Most of my Auburn friends already know this story, but it is worth repeating for anyone who has not heard it. In the Auburn-Ole Miss game last year (2009), Auburn defensive back, Zac Ethridge, wrapped up Ole Miss running back, Rodney Scott, in what seemed to be a routine tackle. Neither player got up from the pile, however, and players immediately yelled over to the bench that something was terribly wrong.
Ethridge was laying on top of Scott. Scott was fine, but instead of getting up, he lay perfectly still. This is unusual for football players, because they are taught to get up as fast as possible in order to get set for the next play. Coaches teach that if someone is on top of you, roll out from underneath them and get back to the huddle. In an interview later, Scott told reporters that something told him not move, and so he stayed perfectly still. It’s a good thing he did.
Ethridge hit his head on one of his teammate’s shoulder pads on the way down, tearing tendons and cracking his C5 vertebrae. Ethridge lost control of his body, and the other players knew it was bad because he just lay there, and the only thing he was moving was his eyes when he blinked. He said that a lot of things went through his mind, and that he was calling out to Jesus. It was a good thing (or, God thing) that Scott did not move as it could have permanently paralyzed Ethridge. Scott lay there for a long while, allowing responders to immobilize Ethridge so that they could transport him to the hospital. Ethridge will be in a brace for a while, but is expected to make a full recovery.
The two football players met at a recent Will Graham celebration in Auburn. They told their story to the crowd and both acknowledged that God was at work in the events that took place that evening. Scott felt God’s call to be still, and he obeyed even though it went against his training. In doing so, he helped save the life of someone on the other team – the enemy. This was a brilliant display of character, sportsmanship, love, and obedience. It reminds me of the story of Acts 16, when Paul and Silas stayed in the prison, and spared the life of the jailer.
Acts 16:23-29 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. (NRSV)
Works consulted: Dothan Eagle