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Eagles coach preps for game time with 23rd Psalm reminder

EDITORS’ NOTE: Art Stricklin, an award-winning Christian journalist and regular contributor to Baptist Press, is reporting from the site of Super Bowl XXXIX with exclusive coverage on the spiritual side of the Super Bowl.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Before he steps on the field Sunday afternoon for what will be the biggest game of his coaching career, Philadelphia Eagles running backs coach Ted Williams will have completed all of his pre-game preparations.

In addition to reviewing the game plan to spring the stable of talented Eagles’ running backs against the New England Patriots defense, he will have talked to his players about the importance of not making mistakes and running with a purpose. Even so, the two most important things Williams plans before Super Bowl XXXIX kickoff are reading his favorite Psalm from the Bible and carrying a small pocket cross in his pants to remind him of Jesus and the real victory He has already won.

“I read the 23rd Psalm before every game on Sunday because it’s my favorite chapter and the cross in my pocket reminds me of Jesus and His love,” said Williams, a 25-year veteran of the college and professional coaching ranks and one of a core group of Eagles coaches who have a strong spiritual walk with Jesus Christ.

Among the other believers on the Eagles coaching staff are defensive quality control coach Mike Reed, linebackers coach Steve Spagnuolo, secondary coaches Trent Walters and Sean McDermott plus special teams’ leader John Harbaugh, the brother of NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

Eagles team chaplain David Hoke spent time Wednesday night fellowshipping and watching some game film with Harbaugh when he arrived at the Eagles team hotel, renewing the friendship built over many weeks this year.

“John is really a solid coach and solid believer like a lot of good coaches on the Eagles staff now,” the New Jersey Southern Baptist pastor said. “They put in a lot of hours of work and are very committed to their job.”

Williams, who joined the Eagles staff in 1995, has been through three head coaches and has seen the rebirth of the team from a 3-13 laughingstock to three demoralizing NFC championship game losses to this year’s first Super Bowl appearance in more than two decades.

He said Hoke helped him and the entire Eagles team see where the season could be headed in early September.

“His devotional stuck with me the entire year,” Williams said. “In the Bible, you’ll see that nothing ever happened without a journey. God said if you trust Me, I’ll walk with you…. My faith has gotten me here this year, because I always trust in Him.”

Williams is a member of Laurel Hill Bible Church outside Philadelphia where he attends as much as possible during the football season, despite the many long hours he and the other coaches put in each week.

To help the coaches during the week, Hoke helps coordinate a weekly coaches’ Bible study at the Eagles training center, which has provided encouragement to younger coaches like Reed.

“You know when you have guys that share the same goal in mind as you do, it’s always a blessing,” Reed said.

With Williams and Hoke both spending a decade or more with the Eagles, they have able to pass off their spiritual and life experience to others.

For Reed, “Being a younger coach, it’s always helpful to be able to go to older, more mature Christians for help.”

When they take the field Sunday at Alltel Stadium for the NFL title tilt against New England, the Eagles coaches will mostly be dressed in matching shirts, pants and hats. But for a smaller core of Christian coaches, Williams, Reed, Williams and others, they also will be matching inwardly in their faith.

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  • Art Stricklin