People of Faith: Jeff Fisher
- Thursday, January 16, 2003
One Little Yard
Of course, it did begin to work, and work well. The Titans had 13 wins, three losses; three playoff wins later, the team was in the Super Bowl. Then came that dramatic ending-one yard short.
"Though we didn't win that game, we didn't lose it, either," Jeff says. It was Jeff-and not the coach who left with the Super Bowl ring-who appeared in a national "Got Milk?" ad campaign. The Titans were given a parade in Nashville. And the game was listed among the most thrilling ever.
Still, bigger things were at work. Quarterback Kurt Warner led the St. Louis Rams to the win, then used the spotlight to share his faith. "What a great story and an amazing man of faith," Juli says. "He was handing out cards with his testimony at the end of the game."
In many ways, Jeff had experienced victory in his Atlanta hotel room, hours before the kickoff of Super Bowl XXXIV. Packing up to leave his makeshift office, he found a fax from a dying man's nurse. The man, a longtime fan of the team, wouldn't live to see another Super Bowl. The nurse never expected Jeff would have time to do what she asked: "If you can find a moment, can you call him?"
He did. "The man couldn't speak, but he could hear," Jeff remembers. "As I hung up the phone, I could hear him crying and moaning. I sat silently for a moment and things suddenly were in perspective. The game, only hours away, that had seemed bigger than life ... really wasn't."
Heading Toward the Cross
The lessons football has taught didn't end in the closing seconds of the 1999 Super Bowl. Before last year's "Monday Night Football" match-up between the Titans and the Ravens, Juli gathered a group of friends to pray on the field.
During this game, the Titans would attempt to avenge their playoff loss to the Ravens, which had ended their 2000 season Super Bowl hopes. Juli planted a small cross in the south end zone at the base of the goal post, tucked behind the television cable that carried the game to the world.
"We knelt and prayed that the Lord would use this team and this game as a reflection of Him as it televised the game to the ends of the earth," Juli says.
Jeff knew what his wife had done. When it came time to choose which goal to defend in the third quarter, Jeff chose the one with the cross. His reason was simple: "I wanted to be going toward the cross in the fourth quarter."
With less than two minutes on the clock, the Titans were losing, but began heading toward that cross. "I knew there was no doubt we were going to win that game," Juli says.
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