Unfortunately, Bush then took off, running nearly 60 yards in the wrong direction toward the (wrong) goal line. Fortunately, for him and his team, one of his own teammates tackled him just before he reached the end zone, preventing a safety in the process.
Fairfield went on to lose the game. But given that their record is now an abysmal 0-7, Bush’s mistake was not near as grievous as it could have been. He took a little razzing; but in the end, his coach, his team, and the fans were all fairly forgiving.
This is not the first time this scenario has unfolded. The article went on to relate that 55 years earlier, on October 26, 1964, a professional player named Jim Marshall, playing for the Minnesota Vikings, recovered a fumble and raced it 66 yards in the wrong direction into his own end zone during the fourth quarter, thus giving a safety to the opposing San Francisco 49ers. (Fortunately, for Mr. Marshall, the Vikings still managed to defeat the 49ers by a score of 27-22.)
What the article did not reference was the story of “Wrong Way Riegels”. 90 year ago, on New Year’s Day, 1929, the Georgia Institute of Technology played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. During the game, a Georgia Tech running back named Jack "Stumpy" Thomason fumbled the ball.
Roy Riegels, playing what would today be called the position of nose guard, saw the ball and picked it up. Even though he was only 30 yards away from the Yellow Jackets' end zone, Riegels somehow got turned around and ran 69 yards in the wrong direction! Just before he crossed the goal line, one of his own teammates, Benny Lom, tackled him. He landed two feet shy of the goal line.
Upon discovering what he had done, Riegels summed up his feelings in one sentence: “If I could have dug a hole in that turf I would have covered my head and not appeared again!”
History records that, after the play, Riegels was so distraught that Coach Nibs Price had to talk him into returning to the game for the second half. Reportedly, Riegels said "Coach, I can't do it. I've ruined you, I've ruined myself, I've ruined the University of California. I couldn't face that crowd to save my life." To which Coach Price is reputed to have responded by saying "Roy, get up and go back out there - the game is only half over."
Riegels did return to the field of play, where sources indicate that he turned in a “stellar” second half performance, including blocking a Tech punt. Nonetheless, his team went on to lose the game by a score of 8-7.
And according to one contemporary article, there were approximately 4,500 stories totaling an estimated 250,000 column inches written about Riegels' wrong way run in newspapers across the United States in the following days and weeks.
Nevertheless, Riegels took it all in stride, and did not let this one single mistake define the rest of his life.
In fact, later in life, he said the blunder of that day actually made him a better person. In an interview with the Pasadena Star, he later stated: "I gained true understanding of life from my Rose Bowl mistake. I learned you can bounce back from misfortune and view it as just something adverse that happened to you."
What is more, he spent the rest of his life encouraging others who made similar mistakes. These included writing letters to everyone from high school players who ran interceptions back the wrong way for safeties to the professional player mentioned above who did the same.
Perhaps as much for his humble spirit as for his talent, Riegels was eventually elected to both the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame and the University of California’s Hall of Fame.
For my part, I love the story of “Wrong Way Riegels”. This is because it reminds me that all of us can, and do, make mistakes. Given enough time, each of us will fumble the proverbial ball. More to the point, we will all eventually find ourselves headed in the wrong direction!
The good news is that such mistakes do not have to define us! The Bible is full of individuals who made such mistakes, and who wound up going the wrong way. The Old Testament Prophet Jonah literally went the wrong way when he went down to Joppa as opposed to Ninevah where God had sent him. The New Testament Apostle Peter also went the wrong way when he denied Jesus and fled the scene of the unfolding crucifixion.
In each of these cases, the men were wrong to have done so. But in each case as well, they discovered the error of their ways and repented. And when they did, God forgave them, reinstated them, and used them for His purposes.
What do we learn from this? We learn that God allows U-Turns! Just because we made a mistake and went the wrong way, we do not have to continue in that direction. Nor do we have to let that blunder define us! Both Jonah and Peter went on to experience tremendous victories, as they lived their lives thereafter on behalf of the Lord! The same can be true for you and me!
And so, my friend, if you find that you have made some terrible mistake, or that you have somehow goofed up and gotten turned around, such that you are even now headed in the wrong direction, then please remember that the God of the Bible is the God who forgives and restores!
Just as “Wrong Way Riegels” was forgiven by his coach, and then given a second half in order to redeem himself, even so our God forgives us through Jesus Christ, and then gives us second chances to do much the same! As He does, it is incumbent on us to suit up and hit the field of play once again.
God has done his part. Let us now do ours!
NEWS ARTICLE: https://www.foxnews.com/sports/california-high-school-player-tackles-teammate-interception.
ROY RIEGELS STORY: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Riegels.