American Football and the Christian faith have long had a storied connection, much of it inspired by organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Groups like FCA have challenged young men and women to commit their lives to Jesus Christ, and have worked to disciple athletes to grow up to be people of true Christian character.While there have been many football figures over the years who have provided visible and vocal testimonies to their Christian faith (such as quarterback Kurt Warner or Coach Tony Dungy), rarely has a shared allegiance to the Christian faith been more evident than in the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles football team.
While the Eagles’s jarring upset of the New England Patriots dynasty will be long remembered in the annals of Super Bowl history, the fervent Christian witness of an entire locker room of NFL athletes may have more lasting eternal impact.The team’s collective spiritual sentiment may be best summed up in the words of Zach Ertz, the Eagles tight end who caught the game-winning touchdown pass. “We’re all about giving glory to God first and foremost. Our number one goal on this earth is to make disciples of Christ…Football is just a platform that we have to draw people to Jesus.”
National League Football team owners recognize the significance of Christian believers to the morale of their teams’ locker rooms, but it is rare that a team will advertise that on their own website. Earlier this year the Philadelphia Eagles posted on their official website a video called “The Philadelphia Eagles Locker Room’s Binding Force.” You can watch it here on YouTube:Eagles YouTube Video.It is not uncommon for players to do post-game interviews in which they start by giving a shout-out to Jesus Christ. But is nearly unprecedented for a coach to do so. In his nationally broadcast Super Bowl post-game interview on NBC, Eagles Coach Doug Pederson first said: “I can only give praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity. I’ve got the best players in the world.”
In the exuberant locker room following the game, one of the first things Pederson did was to fall to his knees along with his new Super Bowl championship team and recite the Lord’s Prayer together. Not surprisingly, most networks deleted that moment from their coverage of his post-game speech to the team. Throughout the season, Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz was performing at such a stellar level that he was a favorite for the honor as the league’s Most Valuable Player. Yet what was equally clear was that Wentz was as on fire about his Christian faith as he was about his success on the gridiron.
“If you love your job, love your wife, you love what you do, you’re going to talk about it,” Wentz says. “Well, I love Jesus. That’s what I love, so I’m going to talk about it.” Wentz’s mantra, which is tattoed on his wrist, is “Audience of One.” It is also the name of the foundation he started which has built a Christian outreach center in Haiti.”I look to Colossians 3:23,” Wentz explains. It says that ‘whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as you are working for the Lord and not for human masters.’ So when I’m playing football and it’s good, bad, or ugly, I realize I’m not trying to please the fans or the media. I’m just trying to play for the Lord and know where it’s at.”
The stunning storyline of the Super Bowl was the phenomenal game played by Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles, who took over under center when Wentz was sidelined with a season-ending injury. Foles has been a journeyman quarterback who has shown flashes of brilliance and mediocrity over the years. Yet his all-star play was the catalyst for a Super Bowl game for the ages.Foles is a seminary student, and plans to become a pastor when his football days are over. He wants his focus to be on high school students. “So much temptation in the world, so much going on with social media and the internet. I want to share the weaknesses I worked through, and impact young people’s hearts.”
The average career of an NFL player is said to be anywhere from 3 to 6 years. And Carson Wentz is one who puts all of that in eternal perspective. “Given the glitz and glam of this lifestyle, people see all this fame and money and think it’s the ultimate dream.””At the end of the day, it’s all for nothing. It’s all going to be fleeting. We’re all going to leave the earth at some time, and we can’t take it with us. Honestly, on the field and in everything you do, it gives me a bigger picture.”While we normally devote the content of the Jeff City Update to matters of government and public policy, we at times give attention to developments in the culture. And this is one of those occasions. And no, it is not because I am an Eagles fan. I am a passionate fan of the Arizona Cardinals.