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Coaching in the NFL at Soldier Field in Chicago might seem a long way from Larry Wilcox Stadium at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
But Christ Tabor, Benedictine class of 1993 and Special Teams Coach for the Chicago Bears, makes it seem like a natural progression.
He was inducted into the Raven Athletics Hall of Fame Sept. 4, where he was remembered for leading Raven Football to a 19-5 record as the starting quarterback in the 1991 and 1992 seasons. Tabor’s team won the Steamboat Bowl in 1991, the inaugural Heart of America Athletic Conference championship in 1992, and reached the Final Four of the NAIA National Championship .
“Chris Tabor was one of the finest players I had the privilege of coaching at Benedictine College,” said longtime Raven Football Coach Larry Wilcox, whose football career at Benedictine made him the winningest coach in Kansas before he retired this year.
Tabor gratefully accepted the Hall of Fame honor, thanking his families — the one that shares his last name, and the family of friends he made at Benedictine College.
He said his wife, Nikki, and his two daughters are his rock and that he and his Raven Football team members are still in constant communication — so much so that at one NFL practice, other coaches were afraid that there was an emergency when Tabor’s phone kept dinging with messages that turned out to be just a vigorous group chat from his old teammates.
“It’s about family and it’s about brotherhood,” he told the Hall of Fame Banquet, and ended by sharing emotional news about his big brother. “His wife is battling cancer, and she’s tough, and so is my big brother. He’s the real hall of famer,” Tabor said, asking for prayers.
Tabor was awarded Benedictine College’s Young Alumni Award in 2011, and shared how Benedictine College shaped his life through its mission of community, faith and scholarship.
“Benedictine College is a very special place,” he said. “But honestly the neatest thing about going to school here and playing here was the relationships that I made.”
There were a lot of talented players, he said, “But I think what really made us good was we were a tight fraternity of brothers.”
As to faith, he said, “Regardless of where you are, regardless of what you’re working at, you were put on this earth by God. We’re all trying to get to a better place,” he said.
He makes it a point to connect with the faith of his players. “I see them come to Mass, if they’re Catholic,” and chapel services if they’re not, he said. “I have a strong devotion to Our Lady and find time to say the rosary,” he added.
Faith comes in handy in the NFL, Tabor said. “If we don’t win, we know that we’re probably going to get let go. You’re nervous and you rely on your faith. The Good Lord will take care of you.”
When that happens, he says, “I always say, ‘Everything’s going to work out because it has to.’ It has to because you know deep down that the Good Lord has put you in that spot for a reason. Don’t try to figure it out … maybe you’re there to make an impact in someone else’s life. you just never quite know.”
Last is scholarship. Tabor joked that no one made the mistake of thinking he was earning an academic award, but he said the academics at the college were also important.
He said coming back to campus is “unbelievable.” “When we look at the dorms and the new academic buildings and the grotto, it’s beautiful. These changes take place, but you can still sense that the values of Benedictine have not changed. To me that’s a great dynamic. You’re enhancing the beauty of the campus and people are coming, but they’re coming because of those values. That’s a great feeling.”
It is also a great feeling to know that the mission of Benedictine College lives on in the NFL, thanks to one Raven who coaches there.
Image courtesy the Chicago Bears.