Friday, February 08, 2008

The Guy Who Called it Quits

“Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him." (Hebrews 10:38)

The summer sun was unseasonably hot. The strength and conditioning coach, nicknamed “Mad Dog” by the players, seemed unreasonably intense as he pushed harder and harder upon those trying out for the football team during two-a-days in August 1990. The college football world was buzzing with the University of Colorado’s golden season the year before, and now everybody wanted on the bandwagon.

There were two guys in particular who showed up supposing they could make it as walk-ons. They were flabby and undisciplined, yet had real potential. I watched as day after day “Mad Dog” pushed these two guys beyond their limits. Drill after drill, lap after lap. He was trying to get them in shape to make the team.

I will never forget the afternoon when these two guys rounded the far corner of the football field on lap five, and suddenly stopped in their tracks. Hands on their hips, heads hanging down, chests heaving for air – they gathered themselves for that long, lonely walk across the field to the coach.

“You guys calling it quits?” the coach asked. “Yeah, coach,’ they answered, “it’s harder than we thought it would be.”

"Alright, then,” coach responded, “you guys get in shape and come back next season and try again.”

With that the two walked off the field toward the locker room. What happened next is why I remember this scene so vividly all these years later. The strength and conditioning coach, a hard-nosed disciplinarian dedicated to excellence, watched those two guys walk away—and his eyes filled with tears.

“Damn,” he quietly whispered, “those guys could’ve been champions. All they had to do was finish that last lap and they were on the team.”

I was astounded to see how much he truly loved these guys, and how close they came to reaching their dreams—only to walk away. This was driven home with force a few months later when the University of Colorado football team played Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl and won a share of the 1991 National Championship.

Those two guys watched the game on TV—when they could have been playing on the field. What about you? Are you going to quit in the final lap because the going is too hard? Are you going to walk off the field and let your dream fade away? Or, are you going to hang tough and go the distance?

The Bible says, “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb.10:38,39).

Finish this lap, my friend. You are closer to the prize than you realize!

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