One of the most famous plays in football history happened on New Year’s Day in the 1929 Rose Bowl. Georgia Tech was playing the University of California. A player for California by the name of Roy Riegals recovered a fumble but somehow got turned around and ran over 60 yards the wrong way.
A teammate by the name of Benny Lom caught Riegals and tackled him just before he crossed the goal line. A few plays later, California would attempt a punt deep in their end zone as a result of “wrong way Riegals” run, only to have the kick blocked with Georgia Tech scoring a safety.
Riegals’ mishap occurred in the first half. During halftime, Riegals settled into a corner, draped a blanket around his shoulders and cried like a baby. The locker room was uncharacteristically quiet that day. Just as halftime was coming to an end, California Coach Nibs Price looked at his team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.”
Everyone started out of the locker room except for Roy Riegals. The coach approached his broken player and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.” Riegals looked up at his coach and with tears still streaming down his face 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 couldn’t face the crowd in the stadium to save my life.”
Coach Nibs Price reached out and put his hand on the shoulder of Riegals and simply said, “Roy get up and go on back. The game is only half over.” Riegals did get up and go back onto the field, and he played an outstanding second half of football against the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech.
Roy Riegals is a wonderful example of a second chance. Many would look back at the 1929 Rose Bowl game and say, “What a great coach.” And indeed, Coach Price was a great coach. And his encouragement to Riegals to go out and play the second half is a powerful lesson for overcoming setbacks. But greater still is when we make similar mistakes in life, and God says, “The game is only half over.” And He gives each of us a second chance in life.
The story of the Bible is God’s second chance for a people who have been disobedient. Consider the story of Jonah. Jonah ran from God’s calling, and yet God gave him a second chance. The city of Nineveh was wicked and corrupt, and yet God gave them a second chance. The world today is rampant in disobedience to God and the Bible. But our God is a second chance God. But in our second chance, let’s play our hearts out for the Head Coach, Jesus Christ.
Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Accept the free gift that Jesus offers, and live the rest of your life playing hard for Jesus, much like Riegals became known for in the second half of the Rose Bowl. Don’t quit, because God hasn’t quit on you!