EDITOR’S NOTE: Art Stricklin, a sports correspondent for Baptist Press and director of ministry relations for Marketplace Ministries in Dallas, is reporting daily from Phoenix with exclusive coverage for BP readers about the spiritual side of Super Bowl XLII.
PHOENIX (BP)–As strength and conditioning coach for the New England Patriots, it’s Mike Woicik’s job that the AFC champions have plenty of stamina to complete an undefeated season in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants.
But NFL veteran also is concerned about his team’s spiritual strength this week and every week of the year.
“We have some very strong [faith-oriented] players and coaches this year,” Woicik said, “and I think that has really helped us a lot of to keep the young players grounded.”
Woicik’s assistant, Don Davis, also serves as the Patriots’ chaplain. And Woicik said the team’s defensive and offensive coordinators, Dean Pees and Josh McDaniels, are good spiritual influences among the players.
“Faith is going to help you in every situation,” Pees said, “and the stronger your personal faith is, the stronger you are in every situation.”
Pees, who has directed the Patriots defense the last five years, said he was inspired by Super Bowl champion coach Tony Dungy last year and the way he used his platform to honor Jesus Christ.
Christian players and coaches on the Patriots display their faith in various verbal and non-verbal ways, Pees said, “but the strength we have on this team comes from within our faith in Christ.”
Woicik, who spent time with the Dallas Cowboys during their three Super Bowl runs in the 1990s, said being with another dominant team has been quite an experience.
The spotlight and the resulting temptations in Dallas a decade ago undercut the Cowboys as a consistently winning team, Woicik said, and they are just as present for good and for bad with the Patriots.
“You can’t let things go to your head” is advice the Patriots have heeded, Woicik said. As an added benefit for the team’s Christians: “We’ve never had this many opportunities to share and this much opposition. It humbles you a bit to be in this position again, but it’s so exciting for the players and the families to be able to share what is most important to them.”
McDaniels, one of the NFL’s youngest offensive coordinators, said he knows what has gotten him to this level and how to be grateful for the opportunity.
“My faith keeps me on an even keel and I learned I can lean on it when times get tough,” McDaniels said. “It’s helped me to know I can stand my ground in whatever I do.”
Whether the Patriots are hoisting a Super Bowl trophy after Sunday’s game or trying to figure out how they fell one game short, McDaniels said his reliance in God will remain the same.
“Faith and family, that’s the important thing to me.”
Davis said seeing the coaching staff as a player on New England for four years and now in his first year as a coach has shown him the witness a Christian leader can have in the spotlight.
“The easiest thing you can do is to use the platform God gave you to honor Him. That’s our goal and our mission.”