There aren’t many jobs in this world that I’d like less than being a kicker for a football team. You stand around for most of the game, trotting out occasionally for a kickoff or an extra point or a field goal, and nobody really notices you or pays much attention to you. Until, that is, the game is on the line and the outcome hangs on one swing of your leg.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about Noah Ruggles this week. He’s the kicker for Ohio State, the young man who missed a 50 yarder at midnight on New Year’s Eve against the Georgia Bulldogs. Yes, I jumped up and down and cheered like the rest of the Bulldog faithful, but I couldn’t help feeling for the guy, especially when I realized it was not just the last kick of his season, but the last of his career as a collegian.
What a career he’s had. He’s made 82.4% of the field goals he attempted. He’s scored 364 points and, out of 197 extra points he tried, he only missed once. ONCE. All some will remember is one missed field goal, a kick that was longer than his career longest of 49 yards.
Most of the folks ridiculing him couldn’t kick a single extra point, much less 196 of them. I’ll bet most couldn’t kick a football 50 yards, not in the air, but including the roll and the bounces. We certainly couldn't kick it 50 yards, high enough to clear the uprights and straight straight between the posts. Not to mention with 100,000 people screaming their heads off in the stadium, several million more watching on their TVs, and 11 large men snarling and charging at us with mayhem on their minds. It takes incredible talent, intestinal fortitude, courage, and focus to even attempt what he and other kickers do.
Here’s something I hope Noah Ruggles knows. He is more than one kick; in fact, he’s more than the sum total of all the kicks he’s made or missed. He is more than a ball player, more than an athlete, more than a Buckeye or a college student.
Noah Ruggles is loved by God. And God wouldn’t love him one bit more if he’d made the kick, nor one bit less because he missed it. After all, John 3:16 doesn’t say a word about kicking a football, but it does say a bunch about love. And that's the Gospel truth.