EDITORS’ NOTE: Sportswriter Art Stricklin, in his third year of BP coverage of the spiritual side of the Super Bowl, will be reporting this week from the site of Super Bowl XL in Detroit.
DETROIT (BP)–In the two-week buildup to a championship game with hundreds of different plotlines, Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck leaned forward in his chair at the Super Bowl media day as if he intended to divulge one of the secrets for his team’s successes.
“I don’t think many people realize,” the softspoken, seventh-year quarterback from Boston College said as reporters leaned forward for what they expected to be a juicy tip from the Seahawks playbook, “how many Christian guys we have on this team and how united we are.”
“There are a lot of us on this team from all parts of the country, but we are united in Christ, and the unity you see on this team is very encouraging,” Hasselbeck said.
Encouraged by their quarterback and their league MVP running back Shaun Alexander, Christian players on the Seahawks spent a majority of their hour-long session with the media sharing their faith and the need to focus on more than just Sunday’s final score.
“We believe life itself with Jesus Christ is more important than what we do on the field,” Alexander said. “We want to make sure our focus is on more than this game. We have a bigger calling.”
Nearly half of the Seahawks players and coaches who were given their own platform on media day spoke freely about their personal faith to the media.
Hasselbeck, whose father Don played in the NFL, has completed a remarkable personal transformation on the field: from a first-round draft choice of the Green Bay Packers when he came out of college, to a late-1990s trade to the Seahawks, where he lost his starting job to good friend and fellow believer Trent Dilfer, only to regain it when Dilfer signed with Cleveland last year.
He has received much of the credit for the Seahawks’ first-ever trip to the Super Bowl this year inside Detroit’s domed Ford Field.
Hasselbeck said his whirlwind of a football season, which will be highlighted on an international stage Sunday before a worldwide viewing audience of 1 billion people, has been made easier through his personal faith in Jesus Christ.
“If you let it bother you, the pressure of this week could really get to you. There is so much happening with interviews and posing for pictures and talking with ESPN and ABC and everything,” Hasselbeck said.
“I just remember what Trent [Dilfer] always prayed in the tunnel before the games, ‘Lord, may we perform for an audience of one.’ To know that I have God in my heart and that I’m performing for an audience of one on Sunday, and I want to be a good teammate, is very comforting.”
Fullback Mack Strong has been bashing his body into bigger and stronger defenders for almost a decade, clearing the way for Alexander and other more publicized backs, but he said the greatest moment of his career was when he became a Christian in 1997.
“We have been given a great opportunity to play football, but it’s short-lived. Five years from now people won’t remember that I sat in this chair on media day or even what I said unless they look at the video.
“We believe in something bigger than this game, that we have to stay strong for a bigger purpose.”
Asked to describe himself by one of the many non-sports reporters at media day, Strong, a committed husband and father of two kids, said his commitment to Christ as the biggest thing in his life.
“My turn-ons? Humility. My turnoffs? Pride before the fall. Am I afraid of a commitment? No, I already have a commitment to Christ. Have I had breakups in the past? Yes, I broke up with those who have a different philosophy.”
Backup quarterback David Greene, a rookie who starred at the University of Georgia where he was active in campus ministries and greatly influenced by his Christian head coach, said those looking to explain Seattle’s success coming into Sunday’s game need to look closer than wins or statistics.
“We have a lot of guys on our team who don’t get caught up in the extra stuff. We have guys who are in the Word every day when you could be getting stressed out.
“When you’re living with pressure, you have to surround yourself with good people and that’s what we try to do. If you believe in Christ, then you can live with pressure regardless of what happens on Sunday.”
Starting offensive guard Chris Gray spent 14 years in the league before ever realizing his dream of being in the Super Bowl, but he said the better blessing for himself and his teammates is knowing Christ.
“That’s the best blessing you can have,” he said.
Defensive tackle Michael Boulware will have the responsibility of helping slow down the Pittsburgh offensive attack Sunday, but he said he has been spending a good deal of his pre-game preparation working on another attack.
“The devil always tries to attack you along the way, but when I focus on Jesus Christ and put my heart on God, that’s the kind of focus I need for this game. We have great leaders on this team which lead the great way. That’s what its takes to be successful.”