The Kansas City Chiefs return to the Super Bowl, hoping to clinch a victory as sweet as last year's. The current American Football Conference winners will go head-to-head with the National Football Conference reigning champs, the San Francisco 49ers, in Super Bowl LVIII. The Chiefs have an impressive 11-6 record, yet the 49ers come out on top this season at 12-5. Kick-off starts at 6:30 PM Eastern Time at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Many key players, notably both teams' starting quarterbacks, are proud Christians.
Here are eight of the Christian athletes taking the field for Super Bowl LVIII... and it's by no means - nor intended to be - an exhaustive list:
1. Brock Purdy
San Fransisco 49ers' starting quarterback, Brock Purdy, had humble beginnings. In college, Purdy was told by famous Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban: "You’re below average in height. Your arm strength is whatever. Your accuracy is average." A few years later, Purdy was the 262nd pick–the last pick—in the NFL's 2022 draft. He was consistently overlooked and underestimated, yet Yahoo Sports reports that his stats today mirror, and in certain categories outpace, Tom Brady's.
Though Purdy has defied the odds, he confesses that football doesn't dictate his worth. "I know God's going to take care of wherever I'm at in my life, whether it's football or not," he told NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young. Purdy went on to say: “My identity isn’t in football. I know who I am, and ‘God, if you want me to do great with (football), great. If not, all right, let’s go do something else, wherever you need me.’"
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images / Ezra Shaw / Staff
2. Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs' starting quarterback, had a smoother transition into the NFL. In the 2017 draft, Mahomes was the overall tenth pick, recruited to the Chiefs from Texas Tech. Faith on the Field remarks that Mahomes' game is one of "athletic prowess and remarkable skillset." The star quarterback isn't a stranger to championships; not only is he returning as last year's Super Bowl Champ, but CBS Sports shares that Mahomes is "the first player to win league MVP and Super Bowl MVP before his 25th birthday."
Despite the athletic accolades, Mahomes humbly professes that his life legacy isn't wrapped in his career but in his relationship with Christ:
“It's like anyone's walk with the Lord in their faith; there have been highs and there have been lows. I think I've learned a ton over these last few years, especially about my relationship with Him. I was baptized when I was 14 years old, and I would say I kind of distanced myself over those next few years. But I've been able to kind of come back and really develop this relationship that's been able to let me go out there and play free and not worry about the moment of the success and or the failure. So that's been my walk and I'll continue to walk and do whatever I can to strengthen my relationship with Him.”
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images / Rob Carr / Staff
3. Christian McCaffrey
Star running back for the 49ers, Christian McCaffrey, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he is constantly praying on the field:
"After Christian McCaffrey amassed 177 total yards, had a highlight-reel hurdle of a cornerback, scored four touchdowns and broke one of Jerry Rice’s franchise records Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers’ do-everything running back revealed in a quiet moment outside the team’s locker room something else he was doing throughout the 2 hours and 51 minutes that he was gashing the Arizona Cardinals: praying."
McCaffrey further explained that his main prayers are not only for all of the athletes' safety but that they play the game in an "honorable way." Though social media platforms hail him as a running back legend, and he holds strong as the team's lead rusher, McCaffrey recognizes the incredible gift he has been given and wants his prayer life to reflect a heart of gratitude.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images / Ezra Shaw / Staff
4. Harrison Butker
The Chiefs' kicker, Harrison Butker, is young, but his stats have him on track to be the best kicker in NFL history. Despite his stellar record, Butker has never been ashamed to profess his faith on and off the field. He shared with Sports Spectrum:
“[God] is the most important thing. If I didn’t have faith in God, I don’t think I’d be the father I am, the husband I am, the kicker I am. That kind of sets the tone for everything else and everything falls under that, but that gives me the strength to go do everything I need to do. I may have fears about it — I might have pressure — but I know I’m a child of God and He’s gonna protect me. And maybe that protection comes with some suffering, but that’s what’s best for me and I gotta accept that suffering and grow as best I can with that.”
In the 2022-23 season, Butker had an ankle injury that threatened his career—and he missed several integral field goals leading up to the team's shot at the Super Bowl—but reflecting on the year, he said: "I always pray for God's will to be done, whether that's a make or a miss. If I'm doing my absolute best to absolute best to maximize the talents he gave me... I'm gonna keep going."
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images / Patrick Smith / Staff
5. Arik Armstead
Defensive end Arik Armstead is the San Francisco 49ers' longest-tenured player, drafted in 2015 as the overall 17th pick. Armstead started in every game this season with an impressive 27 combined tackles.
Though his stats are incredible and his stature is intimidating, Armstead is what Sports Spectrum calls "a gentle giant." They further shared that Armstead has been nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award for the past four seasons, an award that recognizes a player's excellence on the field and off the field in philanthropy and community partnerships.
But more than all the nominations and stats combined, Armstead prizes his faith in Christ. Bob Bailin, the pastor of Bayside Church of Midtown in Sacramento, said it has never been about the clout and hefty bank account for Arik: “[He] is such a genuine believer in Christ that he’s really going to do it his way. He’s going to do it Christ’s way.”
6. Nick Bolton
The Kansas City Chiefs selected Nick Bolton as their second-round pick in the NFL's 2021 draft. He quickly made history, setting the franchise's rookie record with 112 tackles. Shortly after, he broke the overall franchise record with 180 tackles. Adding to his impressive resume, Bolton was a team captain for the Chiefs in their 2023 Super Bowl victory.
Despite the praise, Bolton, much like McCaffrey, reflects a heart of gratitude, thanking Christ for the platform he has been given. Bolton told Sports Spectrum: “I don’t think a lot of things in life would happen without God. We can’t choose our family, we can’t choose our support system. God blessed me with the ability to have my mom, my family, my support system around me. I grew up with both my parents. A lot of people don’t have that opportunity.”
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images / Jamie Squire / Staff
7. Tashaun Gipson
The 49ers' veteran safety Tashaun Gipson forced a second-half fumble against the Detroit Lions that was pivotal in clinching a Super Bowl seat for his team this year. The 33-year-old football player has had time to reflect on his NFL career, and though he was a walk-on player, never formally drafted, he recognizes God's hand in his life: “This is just God,” Church Leaders reports. “Without him, this wouldn’t be possible.”
Teammate Kyle Shanahan calls him the "Wisdom of our defense." Shanahan went on to say: “I mess around with him, I call him dad sometimes, but he’s been so consistent. Always putting the top, the backstop on our defense. He’s got great ball skills, he always has."
Though Gipson wasn't chosen in the draft but made a historical name for himself, he gives God the glory: “It’s just glory to God because I came into the right situation at the right time. And everything just worked out in God’s plan.”
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images / Thearon W. Henderson / Stringer
8. L'Jarius Sneed
The Kansas City Chiefs' cornerback, L'Jarius Sneed, had a promising start to his NFL career, but only three games into his rookie season, he fractured his collarbone. Though this injury caused a setback on the field, off the field, Sneed saw this as an opportunity to grow his faith in God's plan. Sneed shared with the Chief's Wire: “First of all, I started off by praying with God. It was hard on my mental, you know, how I started off. Plus, me trying to come back and maintain that same image that I put out. But with God, anything is possible. So I kept my faith in God.”
This year, Sneed was at his personal best, not allowing a single touchdown in the regular season. With a comeback story like this, Sneed continues to remain humble, sharing a simple but powerful tweet: "God I thank you."
Note: This is not an exhaustive list of Christian athletes playing in Super Bowl LVIII.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images / Stephen Maturen / Stringer
Originally published Tuesday, 06 February 2024.