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PRO BOWL: For Christians in the NFL, there is more to it than just the game

POSTED Sunday, January 31.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (BP)–Just hours before the start of the 2010 Pro Bowl, Houston Texans Chaplain Gary Tyler implored players in this year’s game to fulfill God’s destiny in their lives.

Speaking to 35 players, coaches and family members at the National Football League team hotel, Tyler and Athletes in Action National Sports Ministry Director Corwin Anthony conducted a 40-minute chapel service as a prelude to Sunday night’s nationally televised game from Sun Life Stadium in Miami.

Baptist Press was granted access to this Pro Bowl spiritual highlight for some of the faith-filled family in the NFL.

Tyler said the players and coaches have a special responsibility as Christian members of the NFL.

“If you work in this league, God has sanctified you for doing more than just playing.

“God wants to develop you, to use you to lead others to Jesus Christ,” he said to affirmations of “amen” and “that’s right.”

“He has a plan and a purpose for your life. You have to seek Him and finish strong,” Tyler added.

Anthony has served as the hometown Miami Dolphins’ chaplain for the last decade and has conducted hundreds of chapel services, but he said this Sunday service was a special one.

With most NFL games played on Sunday, the players are either at the stadium getting ready for a contest or in an unfamiliar city without a chance to attend their local church. Anthony says the chapel service is their chance to have their own community of faith. Because the Pro Bowl is more of an all-star contest and a reward for a full season’s worth of accomplishment, members of both the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl teams met together as Christian brothers to worship and fellowship, not as opposing units.

“This is a great opportunity to be together,” Anthony said of the unique meeting of Christian athletes from all over the NFL. “We had more show up that I expected so that was a blessing.”

Among the players who were in the chapel service Sunday were New York Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Dallas tight end Jason Witten and San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding.

“I enjoy worshiping with fellow believers, so that is why I came,” Kaeding said. “This is what I believe in.”

Members of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, who are leading the NFC team in the Pro Bowl, along with members of the San Diego Chargers coaching staff, leading the AFC, also were in attendance at the Pro Bowl chapel.

“God is the center of my life in all that I do. My wife and I got a quick workout, but we wanted to be here to worship Him,” said Dallas Cowboys assistant director of pro scouting Judd Garrett, the brother of Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

“This is how we are raising our kids at home with God first, family second, whatever else is third. That’s why we are here today.”
Art Stricklin is a sports correspondent for Baptist Press.

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