Amazing Comeback!

for the week of January 21, 2002
by Rubel Shelly

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Mike Henderson knows from reading "The FAX of Life" each week that I love stories out of sporting events. But for his work as my research associate, I'd have missed one of the best ever! I didn't see the game. I hadn't heard the story.

The Holiday Bowl was played on December 28, 2001. The University of Texas roared back from a 19-point deficit and won 47-43 over Washington in a storybook ending. Texas started its winning drive with only 1:49 left in the fourth quarter and scored with 38 seconds on the clock. And I missed it. Arrrgh!

But the real story of that day, as Dr. Henderson pointed out, was not the game, the score, or the final season rankings. The real story was the quarterback for UT. Not his four-of-five for 75 yards on the final drive. Not his best-ever by a UT quarterback 473 yards and four touchdowns. Not his 44 school records set or tied in his Longhorn career. But his character as revealed by adversity.

Major Applewhite lost his starting quarterback role last year to the talented NFL-prospect Chris Simms. So he had watched most of the plays in every Texas game this season from the sidelines. But Simms had a very sub-par game in the Big 12 Conference title game. Coach Mack Brown put Applewhite in to run the team after Simms committed four turnovers that led to 26 points for Colorado. He passed for 240 yards and two touchdowns in a desperate come-from-behind rally that fell just short. But it earned him a start in the final game of his college career.

According to newspaper reports, Applewhite "spent a lot of time talking to God quietly" before the game. From those same reports, he wasn't praying so much to win or to set records. He certainly wasn't praying that Simms not get the chance to come in and replace him in the big game. He prayed to be able to do his best in the face of high expectations. He prayed to be able to shake off the rustiness that comes of sidelines inactivity. He prayed to be able to find the silent communication skills that are absolute musts between passer and receivers.

"I'm not going to act like I'm a saint because I'm not," he said. "But I kept praying, trying to be strong, realizing I might get an opportunity. And the Lord gave me that. ... I knew he wasn't going to bring me this far and let me down." As one writer said, the game's ending was "so dazzling it almost seemed created by some feel-good, Hollywood scriptwriter if not blessed by a heavenly hand."

I'll bet you get discouraged by career and personal setbacks sometimes too. Stay ready. Keep sharpening your skills. When you get in the game, do what you're there to do without resentment or bitterness. The outcome can be glorious.

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