Football, Faith & Fulfillment: Top NFL Stars Combine God and the Gridiron

Article excerpt

With all the glitz, glamour and fame that come along with being a professional athlete in the National Football League (NFL), it is easy to become consumed by the numerous benefits associated with stardom. Fancy cars decked out in the trendiest rims and sound systems, million-dollar mansions, VIP parties, and devoted fans who adore and cheer for the hottest players are all a part of the luxurious life of a star athlete.

But while some top NFL stars are worshipped, others have chosen to worship--God. Terrell Owens (Philadelphia Eagles), Antwaan Randle El (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ike Reese (Atlanta Falcons), Curtis Martin (New York Jets), Troy Vincent (Buffalo Bills) and Deion Sanders (Baltimore Ravens) are just a few of the top NFL players who openly talk about being born-again Christians. These stars are known for professing their faith and encouraging others to believe in God. When the Atlanta Journal Constitution asked Troy Vincent what book everyone should read, his response was consistent with his spiritual beliefs: "The King James Version of the Bible, because it's life.

It's a living book. It's a book full of joy, peace, love, trials and tribulations." At a 2005 Super Bowl event, St. Louis Rams, tight end Roland Williams put it succinctly, saying, "Football is just something I do. I am definitely focused on a personal relationship with God."

Those types of spiritually inspired remarks are made frequently in post-game interviews as well as newspaper and magazine articles. While there aren't any exact figures on how many "men of faith" there are in the NFL, nowadays more players are open about their faith and have become increasingly comfortable sharing their beliefs when given the opportunity. That trend has developed increasingly within the last two decades, and many observers say it is due to the influence of the late defensive great Reggie White.

The "Minister of Defense," who died in December of 2004, was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and he left a lasting impact in both the sports and the church worlds. He was passionate about his career, but equally, if not more, passionate about his faith, say many observers. An ordained minister since the age of 17, White was one of the first successful NFL stars who unhesitatingly professed his beliefs, and he was an unapologetic Christian--mentoring and evangelizing to other players and fans.

Pregame chapel services, weekly Bible studies, on-field gestures of thanks to God after a big play and prayer circles after games are almost commonplace in today's NFL. Of the 32 NFL teams, nearly a dozen have a chaplain, according to NFL officials. The chaplains are not NFL employees and are not paid by the teams. …