JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Growing up in Georgia, the son of a Southern Baptist evangelist, Roderick Hood divided his time between the church and the football fields.
“I was in church every week, Vacation Bible School, summer camp, you name it, I was there for it,” he said.
The two-year cornerback from Auburn University now finds it hard to believe God’s goodness in combining his passions of faith and football as a member of the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles
“I would never be where I am today without my faith,” Hood said during the Super Bowl media day at Jacksonville’s Alltel Stadium prior to Super Bowl XXXIX.
“I want to be faithful to God to be able to show off the talent He has given me. I want to be faithful to study His Word and stay grounded in His ways,” Hood said.
“When you turn your eyes back to God, you will always stay grounded in Him and not get caught in all of this hype.”
Southern Baptist pastor David Hoke, who has served as the Eagles’ chaplain for a more than a decade, said nearly a dozen active Christians are on the roster for Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl in more than two decades.
Among the active team believers are punter Dirk Johnson and kicker David Akers, who often spend their team together in kicking drills encouraging each other in the Lord.
While Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri has won New England’s last two Super Bowl victories with last-second field goals, Akers said his faith in Christ gives him a different perspective as Sunday’s game approaches.
“It’s more important I come home Sunday night and my daughter still knows I love her and I’m still a good husband to my wife,” Akers said. “God has put me in this position because he wants me to succeed. If not, He has another reason for putting me there. God has a plan and a purpose for my life and for this team.”
After coming out of college as an unheralded kicker, Johnson said it has been a blessing to hook on with the Eagles the last two years and find a number of likeminded teammates.
“We have a large number of Christian guys on the team who are real leaders. We’re just trying to stay humble in His Word and honor Him.”
Ike Reese and Hank Fraley, who patrol the defensive and offensive lines of scrimmage for the Eagles, said their focus on God is what sustains them in the sometimes violent and vulgar world of professional football.
“In this game, there is always a chance to go to the good side or the bad,” Fraley said. “I wanted to be living for the good, and we have guys here who will help you out, pray with you and help you read the Bible.”
“My faith doesn’t allow me to get too pumped up,” Reese added. “It doesn’t allow me to get a big head without Him.”
Sounds like a solid Philadelphia game plan for Sunday’s title game and every day in between.