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A Football Comeback Taught Her the Importance of Not Giving Up

After watching Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts pull off the impossible, she was inspired to keep going.

I turned my grocery cart out of the produce aisle and pulled out the phone buzzing in my purse. It was Julia, my 19-year-old daughter, calling from college.

“Mom, I’m so stressed,” she said without even a hello.

“Business class?” I guessed. Julia had been struggling with the course all semester.

“I’m afraid I’m going to flunk the test tomorrow,” she said. “I pay attention in class, I take notes, I study, but I have zero confidence. Maybe I should change my major.”

“You don’t have to decide that right away,” I said, quickly grabbing the last grocery item on my list. This wasn’t the best place for a serious conversation, and I needed to figure out what to say. “I’ll call you back after I load the car.”

I walked toward the checkout counter, having no idea how to help Julia feel less discouraged. Was changing her major the practical thing to do?

I got in line behind a family decked out in Indiana Colts gear. Giving parental advice was easier when the kids were little. “You like the Colts, huh?” I asked the little boy. He looked about seven.

“I’m a huuuge fan,” he declared. “Peyton Manning’s my favorite player.”

“Really?” I said. “But he’s retired. You’re too young to even remember him playing.”

The boy’s mom jumped in. “He watches videos of Peyton on YouTube. Constantly.”

“My favorite game is the comeback against Tampa Bay,” the boy said. “They call it the Monday Night Miracle. Did you ever see that one?”

I knew it well. I had seen it—well, most of it—live, when it aired back in October 2003. Julia was a toddler then; her brother was in preschool. Their father and I had gone to a friend’s house to watch the game. When the Colts were down 35-14 with only five minutes left in the game, I insisted we head home. “The game is clearly over,” I’d said.

On my way to work the next morning, I learned that the game had been far from over. After we left, the Colts scored 21 points in only four minutes, tying the game and sending it into overtime. They won by a field goal. We’d missed one of the best comebacks of all time.

Years later, I finally caught those four miracle minutes on TV. By that time, I was a single mom living in a tiny rental house with the kids. Flipping channels late at night to distract me from my worries, I watched a replay of the whole game. The Colts fell further and further behind. Peyton threw an interception with five minutes and nine seconds left in the game. Tampa ran it back for a touchdown, making a comeback virtually impossible. The Colts were going to lose their first game of the season. I watched Peyton collapse onto the bench.

I knew how he felt at the moment, because a comeback didn’t seem likely in my life either at that point. The financial struggles, worries about being a good mom, trying to help my kids adjust to the divorce. It was too much too handle. The camera zoomed in on Peyton’s face, full of despair. From his perspective on that bench, failure was inevitable.

But Peyton got his comeback, I thought, adding my groceries to the conveyer belt. And I got mine too. Right after I watched the end of the game that night, I checked my email and found a suggestion from an online dating site I was using. “We think we found a match,” the message read. “Let us know if you’d like to meet him.” I met him, a single dad, and now we were married.

The boy was wheeling the cart off with his mom. “The Monday Night Miracle is my favorite game too,” I called after him. “I’m glad you reminded me of it. Today, especially.”

I hit redial to Julia as soon as I loaded the car. “Don’t give up,” I said. “Keep doing your best, and you just might be surprised.”

Julia got a B on her test the next day and found a classmate to study with in the future. Whatever miracles God sends her way, she’s ready to make the most of them. Like Peyton Manning and me.

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