From CSJ Reports –
The biggest single sporting event in the universe (as far as we know) is upon us once again. Super Bowl LI features a New England Patriots team seeking its record-tying fifth Lombardi Trophy while the Atlanta Falcons (who somehow flew under the radar most of the season) are hoping to win its first NFL title in franchise history.
There are plenty of outlets that can break down the matchups heading into the game on February 5, But at Christian Sports Journal, we want to highlight some individuals playing in the game who hope to use the game as a platform for sharing their faith with others:
After going undrafted in 2011 out of South Carolina and spending his rookie season on San Diego’s practice squad, fullback Patrick DiMarco has since seen his career’s trajectory enter another dimension. Now, the two-time Pro Bowl selection and 2015 Second Team All-Pro has added NFC champion to his growing list of accomplishments.
Also known for his charitable work off the field, DiMarco was Atlanta’s nominee for the 2015 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and made a telling statement to AtlantaFalcons.com when explaining what drives his desire to serve others.
“A lot of it comes from my Christian faith and my Christian background,” he said. “As a football we are given this amazing platform. We are able to do what we do, and to give back. Playing football is awesome, but there is a bigger picture to it all.”
Through eight games of the 2016 season, tight end Jacob Tamme was having a solid season in five starts for the Falcons. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury landed him on the injured reserve list and eliminated any chance of playing in the post season.
Now in his ninth season, Tamme has experienced significant highs (like playing in Super Bowl XLIV and Super Bowl XLVIII) and some disappointing lows (like losing in both of those Super Bowls and being unable to play in his third). But his faith always helps him keep things in their proper perspective.
“Get to know Jesus, our Savior,” Tamme shared with FCA Magazine. “He loves us so much He died for us and now desires to have a relationship with us.”
In his 10 NFL seasons, offensive lineman Chris Chester has experienced the highs of a playoff run (during four seasons with Baltimore) and the lows of playing for a struggling franchise (during the 2010 and 2011 seasons with Washington).
These days, Chester has the exciting job of protecting quarterback Matt Ryan and catching the tail end of some pretty spectacular plays from the likes of wide receiver Julio Jones and Tevin Coleman. But it’s his faith in Christ that matters most when the final buzzer goes off.
“Life is tough but we have a lot to be happy about—especially as Christians,” Chester says. “We’ve got it all. So whenever it gets tough and things aren’t going your way, that’s what I go to. That’s what I think about.”
Read more from Chester in this CSJ conversation.
Other Falcons to follow: Vic Beasley (linebacker), Taylor Gabriel (wide receiver), Josh Harris (long snapper), Scott Pioli (assistant general manager).
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The day before Super Bowl XLIX, Malcolm Butler’s mother had a happenstance meeting with an Uber driver who told her that her son was going to have a big game. That was quite the understatement as the rookie cornerback made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history. His timely interception of an ill-advised Russell Wilson pass in the end zone kept the Seattle Seahawks from scoring the go ahead touchdown and secured the Patriots’ win.
Afterwards, he revealed to the NBC reporter that he too had a vision that something special was going to take place. The next day while appearing on CBS This Morning, he gave God the credit for his successful outing.
“I believe in God and I’m truly blessed,” Butler said. “I just prayed all this week, and I pray in other times, too…God be blessed for the talent He gave me.”
It’s been quite the interesting journey for tight end Greg Scruggs. After a stellar career as a defensive end at Louisville, he was drafted late in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. An injured Scruggs watched from the sidelines as his team won Super Bowl XLVIII. He was later waived and picked up by the Chicago Bears late in the 2015 season. That job didn’t last long and Scruggs found himself unemployed once again.
During the 2016 offseason, he switched to tight end and found a new home with the New England Patriots on October 1. But two weeks later, a knee injury knocked him out of the season. So when Super Bowl LI kicks off in Houston, Scruggs will once again be unable to suit up for the big game.
That’s why his interview for a You Version Bible app video seems so appropriate now.
“Everyone is going through struggles,” Scruggs said. “But as I walk in my struggle as everybody else does, there is something peaceful about reading the Bible.”
Matthew Slater might not be one of the league’s flashiest players, but for nine years, the former UCLA standout has been quietly getting the job done as six-time Pro Bowl selection mostly for his efforts on New England’s special teams unit. While some may think his Pro Football Hall of Fame father Jackie Slater has overshadowed his career, those who understand the game are fully aware of the important contributions he has made both on and off the field
For Slater, whose favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28, it’s all about playing hard and giving everything over to God no matter what the circumstances might be.
“My faith has been very, very vital in me sticking around the NFL for this long,” Slater once told FCA Magazine. “In this sport, there’s so much uncertainty, so many unknowns. Through it all, I’ve had to put my whole trust in the Lord and know that He is in control. My purpose in the NFL is to bring Him glory and make His name more famous. It’s really been fun to see how He’s opened doors and allowed certain conversations of faith to come up over the years—in ways I never could have imagined.”
Other Patriots to follow: Nate Solder (offensive tackle), Jordan Richards (defensive back), Rob Ninkovich (linebacker), Marcus Bannon (offensive tackle).
CSJ Pick: And just for fun, our bold prediction for the game is…
Atlanta 31, New England 27
(Photos: AP Photos/NFL)