Lane Kiffin has built his reputation as a confident, outspoken football coach that some fans like to hate, but in a new column for Athletes for God he describes how he has been humbled – and has found Christ.
Kiffin was head coach of the Oakland Raiders prior to a one-year stint at Tennessee and then a short career at Southern Cal (USC), which fired him after a loss at Arizona State.
“I was pulled off my team bus, in front of the players at the airport at 3 a.m. to be told I had been fired hours earlier,” Kiffin wrote. “I don't wish that feeling upon anyone. I wanted to die, because at the time I was defined by my job.”
But God had other plans for him.
“Just when I needed Him, God answered in a big way,” Kiffin wrote. “I don't know if God is a sports fan or not, but I do know this: He loves a good comeback.”
A few years earlier, Tennessee chaplain Roger Woods had given Kiffin a copy of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. It had a big impact.
“On the first page were four words that changed my life,” Kiffin wrote. “’It’s not about you.’ “That’s all Rick Warren needed to say. It immediately sunk in, and I've been telling my players and coworkers that line ever since. I had never heard that before but that is the purpose of life.”
Kiffin believes he had “too much success, fame and money in life too soon” – as an assistant at USC and then as head coach of Oakland, Tennessee and back at USC. He was the youngest NFL head coach in modern history.
Unemployed and discouraged, Kiffin was given a second chance when Alabama head coach Nick Saban made him offensive coordinator. While there, Kiffin helped the Crimson Tide win a national championship and three conference titles. Kiffin then became head coach of Florida Atlantic, which won its conference championship and bowl game last year.
Looking back, Kiffin is glad USC fired him.
“What it turned out to be … was the beginning of God humbling me to the man I am today,” he wrote. “I was not using the platform He put me on at all in His way. As my pastor once said, 'God wasn't punishing me, he was just giving me a wakeup call.”
Kiffin hopes others are encouraged by his story. His father, Monte Kiffin, has become a Christian, too, he revealed.
“I don't like to focus too much on my past, because then it stops becoming your past and starts to become your present,” he wrote. “However, my story is a special exception, because it shows people that it's never too late to rediscover God, and that we can overcome anything in our past. I like to tell people these days, if God can forgive you for whatever you have done, then why can’t you! I’m proof.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com
Publication Date: August 10, 2018
Photo Courtesy: Facebook
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.