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Chicago Bears’ Lovie Smith underscores his faith

MIAMI (BP)–Lovie Smith had a limited amount of time during his Super Bowl XLI media session Monday, but the Chicago Bears head coach said he could spend hours talking about his star players and their efforts to get the team to their first Super Bowl berth in 21 years.

Smith also wanted to spend part of his allotted time talking about what was most important in his life, his faith in Jesus Christ.

“God is the center of my life. It controls all that I do. I hope I don’t have to spend my time telling my players I’m a Christian. I hope they see it in my life every day,” Smith said.

Since taking the helm of the Bears in 2004 — his first head coaching job in the NFL — he has led his team to back-to-back division titles and, now, to this year’s NFL championship game.

And he has done it in the same faith-based style of his close friend, mentor and opposing Super Bowl coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts.

“I could spend the rest of the day talking about Tony Dungy and what he means to me,” Smith told a ballroom full of media reps. “We have similar beliefs, and to see him go through the storms and see he’s the same person is truly encouraging.

“I’m happy we can to lead our teams to the Super Bowl. I’ve learned a lot from Tony Dungy.”

Smith grew up in a Christian home in the small east Texas town of Big Sandy, going to church regularly with his mother, his brothers and sisters.

“My mother always made sure we went to church and knew about the Lord. My faith has been with me all the time and I knew I needed God to be a part of my life,” he recounted.

Smith’s father battled alcoholism most of his life, which led his son never to drink, and his mom always emphasized to him the need for a clean mouth and a pure heart.

“Lovie always had a direct line to God,” she was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times profile of her son.

The result is a solid faith and values system which has served him well in the up and down world of coaching.

“I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, so what is there to do to get in trouble?” he said to laughs during the media session. “When my family gets here later in the week, we’ll have dinner out together. That will be our big excitement.”

After starting out as a high school coach in his hometown at Big Sandy High School, he spent nearly two decades coaching in college before Dungy brought him to the NFL as a linebackers coach in 1996 at Tampa Bay.

The addition of Smith to a staff which included fellow Christian and current Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards proved to be a fulfilling spiritual combination.

“I’m so proud of Lovie to prove you can do things the right way in coaching without profanity,” Dungy said after watching his friend’s team defeat the New Orleans Saints in the NFC title game last week.

Smith said his lack of cursing in a sport often dominated by it is another way to showcase his faith without cramming it down anyone’s throat.

“I don’t have to tell you. I can show you,” Smith said. “Bring me the person that has ever heard a curse word from me. You won’t be able to find them.”

Sunday, on the Bears’ home team sideline at Super Bowl XLI, Smith’s calm demeanor as he guides his team will reflect something more important to him than the ultimate on-field victory.

“I believe that God has a plan for our lives,” he said, “and we have to try and fit into it.”
Baptist Press sports correspondent Art Stricklin is on site at Super Bowl XLI in Miami, filing daily reports on the spiritual side of the NFL’s championship game.

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  • Art Stricklin