2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Fiesta Bowl: Nebraska 62, Florida 24 (January 2, 1996)
The word legend is thrown around way too often in the realm of sports. But in the case of former Nebraska head football coach Tom Osborne, there’s little doubt that such praise is fitting and well deserved.
An abridged list of his mind-boggling accomplishments on the field include three national championships, 13 conference titles, his 255-49-3 overall record, and his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Surprisingly, it took Osborne 22 years to win that first national championship. There were a few close calls earlier in his career (most notably in 1982), but it wasn’t until 1994 when an undefeated season finally added that one missing piece of hardware to the trophy case.
Then in 1995, Osborne led what some have called the greatest college football team ever. With another undefeated season and national championship on the line, the stoic Midwestern gentleman stood before his team in the locker room at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. His speech, as usual, wasn’t very long and it wasn’t overly impassioned. But it was powerful nonetheless.
And just like he was often known to do, Osborne quoted these words from the New Testament:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
From the opening kickoff until the sound of the final horn, there was no hint of fear in his confident and capable team. Considered one of the most dominant championship games in college football history, Nebraska finished strong with a 62-24 victory over the second-ranked Florida Gators in the Fiesta Bowl. Even after a tight first quarter in which the Cornhuskers trailed 10-6, the team’s discipline was evident amid a 29-point second quarter that all but secured the win.
When asked to reflect on his illustrious career, Osborne has shied away from highlighting the obvious moments like that inspired championship run. Instead, he has looked somewhere else for a more accurate barometer of his legacy.
“When coaches die or retire, usually the first thing people talk about is the win-loss record,” Osborne once said. “Somehow that defines you. I hope that isn’t the sole definition of what I did as a coach. Relationships are the most important thing and hopefully I was consistent in my spiritual walk and that players saw that…The fact that I cared about them not just as players but as people was important to them…All of those things are the most important things.”
In 2012, Coach Osborne was honored at Nebraska’s final home game ahead of his retirement as the university’s athletic director. His son Mike had two t-shirts made for the occasion. Both featured an iconic image of Coach Osborne on the front. One shirt was black and said “Nebraska’s Native Son” on the back while listing his major accomplishments. The other shirt was red and said “Legend, Coach, Congressman, Athletic Director and Mentor” on the back.
Mike also wanted to put his dad’s favorite verse on both shirts as well. When asked what the verse might be, Osborne’s former players would not have been surprised to hear their beloved coach once again quote 2 Timothy 1:7.
“My dad does not look to other people or prosperity for approval,” Mike told huskers.com. “His primary concern is living a life according to the values found in the New Testament.”
Dear Lord, help us to life our life to the values that we find as we read Your Word. Give us the strength each day to live for You. N the Name of Jesus, Amen.