Was there divine intervention when quarterback Frank Reich led Maryland to a stirring 1984 victory over Miami after trailing by 31 points?

What about when Reich brought the Buffalo Bills back from a 35-3 deficit to beat the Houston Oilers, 41-38, in a 1993 NFL playoff game?

Those are more than just rhetorical questions, now that Reich is retired from football and serving as director of Charlotte's Reformed Theological Seminary.

"God has children on both sides," said the 41-year-old father of three, who shows traces of gray in his once jet-black hair. "When my kids are playing in a game, does God really care who wins?"

Reich spent most of his NFL career as a backup and was known even then for his strong Christian faith. After he engineered the Bills' big comeback in 1993, he opened his remarks at a postgame news conference by reciting the lyrics of one of his favorite Christian songs, "In Christ Alone."

So it wasn't a huge surprise when Reich -- who moved to Charlotte to play a season with the Carolina Panthers -- enrolled in classes at the seminary when his 14-year NFL career ended in 1998.

The mission of the nondenominational seminary, founded in 1966, is to serve all forms of evangelical Christianity, especially Presbyterian and Reformed.

Reich decided to pursue a Master of Divinity degree, with the intention of becoming either a pastor or a Christian public speaker.

This spring, seminary president Ric Cannada, who recently had been promoted from director, called Reich into his office. The two had become friends while traveling together to speaking engagements.

After talking about the qualities he was seeking in his replacement, Cannada turned to Reich and made his pitch.

"Frank, I've been praying diligently about this for two months," he said. "I believe you are the right man for the job."

Reich was caught by surprise.

"I was humbled because I was still a student," Reich said. "For me, it wasn't even on the radar screen."

After discussing it with his wife, Linda, Reich decided to accept.

"It not only felt right, but the pieces came together," he said. "I feel God prepared me for what I'm doing."

Though Reich still must finish some courses to get his degree, Cannada said he already is an experienced minister from years of speaking at religious meetings.

"He's a gracious leader," Cannada said. "The way he leads will be a model for our students. He's genuine and confident, and he does not come across as preachy."

Reich, who started his new job July 1, has more than some incredible comeback stories to inspire his students and faculty members. He is fond of reminding listeners that he followed the Houston thriller by setting an inauspicious NFL record just weeks later, losing three fumbles in the Bills' humiliating 52-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII.

God "was with me that day, too," Reich said as he led a visitor down one of the seminary's tree-lined paths on a summer morning. "Both games were tremendous experiences, and I love to talk about them. But you need to talk about the whole package."

Reich was stung when a columnist on ESPN's Web site wrote dismissively of him and his new career.

"God has a lot to do with our lives and hopes; God has nothing to do with who wins games, or throws or catches touchdowns," wrote Gregg Easterbrook, who writes the "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" column. "God is neither honored by good performances nor dishonored by poor ones. It's just sports, a very minor concern compared to faith, a major concern."

Reich said he fired off an e-mail in response.

"The thing that bothered me was that he never took the time to call me and ask me anything," Reich said. "I told him I was available, but he never picked up the telephone."

In fact, Reich agrees with much of what Easterbrook wrote.

"It's okay to be disappointed when you lose a football game. It's hard for me to lose," he said. "But I'm not going to lose my identity if I don't win. I understand that something as silly as a football game is really not all that important."

What is important, he said, is not to waste the talents that you are given.

"God gives each of us different gifts and abilities, and it's up to us to be the best we can," he said. "That's why it's not a contradiction to be a Christian and an athlete."

Reich carried a football to the podium when he addressed his first class of new students at an orientation event at the seminary campus. He also shared an anecdote about former Buffalo head coach Marv Levy.

"We also had orientation at football camp every year, and Levy would give the same speech each time," he said. "He said the most important thing you need to know is how to carry the football."

Dwarfed by most of his players, Levy would invite one of the biggest players on the team to try to wrest the ball he had cradled between his forearm and his chest. Invariably, the coach would win the battle.

"In football, they call it carrying the rock," Reich told the students, who came from as far away as California to attend the seminary. "In the church, that rock is Christ. We are here to equip you with the tools to help you carry the rock."

Then he added: "No, we are not going to start a football team at the Reformed Theological Seminary."

Frank Reich's memorable moments as a quarterback include comebacks with the Terrapins and Buffalo Bills.