It’s always a joy to single out athletes, our role models, as strong men and women of faith.
In Part 1, we looked at a sample of Christian athletes in a wide variety of sports. CLICK HERE to read the story in case you missed it.
In Part 2, we introduced you to a number of Christian baseball players who aren’t afraid to walk the talk. CLICK HERE to read the story in case you missed it.
Now, in Part 3, we put the spotlight on 25 current and retired members of the National Football League who stand their ground for Christ.
Finally … something good from the NFL, where taking a knee during the National Anthem has become a sad national pastime for highly paid players.
Let’s put the spotlight on good news.
Our first player is also our newest Christian, having been baptized just last week … in a hotel swimming pool … with many of his teammates surrounding him and holding hands united in Jesus.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
And to be “born again” a person experiences a spiritual transformation, a total change of heart, and enters into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
That is the story of Marcus Johnson, our first player to be acknowledged for his faith.
25 Christian NFL Players Who Stand Strong in the Faith
1. Marcus Johnson: Just hours before kickoff of their Thursday night game against the Carolina Panthers, many of the Philadelphia Eagles’ players met at the hotel pool as wide receiver Marcus Johnson was baptized.
He was surrounded by teammates, including Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, Stefen Wisniewski, Trey Burton, Jordan Hicks and Nick Foles.
How is that for a powerful testimony of faith in Jesus?
Johnson then Tweeted:
“First time being Baptized! Corporate Worship is a beautiful thing!! Cleansed & Reborn in JESUS name #WholeHeartedly”
CLICK HERE to see the original Tweet, with photo.
Some would attribute the team’s hot start this year to the players’ faith.
Watch this short, powerful video of Marcus Johnson and others being baptized in the hotel swimming pool.
- Tim Tebow:Without a doubt, the most maligned Christian athlete in modern times. The 2007 college Heisman Trophy winner has had a checkered career as a pro football player with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets.
He is known (and predictably ridiculed by many in the media) for his outspoken Christian faith and his unwavering devotion to God. He would bend a knee to pray on the field before a game so much it gave rise to the term Tebowing.
Read more about this mighty man of God in “Through My Eyes.”
- Greg Ellis: The one-time Dallas Cowboys linebacker was on the verge of ending his football career due to serious injuries. But he found out God had a different plan for him. In a video for the non-profit group “I Am Second,” he gives God all the credit. “He blessed me to be the comeback player of the year in the NFL. You have to realize there is a God and He does show up and do miracles. My faith in Jesus is everything. He is my life. I base everything I do in life is based on Christ.”
Watch this powerful testimony from Greg Ellis.
- Reggie White: An ordained evangelical minister, the onetime Green Bay Packer was often called the “Minister of Defense” when he played. He has praised God during post-game interviews, and said, “God allowed me to use this game as a platform to proclaim the name of Jesus. I know some people don’t like what I say sometimes, but God has called me to preach a message … and I have to preach the message.”
- Kurt Warner: The retired Rams quarterback and his wife, Brenda, are devout evangelicals, and Warner famously thanked Jesus when his team, the St. Louis Rams, won the Super Bowl and he was named most valuable player. Warner’s foundation, First Things First, notes on its web page that it is “dedicated to impacting lives by promoting Christian values.”
- Russell Wilson: I love what the Seattle Seahawks quarterback says: “I don’t have highs and lows because I play for Him.” Wilson gives God the credit for his talent. “I’m just grateful that God has given me the opportunity to play the great game of football. I try to live humbly … without Him, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Wilson.
“God has put me on that field for a reason, in front of 80,000 people … I’m a constant work in progress – we all are. That’s the amazing thing about Jesus – He takes you for who you are,” said Wilson.
- Carson Wentz: The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback’s personal slogan is “Audience of One” – referring to playing for God. Many of his teammates have joined in. As a Christian, Wentz wants to use his status as an NFL quarterback to be a disciple and spread God’s word. … If you love your wife, job or what you do, you’re going to talk about it. Well, I love Jesus.’ That’s what I love, so I’m going to talk about it.”
- Deion Sanders: The once flashy superstar athlete turned to God after he found his wealth and fame did not bring him happiness. Today, he mentors young people at the Boys & Girls Club of America and says that when he was saved, “It was just a complete and total transformation that began to work inside of me.” Success almost ruined my life, but thank God, I came to Him just in time. And that made all the difference,” the hall-of-famer said. “When I found Christ, I found what had been missing all those years. Only then was I able to trust God’s will for my life.”
- Mark Gastineau; The former New York Jets defensive end was one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. He lived a life rivaling that of a rock star. But he found he was empty inside. He hit rock bottom in 2000 when he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for failing to complete an anger-management course for hitting his estranged wife. After his release, he gave his life to Jesus. He was empty inside. As a Christian, Gastineau used his celebrity as an athlete to speak up for a high school quarterback penalized for raising a single finger to the sky in praise to God, and for a high school coach placed on leave for praying on the field after games.
- Peyton Manning: The Denver Broncos quarterback walks the talk. He lists the order of his priorities as “Faith, family, education, then football.” His PeyBack Foundation has fed up to 20,000 people in Indianapolis and Denver. He makes goodwill calls. His faith in Jesus has been No. 1 since “I was 13 years old and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning in New Orleans a simple question: ‘If you died today, are you one hundred percent sure you’d go to heaven?'”
- Jerricho Catcher: If you thought the Philadelphia Eagles to be the most spiritual team in the NFL, don’t discount the Carolina Panthers. This wide receiver has talked about how important faith is to many Carolina players, including himself:
“I just want to make sure that I represent God the right way before these young men, so that they can see what a husband looks like, what a man looks like, what a dad looks like, and have God glorified from that.”
- Cam Newton: The Carolina Panthers quarterback believes God protected him after he was in a serious accident in 2014. He has said, “I thank God every single day. I’m just His instrument and He’s using me on a consistent basis daily. He is using me to extend His word.”
- Drew Brees: The New Orleans Saints quarterback accepted Jesus as his savior when he was 17, and credits being a Christian with helping him overcome adversities throughout his career.
- Jared Allen: The former Chicago Bears defensive end gives God credit in everything he does. “My first goal in life and every day is to be a better man of God. Everything I have is because of Him. … I have found the more I have pursued Christ, the more He has blessed me.”
- Troy Polamalu: The retired Pittsburgh Steelers safety is an ardent believer in Jesus. He told one interviewer, “Football doesn’t define me. It’s what I do and how I carry out my faith. Football gives confirmation of how I can carry out my faith. It’s my way to glorify God. When I make the sign of the cross on the field, it goes back to [Hebrews 11:1]. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
- Aaron Rodgers: As one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, the Super Bowl MVP and two-time NFL MVP is a strong man of faith. He says he lets his actions talk about his beliefs. “My platform as a professional athlete gives me a tangible way to share my heart and faith.”
- Emmitt Smith: The retired Dallas Cowboys running back was a star of the game, which prompted him to leave God behind. As Smith made his way to becoming NFL’s all-time leader in rushing yards, he admits his Christian faith took a backseat to football and club hopping once his boyhood dream of becoming a Dallas Cowboy became a reality. But Smith could not live without God for too long.
At one point during his career, Smith wrote that he became so separated from God that he began “thirsting for the Lord” and credits Dallas megachurch Pastor T.D. Jakes with bringing him back to God.
Smith said, “Faith became my number one priority. My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave me the passion and love to do whatever it is I wanted to do. He showed me that I can do whatever I want to do if I keep Him first.”
- Chris Carter: The retired wide receiver, a 2013 inductee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and an eight-time Pro Bowler, said he became a Christian after his rookie season in 1988, thanks to his teammates Reggie White and Keith Byars leading him to Christ.
Although Carter said he accepted Jesus at that time, he admits that it still took him a couple of years to fully embrace his faith, give up worldly things and live by God’s design.
“The hardest thing for me was realizing that, even though I was a great success in the game of football, I was really nothing without God,” Carter asserted.
- Robert Lee ‘RG3’ Griffin: The onetime Washington Redskins quarterback and now free agent says his relationship with God is his most important influence in his life. “I praise God, I thank him for everything. You live every day for Him, and when He gives you the opportunity to speak up for Him, you do it.”
- Daniel Colt McCoy: The quarterback for the Washington Redskins says he has learned that Jesus has to be enough for him. He points to his struggles and successes in his career to strengthen his relationship with Christ. “I’m successful in life because I have Jesus Christ inside of me.”
Watch Colt McCoy’s fascinating story.
- Mark Sanchez: He debuted as quarterback for the New York Jets, by way of USC, and now throws for the Chicago Bears. Sanchez credits Jesus for being the lead influence in his life, saying “The days that go the best for me are those where I give my first and best to the Lord. … The more you decrease yourself the more you let Christ take over. When that happens, suddenly things take place in your life that you can’t explain—I see that in my life all the time.”
- Ray Lewis: The retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker is a committed Christian who says, “God is amazing, and when you believe in Him … man believes in the possible, God believes in the impossible.”
- Prince Amukamara: A man of strong faith, the Chicago Bears’ defensive back has been referred to as “the black Tim Tebow” for boldly showing his faith in Jesus. He says, “It’s not about ‘Don’t do this or don’t do that… It’s about having a relationship with Jesus.”
- Shaun Alexander: The retired Seattle Seahawks running back won MVP in 2005. Outspoken about his faith in Jesus, he would refer to himself as a man of God who happens to play football, not a football player who believes in God.
- Hunter Smith: The current punter for the Washington Redskins is unique in that he also played in a Christian rock band called Connersvine. “I get the question a lot, ‘Is it hard to be a Christian in the NFL?’ Hunter said. “My answer really is that no matter what you decide to be, if you decide to follow Christ, and decide to make a difference in your world for His kingdom, there is always going to be resistance. There is always going to be a battle. So yes, it is hard to be a Christian in the NFL, but it is also hard to do anything else for God.”
Watch Hunter Smith play guitar and sing “Lay Down” with Connersvine.
What do you think? Write me at [email protected]