Gifted and driven, Penn State linebacker Landon Steele made a name for himself in the world of college football. The only thing that stood between him and the NFL was his last few collegiate games.
Then a heroic, game-saving play ended in one major injury. Landon’s dreams and future were gone. All that remained was a nightmare.
Four years later, Landon’s injury has healed, but his life is still fractured. He gropes to fill the football void. Nothing can replace the challenge and excitement of an NFL career.
God could have prevented this injury. He should have. Landon doesn’t have a play book for life after football. Now he faces one crucial choice. Will this former Lion awaken to God’s best for him?
Chapter 1 Football tickets. Four of them. Six rows back. The first seat, three spaces to the right of the 50-yard line. Great tickets to any game. But these weren’t to just any game. They were tickets to a sold out, scalper’s heaven, football extravaganza. They were the gateway to one of the clashes in all of college football this season. With them, a lucky fan would be able to capture every bit of the highlights’ reel in real time and living color. This battle pitted Penn State against its rival Ohio State in a match up that would likely determine who made the coveted trip to the Rose Bowl in January. These tickets were a gold mine. Landon Steele could only glare at them. “Bob, why do you do this?” Landon fumed and paced. Every football season for the last four, Bob Hughes had sent tickets from the PSU front office to Landon’s desk—while Landon was away from it. The first year they were two seats not quite at “nosebleed” height, but definitely in binocular range. The following year Bob had secured two that were closer to the ground and on the 20-yard line. Last year’s offering had been seats in nearly the same spot, but Bob had included four tickets. Each year’s game had been between PSU and one of its Big Ten opponents. All of the selections had been stellar match ups. The campus had buzzed for days before each one. Every fall Landon had returned the tickets, thanked Bob for his thoughtfulness, and made plans to be out of town on game day. But those games paled in the light of this one. Only once in forever did a game of this magnitude occur right here in Beaver Stadium. For this eleventh game of the season, both teams were undefeated. Both were ranked in the top five. Both were considered serious contenders for the national championship. And in front of Landon lay tickets to four of the best seats in the house. “Die-hard fans would swap their grandmothers for you.” Landon leveled a gaze at the innocent offenders. The phone rang. He started, then lunged for the handset. “Landon Steele speaking.” “Where’s your secretary?” Bob Hughes asked in his good-humored manner. “Did you send her off to buy some more accounting worksheets and pencils?” “Hello, to you, too, Bob,” Landon replied, stifling his frustration at his father’s long-time friend. “You know that I take my lunch break every day from noon to one, and she takes hers from one to two when I come back. That’s why you have deliveries made here before one, but you call after one so that you don’t have to go through Rosalee. I’m afraid your clock is a bit off though. It’s 1:55. You’re lucky she’s not already back.” Apparently oblivious of Landon’s assessment, Bob continued, “So you got my delivery, did you?” “Right here in front of me.” “Can you believe those seats? I almost kept the tickets for Sara and Tony and their kids. Would have made me ‘Grandpa of the Year.’” “They still can. I’ll send them back later today.” “You’ll do no such thing, young man. It’s been four seasons. You’ll graciously accept those tickets, invite your mom, your dad, and some other over-the-top Lions supporter. Then you will sit near the fifty and yell like crazy as Penn State cracks open the Ohio State Buckeyes this Saturday. That’s what you’ll do.” “I can’t.” “You can, Landon.” “Too many memories.” “You don’t have memories any other times?” “Sure I do. They’ll be worse at the game.” “How do you know? You haven’t set foot anywhere near a gridiron for four years.” Landon crumpled a nearby requisition sheet and threw it at the door. Why couldn’t Bob understand? “Saturday’s forecast is sixty-five and sunny.” Unseasonably warm for mid-November in Happy Valley. “Get outside and enjoy it. Bring your parents. Your dad will holler like a maniac, and your mom will cozy up beside him and scream in his ear.” Landon knew that Bob was right. He wondered how he could explain away those tickets if Mom and Dad ever found out about them. They’d be crushed to have missed such an opportunity. Nonetheless, Landon would return Bob’s gift this afternoon as usual and visit his parents this weekend in Philipsburg as he did most home-game Saturdays. The thirty-five minute drive got him away from the football frenzy and nearer the ones who understood his situation best. “Your dad and I had a nice chat this morning,” Bob said, interrupting Landon’s thoughts. “I’ll see you around, Landon. No need to thank me.” The click ended Bob’s call and left Landon gaping at the receiver. “Thank you? Thank you!” Landon exploded. “I want to wring your neck, Bob Hughes. How dare you? Give me the tickets but tell my dad about them. You meddling—officious—over-bearing—pushy know-it-all. You don’t have a clue.” The intercom buzzed. “What?” he barked. “Sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Steele. Are you all right? I just returned and heard voices.” His secretary’s apologetic tone relaxed Landon’s clenched fists. “Yes, Rosalee.” He forced himself to exhale. “I’m fine.” A pause ensued, followed by, “Oh—okay, sir—if you’re sure.” “Just venting. Sorry.” “Can I do anything to help?” Dear, thoughtful Rosalee. She was old enough to be Landon’s mother—if not his grandmother—and she was practically an institution at the university. She could have moved up the ladder to just about anywhere, but she wouldn’t. Landon could hear her mantra even now. “No way, no how, am I leaving this office, not until I’m so stiff they have to pry me from this chair.” She hadn’t yet given any indication that anyone should get the crowbar. “Please, give me about twenty minutes,” Landon said. Twenty minutes would be more than enough time to scratch out some words of regret and thanks. “I’ll have a letter ready for Bob Hughes. If you’d see that it’s delivered, I’d be grateful.” “Of course, sir. Twenty minutes.” Landon flopped down into his black leather desk chair and rubbed his throbbing temples. A short time later he hunched forward, resting his elbows on the desk and his chin on his hands.
CINDY BINGHAM has taught English and speech for over twenty years. She has used her writing skills to compose numerous school programs for speech classes and has written one inspirational musical. Her writing has received awards at both St. David’s Writer’s Conference and Mercer One-Day Writer’s Conference.
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