‘More Than Just Football’: Super Bowl 2024 and 7 Players Who Pray (2024)

A look at seven gridiron players who live guided by their faith ahead of Super Bowl 2024.

There’s always a lot of talk about Hail Marys during a football game, especially at the most gripping moments — but as viral moments on social media have shown us recently, prayer is very real on and off the field especially with a growing number of players and coaches in the NFL.

It was only last year that secular media mentioned the word “miracle” after the nation joined in prayer for Damar Hamlin following his cardiac arrest during a game — only to make a full recovery; a sports broadcaster even stopped his show to gather the guests in prayer. And this year, as millions tune in to watch the big game from Sin City, the prayer app Hallow has announced a halftime Super Bowl ad inviting all to pray.

From kneeling before the game, praying the Lord’s Prayer in the locker room as a team, to scapulars making appearances in game-clinching moments, and quarterbacks clinging to Scripture to stay focused on what matters most, we look at seven gridiron players who live guided by their faith ahead of Super Bowl 2024.

1. San Francisco 49ers Christian McCaffrey, a lifelong Catholic likes to share his favorite Bible verses on social media and is always known to point toward heaven after scoring a touchdown. His faith formation began early at Catholic elementary school before playing multiple sports at Valor Christian High School in Denver.

Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, McCaffrey said, “My faith is very important to me, and that’s why I’m praying all the time,” adding, “When you have a bunch of people chanting your name, it’s important that you give the honor and glory back to the Person, God, that’s allowing me to do this.”

‘More Than Just Football’: Super Bowl 2024 and 7 Players Who Pray (1)

On media day Monday for the Super Bowl, McCaffrey was asked by Sports Spectrum about his faith and how important is to him. “It means everything to me,” McCaffrey said.

"It means everything to me. I think my faith has gotten me where I am in life."

During opening night at #SuperBowlLVIII , Sports Spectrum asks @49ers RB @CMC_22 why his faith in Christ is important to him. https://t.co/g9FAwhHhVC pic.twitter.com/nY2LPA2z2H

— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) February 6, 2024

“My faith has gotten me where I am in life and through all the ups and downs when I rely on God. Anytime I’m having a tough day or having a bad time in my life, I just get back to getting in the Word — it’s got all the answers. So it’s the most important thing in my life and it’s something that I know I’ll always have to lean back on and to make a priority.”

2. Catholic kicker Harrison Butker of the Kansas City Chiefs scored the game-winning field goal with 8 seconds remaining, helping his team clinch the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LVII victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. It was in those brief moments that the world caught a glimpse of a brown scapular, a sacramental Butker always wears around his neck.

Chief’s Kicker Harrison Butker (and TLM altar server) wearing a scapular. pic.twitter.com/GgAFn6aUII

— Father V (@father_rmv) February 13, 2023

Speaking to CNA, the Register’s sister agency in 2022, Butker spoke openly about his Catholic faith, taking his family to Mass, and the impact the traditional Latin Mass is having on the faithful, including the younger generations. He said it “really entices a lot of young people who are looking for answers. They're looking for happiness. And for me, I found happiness in embracing the faith offered in the Catholic Church.”

Butker's role on the field comes second to his role as a father. Meeting his wife at Westminster High School in Atlanta, he was a tuba player with a girl named Isabelle playing percussion just behind him. His childhood sweetheart is now Mrs. Butker and the two are welcoming their third child into the family.

3. Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs who is leading his team to the Super Bowl on Feb. 11, has a lot on his mind this week with his own family and looking ahead to the big game. Becoming a Christian while in middle school, the quarterback said, “Faith is huge for me,” during a video with Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

For Mahomes, a game never begins before he has knelt and prayed. “Before every game, I walk the field and I do a prayer at the goalpost. I just thank God for those opportunities, and I thank God for letting me be on a stage where I can glorify him.”

After being named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2019, Mahomes said above all, he just wants to thank God, "because without him, none of this would even be here."

4. Brock Purdy, quarterback for the 49ers never shies away from sharing his faith with fans and the media. Speaking to Sports Spectrum this week, he pointed to the 23rd Psalm as being a source of inspiration to him as he prepares for the Super Bowl this weekend. "It's easy to get wrapped up in wanting and feeling; wanting to be loved, by your teammates and everybody, like the world and so for me, in that passage it's, talking about: I already have what I need from from the Good Shepherd," Purdy told reporters. "I've just been studying Psalm 23 throughout the whole whole season."

A graduate of Iowa State University, class of 2021, Purdy credits college ministry for helping him in his faith journey. Fueled by Salt Company, a Christian campus ministry, Purdy told reporters, “God is faithful. He’s never done with a story, even when you think he is.”

After leading the Cyclones to more wins than Iowa had ever seen, Purdy couldn't help but be in the spotlight, but he didn't let that get in the way of the ultimate prize in life. “I was reminded what Jesus told us thousands of years ago,” he told NewsNation. “If you try to chase fame, status, money, you’ll lose your life. Keeping your eyes on Jesus and his promises … that’s a life worth living.”

5. C.J. Stroud of the Houston Texans was just named a finalist for “Offensive Rookie of the Year,” after throwing 4,108 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns this season. Telling the press he’s “really honored,” Stroud’s faith outshines his finesse on the field, a fact NBC once tried to omit. After the Texans' win against the Cleveland Browns in January, the network spliced out this line from the quarterback's victory speech: "First and foremost, I just want to give all glory and praise to my Lord, Jesus Christ."

But Stroud refused to get upset and stood grounded in his faith, saying:

“I love everybody. Christ has called us to love one another and just shine a light. That comes from Him. I really want to show that love and just want people to experience my experience with finding Christ for you all and having that relationship with Him.”

‘More Than Just Football’: Super Bowl 2024 and 7 Players Who Pray (2)

And his example of faith has been a beacon to many and Stroud has heard from hundreds of men that were moved by his devotion to God. But he is quick to remind his fans: "I’ve had a lot of great people who have reached out, and even guys after games, who just talk about how I mention God and Christ. I always tell people that it’s not me, it’s him. There’s nothing I can do to ever repay what the Lord has done in my life, and I don’t want to, I just want to act in what he’s calling me to do."

C.J. Stroud says several players around the NFL have reached out to express how much they appreciate his mentions of God and expressing his love for Jesus Christ.

“I’m not doing it to look cool. I’m doing it because that’s what God called me to do.” pic.twitter.com/Qw5jYerJxS

— Will Kunkel (@WillKunkelFOX) January 22, 2024

6. Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott may still be feeling a little pain from the loss to the 49ers that took him out of Super Bowl contention this year, but Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones has not lost faith in Prescott, and the quarterback keeps his mind and heart centered on God.

After suffering a compound ankle fracture that cut his season short a few years ago, the quarterback thanked supporters for their prayers while he was recovering and said he’s “excited for God’s purpose and plan," saying, “My faith is doubled down more than ever and I’m thankful that he’s my Savior and he guides me in life.”

Prescott has dealt with tremendous grief in his life after his own mother died of cancer in 2013. He lost his brother to suicide in 2020. Understanding the need for openness and transparency when it comes to depression, he takes opportunities to share his message of what's he learned about loss and the importance of faith to others. Speaking at the No Excuses Mens' Conference in 2023, he told reporters about his favorite Bible verses and why staying focused on Christ is key to success.

7. Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans keeps his reliance on God no matter what life throws his way. During an interview on the Sports Spectrum podcast, Tannehill said, “I’ve always kind of viewed the locker room as my mission field. Wherever God calls you, that’s where God calls you to be a missionary for God and impact the lives around you.”

And the opportunity for evangelization is always at the front of this quarterback’s mind. “Guys are watching and listening to how you walk daily,” so he “always [tries] to be conscious of that and reflect God’s light and shine into the paths of everyone around me.”

And as we gather on Feb. 11, Super Bowl Sunday, with our families after a morning of Mass and prayer, dipping chips and discussing plays, criticizing commercials and and the halftime show, may we all lean into our prayer life more deeply and make sure everyone knows we, too, are on God’s team.

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert in the field of faith and sports, I can confidently say that the intersection between religion and football has become increasingly prominent in recent years. This can be observed through the actions and beliefs of several gridiron players who live their lives guided by their faith, particularly in the lead-up to Super Bowl 2024.

One notable player who exemplifies this is Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers. McCaffrey, a lifelong Catholic, openly shares his favorite Bible verses on social media and is known to point towards heaven after scoring a touchdown. His faith formation began early at a Catholic elementary school before excelling in multiple sports at Valor Christian High School in Denver. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, McCaffrey emphasized the importance of his faith, stating, "My faith is very important to me, and that's why I'm praying all the time." He recognizes that his success on the football field is a gift from God and strives to give honor and glory back to the One who enables him to do what he loves.

Another player who wears his faith on and off the field is Harrison Butker, the Catholic kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs. During the Chiefs' Super Bowl LVII victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Butker's game-winning field goal showcased a brown scapular that he always wears around his neck. In an interview with CNA, Butker spoke openly about his Catholic faith, emphasizing the impact of the traditional Latin Mass on the faithful, especially the younger generations. He found happiness in embracing the faith offered by the Catholic Church and prioritizes his role as a father alongside his football career.

Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, also demonstrates a strong commitment to his Christian faith. Mahomes became a Christian while in middle school and acknowledges the significance of faith in his life. Before every game, he walks the field and offers a prayer at the goalpost, expressing gratitude to God for the opportunities given to him. Mahomes attributes his success to God and believes that without Him, none of his achievements would be possible.

Brock Purdy, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, openly shares his faith with fans and the media. He finds inspiration in the 23rd Psalm, which reminds him that he already has what he needs from the Good Shepherd. Purdy's faith journey was supported by college ministry, particularly the Christian campus ministry called Fueled by Salt Company. He believes that God is faithful and continues to work in his life, even in challenging times.

C.J. Stroud, the quarterback for the Houston Texans, not only excels on the field but also shines with his strong faith. Although NBC initially omitted his mention of Jesus Christ during a victory speech, Stroud remains grounded in his faith and aims to show love and shine a light as Christ has called him to do. He recognizes that his ability to mention God and Christ comes from Him, and he wants to act in accordance with God's calling in his life.

Dak Prescott, the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, has faced personal hardships, including the loss of his mother to cancer and the tragic suicide of his brother. Despite these challenges, Prescott's faith has remained strong. He is thankful for God's guidance in his life and believes that staying focused on Christ is key to success. Prescott uses his platform to share his message about loss, mental health, and the importance of faith with others.

Ryan Tannehill, the quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, views the locker room as his mission field. He believes that wherever God calls him, he is there to be a missionary and impact the lives of those around him. Tannehill understands the influence he has as a professional athlete and strives to reflect God's light in his daily actions, knowing that others are watching and listening.

As we gather with our families on Super Bowl Sunday, let us remember the example set by these seven players and lean into our prayer lives more deeply. By making our faith known and reflecting God's light, we can demonstrate that we too are on God's team. May this Super Bowl be a time of unity, prayer, and reflection on the role of faith in our lives.

‘More Than Just Football’: Super Bowl 2024 and 7 Players Who Pray (2024)
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