March 10 2010

Washington Post article
January 9, 1993

For Bills Quarterback, Faith Is Surest Victory

by Carey Kinsolving

The Buffalo Bills’ Frank Reich, pro football’s man of the moment, says the impending Second Coming of Jesus Christ prepped him for his backup role in leading the Bills to a record come-from-32-points-behind victory over the Houston Oilers last Sunday.

The Second Coming? And the NFL playoffs?

“The Lord tells us we don’t know the hour or the day [of the Second Coming], and that’s much like my job,” said Reich, as dedicated a Bible student as he is backup quarterback.

“Being a Christian athlete has made me a better quarterback because I understand the concept of what it is to be prepared for something that I don’t know when it’s coming.”

In a recent telephone interview, Reich carefully avoided claiming that he wins because he is a Christian. He said that he doesn’t understand why God allows the Bills to win some games and lose others.

“All I know is that I have to go out and prepare and play as hard as I possibly can,” he said.

Reich did pray for victory over the Oilers, but not for the reasons that most fans might suspect. Reich has been reading in Samuel I and II about King David, who prayed for victory so he could proclaim the name of the Lord to the nations.

“I prayed, ‘Lord, I want us to win, and I want us to have the opportunity just to glorify your name,’” Reich said.

For eight years Reich, 31, has played a backup role to a quarterback whom he calls one of the game’s greatest, Jim Kelly. But last Sunday, he got his chance to prove his own talents, filling in for the injured teammate. It was an experience he had lived before.

Reich also played backup to Boomer Esiason for three years at the University of Maryland.

After Esiason graduated, Reich got his chance to take the primary quarterback slot. But in his fourth game as a senior, Reich separated his right shoulder. When Reich was well enough to get back into the game, the coach told the player he did not want to switch quarterbacks again in mid-season even though Reich had been leading the nation in passing efficiency at the time of his injury.

Reich was devastated – so much so that one day he walked out of church in the middle of the sermon. “I was mad at God, and I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me,” Reich said.

The answer to Reich’s dilemma and payers came the following Saturday on Nov. 10, 1984, at the Orange Bowl against the University of Miami. Maryland was losing 31-0 at halftime when Reich took over as quarterback and led his team to the greatest comeback win in the history of college football.

“All of a sudden my eyes were opened,” Reich said. “God didn’t want football to be my entire life. And then He showed me, ‘What’s more important is that you get to know Me in a more intimate way.’”

After starting only seven college games, Reich was chosen by the Buffalo Bills as the second quarterback in the draft. Soon after, Reich found himself in a Bible study surrounded by 20 of his Buffalo teammates.

Wide receiver Don Beebe, who caught Reich’s first touchdown pass in last Sunday’s 41-38 victory, considers himself fortunate to have Reich as his best friend and roommate on the road. “Frank has a real strong belief in God,” Beebe said. “He knows why he’s here. He’s not here for the money or fame.

“He knows when he gets the chance, and he comes in, he’s going to give all the glory to God – win or lose, good or bad.”

Beebe also praised Reich as one of the best students of the game. Although the play that produced Beebe’s touchdown catch and brought the score to 35-17 wasn’t designed with Beebe as the primary receiver, Reich spotted a weakness in the Oiler defense and told Beebe before the play that the pass was going to him.

Before the game, Bills chaplain Fred Raines had exhorted the players to focus on God’s special purpose for their talents regardless of the outcome of the game.

Raines said he told a story specifically with Reich in mind. A conductor was asked, “Which musical instrument is the most difficult to play?”

“Second violin,” the conductor replied. He might have said backup quarterback.