Tua Tagovailoa (the freshman QB) came off the bench after halftime last week and led Alabama to (yet another) College Football National Championship, and below was his first interview right after the game. Wow! Did he just say what I think he said? (20 seconds in). “My parents will be mad, so, first, excuse me, but I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…”

Wow! — he did say that! His parents will be mad? Why? Is it because his parents think that Jesus would probably prefer that their son give direct answers to direct questions, and not try to shoehorn “Jesus” into the conversation? That was my first (very hopeful) thought. But no, Tua apparently thought that his parents would be upset because it took him 20 seconds before he mentioned Jesus. Please tell me that I’m not the only one who finds this NOT refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of us love seeing well-spoken, gifted athletes mentioning Jesus — it’s affirming! We think, “Jesus helps people! See! I’m not weird! Jesus is cool!” …by the way, He really does actually help people, but I digress. Still though, we might have to check our own pulses if we are not at least a tiny bit encouraged when “winners” credit Jesus. So, I may not speak for all believers, but I will throw this out there — I like it better when athletes talk about Jesus after they lose. In fact, it just makes more sense to me.

Maybe some of you feel like I do, but my Facebook feed tells me otherwise. Just yesterday, Case Keenum (the  Minnesota Viking QB) got the “Jesus mention” in right off the bat after his completely improbable 61 yard game winning TD pass as time expired (which WAS awesome). Keenum, to his credit in my opinion, just “mentioned Jesus”; he didn’t credit Jesus as being the reason for the game winning TD (that’s an important distinction these days). His exact sentiments were, “Today is probably the third best day of my life, after the day I gave my life to Jesus Christ, and after the day I married my wife.” That’s a pretty sweet answer. My friend Mark on Facebook chimed in with “Case coming with the correct order of priorities! — God, family, vocation!”

How can I disagree with that? I absolutely affirm that order of priorities — God, family, vocation. Here’s the problem though, I don’t look back on “giving my life to Jesus” as being a good thing. At the time it was awesome — that moment back in college when I really believe I understood grace for the first time and laid in my bunk in my dorm room and silently told God that I’m giving my life to Jesus. I said it to Him then (and probably other times, I can’t remember). Yeah, like Case Keenum, I have done that.

That was a profound moment in my life and part of the testimony that I’ve told a gazillion times. However, today, it terrifies me more than it encourages me that I said out loud, “I give my life to Jesus.” That was almost 40 years ago, and most of the days since then, I haven’t “consciously” given my life to Jesus. When I look back on my saying that “I give my life to Jesus,” I shudder.

Reality for me all this time later says otherwise. I will understand if you say that it sounds like semantics, but it’s important to me — from the day I said those words, the greatest thing happening in my life has been that Jesus has given His life to me!, and yes, I will go with awesome wife #2, kiddos #3, and some semblance of a vocation #4. I have also had some big wins, actual wins in life that I DO credit Jesus with because I didn’t know where else to turn. Winning a game has never been among those things, but maybe if that was what my paycheck was based on, I would sing a different tune.

Still, I prefer the words of Jeb Blazevich — the Senior second-string tight end for the University of Georgia, who was interviewed here locally after he had played his last (probably ever) football game and lost last week in the National Championship to Alabama:

Question: “Jeb, after four years here playing football at Georgia, and after playing in the National Championship Game, what do you think your legacy is?”

Jeb Blazevich: “I don’t know, Jesus loved me, and he told me to love people, and I just want to try to do that.”

Yeah, the guy who lost said that. I would be pretty dang proud if that was my kid, no matter how long it took him to say it.