live. I listen to Joel regularly on the Sirius XM “Joel Osteen Radio Show.”
As I was driving this morning, I heard Joel’s sermon on “big dreams” and it focused on asking God to deliver on “not small but big promises.” It triggered a memory of one of my “big dreams” when I was a freshman QB at the University of North Carolina. Joel so effectively inserts real life stories to get his message across. Sometimes he uses baseball or basketball examples. But I think I have a football testimonial that Joel might include in a future sermon. It happened before my first game as a freshman at UNC.
A little background – I graduated from Syosset H.S. in Syosset, NY as a much heralded football student-athlete where our Syosset High School team registered an undefeated season and finished ranked #1 in New York. I was awarded many honors culminating with Prep All-American. After a big recruiting battle, I chose UNC where I followed my older brother Chris who as a senior QB at UNC was All-ACC and set a number of NCAA passing records.
My testimonial setting is during my first college football game – the opening game of the 1976 UNC season. The Tar Heels were taking on Miami (Ohio) University in Chapel Hill, NC and a big opening game crowd of 50,000 people gathered in beautiful Kenan Stadium to watch the Tar Heels. I remember being so nervous that as we ran out of the locker room to the thunderous applause of the crowd that my legs wouldn’t move. I didn’t think I could run – was I nervous!
But my testimonial began a few minutes before the locker room doors were thrust open and we took the field. Head Coach Bill Dooley would tell us before we would take the field that we had a few moments to “do what you have to do.” That meant different things for the players. For me, I took a knee and began to pray.
As nervous as I had ever been in my life and not knowing what to expect in my first college game, I thought I’d ask God for a little help. I started to pray, “Dear God please let us win today and let me play well.” I would assume this is a typical pre-game prayer.
But as I was saying my prayer a thought came to me, “wait dear God, the opposing quarterback is probably also saying the exact same prayer and how can you root for either of us to play better and win. I need to take this prayer to a new level.” Or as Joel preached, “take this to God for a bigger promise”!
Stumped, but still very nervous, I thought to myself I’d propose a new deal to God. So I asked, “dear God how about if we make a deal that going forward my pre-game prayer will be to ask solely that we have good weather and no rain?” As a quarterback with relatively small hands, I totally despised a wet ball! I thought God would be perfectly fine with that prayer as would the opposing quarterbacks who would also appreciate good weather!
Well, guess what?!! I wound up playing four years- 47 games in total over four years for UNC –and not once did a game ever start in rain! That’s right, four years and not one game started in rain!
We did have a heavy rain come during the second half of the Wake Forest game my sophomore year. And my prayers were really tested my senior year when we were getting set to play a University of Pittsburgh team that wound up going 11-1 (we beat them!) that season and included the likes of a All-Americans Hugh Green and Ricky Jackson on defense and freshman QB Dan Marino. All morning there was a heavy downpour in Chapel Hill. And I mean really raining! But miraculously – and I do believe it was a miracle – an hour or so before the game the skies opened and it was sunny, hot and muggy which helped us wear down the Pittsburgh Panthers from the northeast to win 17-7. Thank you God!
So yes, Joel, I do believe in dreaming “big dreams.” Here is a football testimony for your future sermons!