Some are calling the football game this Sunday evening the HAR BOWL. Others are referring to the game as the SUPER BAUGH. They are all thinking of the two brothers, Jim and John Harbaugh, who will be coaching the two teams, the San Francisco 49er’s and the Baltimore Ravens.
Hidden behind this great story and the many other stories that have filled the last two weeks is one I consider to be the biggest story of Super Bowl XLVIII. It’s the story of O.J. Brigance.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, 43-year-old Brigance, a former Baltimore linebacker, now confined to a wheelchair with ALS, presented the Lamar Hunt trophy to Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti. With a large, infectious smile on his face Brigance used a communication device that translated his thoughts to say “Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens. Your resiliency has outlasted your adversity. You are the AFC Champions. You are my mighty men. With God, all things are possible.”
Brigance, nicknamed the “Juice,” started his professional football career in 1991 with the B.C. Lions in the CFL. He moved to the Baltimore Stallions in 1994 and won the 1995 Grey Cup. Brigance moved to the NFL in 1996 and ended up with the Ravens in 2000. In 2002, the Ravens won the Super Bowl, making Brigance the only player to win the Grey Cup and the Super Bowl with a team in the same city.
Brigance, diagnosed with ALS in 2007, has worked with the Ravens since 2004 as a senior advisor for player development. He is highly regarded as an inspirational presence and strength by the staff and players.
The “Juice” isn’t hesitant to share his faith in Jesus Christ with the members of the Ravens. They know their friend relies on his faith to keep him going through all the challenges of his life. Brigance tells them, “The one lesson learned in my life is people’s expectations or limitations have no bearing on God’s plan and expectations of greatness in our lives.”
Asked one time what he does when he gets discouraged, Brigance answered, “When I get discouraged, I remind myself that God will never leave me or forsake me. Every challenge and triumph in my life has prepared me to stand at this moment under the weight of this adversity.”
In an interview, Brigance was asked what he wanted his legacy to be. “I pray my legacy is that I trusted God and made the most of what he entrusted to me. There is still more to be done in me but I thank Jesus I am still in the process.”
This Sunday evening, I’m hoping for a Ravens’ triumph over the 49ers. Whether the Ravens win or not, there’s no question about O.J. Brigance being a true winner!