Michael Katz, one of our young ‘uns, had the best take on last week’s Texas-Oklahoma news.
We were all at SEC Media Days, and he and Stefan Krajisnik • the Journal’s new college writers – were feeling their way around as rookies do.
Scaled down as it was because of COVID-19, SEC Media Days was still a show. It stands on its own legs as a news-making machine and doesn’t really need help from leaks that say two of college football’s biggest brands want to join the party because it just means more.
But that’s what we got last Wednesday, and the Texas-OU story sucked the life out of the room.
It prompted Katz to say, “Only Texas could make SEC Media Days about Texas.”
Maybe he was quoting someone else, I didn’t ask. I’m just assuming we’ve hired talented people who acclimate quickly.
The Texas-OU story was so big that it overshadowed the news of Bobby Bowden’s pancreatic cancer, which broke on the same day.
It also eclipsed comments from Auburn quarterback Bo Nix. They weren’t Earth-rattlers per se, but they gave insight into how Nix stays grounded in the pressure cooker of his position.
A day apart, the Bowden and Nix comments were unintentionally linked.
Contrasts and consensus
They represented a man nearing the finish line and a man with – hopefully, because days aren’t guaranteed – many life experiences still out in front. Both showed a clear understanding of their Christian faith and the same message: Life is more than football.
Bobby Bowden was successful at West Virginia but is known for his dominant run at Florida State, which included national championships in 1993 and 1999.
He is a college football icon.
He told the Tallahassee Democrat last week, “I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come. My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. I am at peace.”
Bobby Bowden has ample reason to cling to his accomplishments and adulation. Instead he speaks as one not eager to leave but confident and prepared.
The day after the Bowden news broke, Nix was the next-to-last speaker at Media Days. Many in the main ballroom had left, and many who remained were distracted.
Nix is preparing for his junior season and has been Auburn’s starting quarterback since he got to campus in 2019.
He’s seen the highs and lows common to most careers, and he’s heard the criticism that goes with the lows.
The criticism has in fact helped deepen his faith, he said.
“I know that Jesus Christ died for me, and no matter what happens I can always go to Him in a time of need,” Nix said. “When you’re 19 years old, and you have 40-year-old men talking bad about you, it’s a different perspective. You realize the world is bigger than football, and so much is going to happen outside of it.”
Nix sees his church as a time to “reset” during the lows.
“No matter what happens, football will end one day, and it’s just all about what kind of impact I can have on the lives of others,” he said.
Texas and Oklahoma on Monday announced their intentions to leave the Big 12. It’s likely the tip of the spear in major changes to the landscape of college football.
These are historic times.
But to Bowden, Nix and athletes of faith, it’s still just football.