Super Bowl-Sized Faith: Beyond the Typical Nod to God

“Unbelievable. All glory to God.”

Those words, or some variation, have become an almost boilerplate response for pro athletes being interviewed in the afterglow of a championship victory or thrilling last-second win.

Naturally, it makes you wonder if the athlete is just paying lip service to God for the win. Would that athlete be able to say the same thing after a devastating loss? You’d be excused for feeling a little skeptical about a fair-weather faith that might be briefly buoyed by a win, but lacks depth and maturity.

But there was something different going on when Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles said, “Unbelievable. All glory to God,” during the trophy presentation following the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots.

You see, after a difficult 2015 season with the Los Angeles Rams in which he threw seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions and was sacked 14 times in 11 games, Foles had considered retirement.

“I prayed and really just asked God for guidance,” Foles told the press during Super Bowl week. “There wasn’t a sure path, I just took a step in faith. I knew that I’d have more growth as a person going back to the game with knowing how I felt.”

That leap of faith started a chain of events that led to that moment on the podium in Super Bowl 52. But that’s not the only leap of faith he took. Foles enrolled last year in online seminary classes at Liberty University in hopes of becoming a high school pastor when his playing days are over. He’s also one of the leaders of the Eagles’ Thursday night players Bible study where they dig deep into the Word.

Reflecting on where God has brought him over the past few years, Foles had this to say: “I wouldn’t be able to do this game without him. It’s also an opportunity to go out there and share what he’s done in my life. And it’s not about prospering at all. It’s how he’s humbled me. … Whenever I was at my lowest, that’s where my relationship with Christ grew.”
View the full interview here »

Unbelievable. All glory to God, indeed.

As inspiring as Nick Foles’ faith is, he’s not alone.

Here’s what some other players had to say in the lead up to the Super Bowl

Zach Ertz: “[My wife and my] relationship wouldn’t be nearly as strong without Jesus at the center.”
View video here »

Carson Wentz: “This injury [a season-ending ACL injury] is just an opportunity for me to practice what I preach, that I play for him and it’s not for myself.”
View video here »

Matthew Slater: “Every moment I’ve had in the NFL has given me the opportunity to … build relationships with people and ultimately connect with them through the power and love of Christ.”
View video here »

Geneo Grissom: “My faith is literally the driving force that pushes me.”
View video here »

Jordan Richards: “This year our chaplain has encouraged us to be glory reflectors. … Obviously, this is the Super Bowl, there’s going to be a lot of glory passed on, GOAT [Greatest Of All Time] this, GOAT that, but at the end of the day the real champion is Jesus.”
View video here »

Trey Burton: “Whatever sport you’re playing, there’s always going to be ebbs and flows. One day you’re going to be the best player in the world and the next day you’re going to be the worst player in the world, and so the only way to combat all of that is to have your faith in God.”
View video here »

View more interviews from Super Bowl 52 here:

Video footage courtesy of Jess Stainbrook, an Outreach magazine consulting editor and chief entertainment officer at The Faith and Family Sports Programming Network. He is also the executive producer of Seven Days in Utopia. For the past 12 years Jess Stainbrook and his creative team have produced content around the Super Bowl that highlights positive role models, but with a deep faith component. Since 2006, they have sought to change the way sports stories are told, taking viewers behind the scenes with athletes, coaches and other entertainment personalities, both on and off the field or stage.

Jonathan Sprowl
Jonathan Sprowl

Jonathan Sprowl is co-editor of Outreach magazine.