Jake Caldwell sat at a table at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo on Saturday morning and listened as a handful of former Buffalo Bills reflected on their roles in the "Greatest Comeback in NFL History.''
Frank Reich, the host for the 12th annual "Call To Courage Award'' breakfast, and the quarterback and engineer of that rally, offered his memories of that 41-38 victory over the Houston Oilers. Steve Tasker, Andre Reed and Kenneth Davis did, too.
Jake, an 18-year-old senior at Frewsburg Central School, wasn't even born when the Bills made history on that January afternoon in 1993, but he knows all about it. His parents, Bill and Amy, were in attendance at Rich Stadium that day.
Jake Caldwell accepts the Call to Courage Award from former Buffalo Bills quarterback Frank Reich.
"Andre Reed asked (the audience) to raise their hand if they left in the third quarter,'' Jake said, "and a few hands went up. There were a few nervous chuckles.''
Bill and Amy remained in their metal, bench seats that day, though, and the Bills rewarded them in a big way.
Fast-forward 20 years and the Caldwells added another deposit in their personal memory bank on Saturday morning. The difference this time, however, was the memory was even more special than what Reich and company did two decades ago, because their son, Jake, added the "High School Call to Courage Award" to his ever-expanding trophy case.
"This one was truly an honor to receive for various reasons,'' Jake said.
The main one may surprise you.
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In the days leading up to Frewsburg High School's spring break, Jake's football coach, Terry Gray, received an email, announcing that his captain would be the recipient of the "Call to Courage Award.''
It was just another honor for Jake, who has collected them like cordwood throughout his career, particularly this year. But this one - former Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday received the NFL "Call to Courage Award'' at the breakfast - meant as much as any of them, because of what Jake believes it represents.
The glass trophy reads: "This player is not only a great student-athlete, but he embodies outstanding character, commitment and leadership, on and off the field. He is a leader academically, in the classroom, in his home and in the community, and he honors God in everything he does.''
The last six words are what mean the most to Jake.
"That was the important line to me,'' he said. "I've received awards and other people receive awards for academics and community service, but what stood apart for me was the religion piece.''
Jake said he was particularly inspired by the talk given by Saturday, who became a Christian during his NFL career, which included a Super Bowl championship with the Indianapolis Colts.
"Football is a gladiator sport and can be difficult at times to keep a Christian mindset,'' Jake said. " ... It was very encouraging to me that a player at the NFL level, and a good player at that, can keep a Christian mindset. (Saturday) said he wasn't the centerpiece, the Lord was.''
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Before their morning was over, Jake, his family and his coaches were invited to a VIP room where they got a chance to shake hands and share stories with the former Bills, capping what had been a rather amazing 24 hours.
The Caldwells, in fact, had spent last week in Myrtle Beach, S.C., watching the Frewsburg baseball team play in the Mingo Bay Classic. Pat Caldwell, Jake's twin, is a member of that squad.
But Bill, Amy, Jake and Caleb (the youngest child) had to leave Friday before Pat and the rest of the Bears had finished the tournament, because the family needed to be in Buffalo by 9 a.m. Saturday. By the time the Caldwells pulled into their driveway, the clock read 3:30 a.m., and by the time Jake got to sleep it was 4:15 a.m. After a quick "nap," Jake and crew were up at 5:45 a.m. and back on the road.
"I had a zombie-like gaze on the way up,'' said Jake, who has earned a full academic scholarship at the University at Buffalo.
But after the special breakfast he had experienced, the senior from the 'Burg, who will major in engineering, recognized that the overnight road trip from Myrtle Beach to Buffalo was more than worth it.