Of all the places in the world that Alan and I could have eaten that day, we chose a Taco Bell located just off the Vanderbilt University campus. I enjoyed spending my spring break with my best friend. We innocently went to grab a bite just before I would head back to Arkansas, and I had no idea that my life was about to change.
I was in Nashville to see Alan, but during my time there, I also distributed several resumes. It was the spring semester of my senior year of college, and in order to graduate, I had to find an internship that fall. It had been a very frustrating process for me. I had worked hard throughout high school and college to build a good resume, but nothing seemed to pan out. I just kept getting those, “Thanks, but no thanks” letters from potential employers. My frustrations would soon be over.
As I reached for my debit card to pay for my nachos and quesadilla, the cashier informed me that the restaurant didn’t take plastic. Neither Alan nor I had any cash, so we were feeling pretty embarrassed. Fortunately, a woman standing behind us in line offered to buy us lunch. We graciously thanked her and went to find a seat. After noticing that the woman who bailed us out was sitting by herself, we decided to join her. The conversation that followed altered the entire course of the rest of my life.
As we began to talk with Ms. White, she asked us about our career goals. Alan told her about his plans following graduation from Vanderbilt. I told her that I was completing my degree in sports management and that I was trying to land an internship in athletics.
“Would you like to work in Nashville?” Ms. White asked.
“Sure!” I exclaimed.
Ms. White proceeded to tell me that she owned a marketing company that closely interacts with the Tennessee Titans. She gave me her card and told me to follow her back to her office. She introduced me to one of her coworkers, a man named Ron Hollis. I was able to make some connections with Hollis, and I promised to follow up when I got home.
I played recreational sports when I was younger, but I wasn’t much of an athlete. I had to find other ways to incorporate my passion. I started covering Russellville High School sports for the student newspaper. I volunteered to work at a local radio station that aired RHS athletics. I purposely memorized endless facts to make sure that I knew my stuff. I’d always felt destined to work in sports. I just needed my in, and I got it that day at Taco Bell.
When I met White and Hollis, I thought that what they did was a nice gesture, but I was realistic about my expectations. I didn’t really think they’d ever call. But about two months after the encounter at Taco Bell, I still had no news as to where I would spend my fall semester. The frustrations were mounting even more. I was on the golf course one day when my cell phone rang. I curiously answered, as I didn’t recognize the number on my caller ID.
“Casey, this is Ron Hollis,” the caller said. “You need to call Gary Glenn with the Tennessee Titans.”
I was so excited that I could hardly finish my round of golf. Was this finally it? Were my lifelong dreams of working in professional sports finally coming true?
That day Glenn made initial contact and asked for a resume. He said that it would take some time for him to make a selection. At no time in my life has my patience been more tested than the period in which I had to wait to hear back from him. I spent the summer doing mission work in Charleston, S.C.. The Titans were my last hope. I spent countless sleepless nights on my knees beside my couch begging for God to provide a way for me not only to graduate but also get a start on a career. I had no idea what I was going to do if it didn’t work out.
It wasn’t until early August, nearly five months since I had met Ms. White, that I finally landed the internship with the Titans. I scared to death that two weeks later I would hopelessly head back to Arkansas. Instead I was headed to the League.
Since that fateful day, life has been a fantasy land of sorts.Hanging out, I mean working, in an NFL locker room every day is an experience like none other.My time in Tennessee led to another huge step in my career.Following my year with the Titans, I moved to Long Island and took a season-long position with the New York Jets.
At the same time, I’ve faced my share of the typical “twentysomething challenges.” Like most fields, it takes time to make any money or gain any stability. If you ever want to learn about God’s provision, move to Long Island and survive a year on a $1,000-a-month salary!
I’ve struggled with waiting for God to provide and trusting that He always will. For a born-and-raised Southerner, life in the Northeast has brought its share of difficulties.Even as God has allowed me to see my dreams unfold, geographical and cultural difficulties have most definitely been trying. I truly believe that He’s allowed those little obstacles to serve as a constant reminder of how much I need Him, and how much He desperately wants me to continually chase after Him.
As a 6’1”, 200-pound bachelor, Taco Bell has always had a special place in my heart. Still, a craving for chalupas and burritos will never be the same. Of all the places in the world for my dreams to come true, my life changed that day at a fast-food restaurant.
Ephesians 3:20 – “Glory to God who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine through the power of His son Jesus that is at work in us.”