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Seattle coaches prep team for more than Super Bowl victory

EDITORS’ NOTE: Sportswriter Art Stricklin, in his third year of BP coverage of the spiritual side of the Super Bowl, is reporting this week from the site of Super Bowl XL in Detroit.

DETROIT (BP)–Seattle fans, players and assistant coaches are counting on Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren to work his Super Bowl magic, having led the Green Bay Packers to an NFL title in the ‘90s.

Facing the favored Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday afternoon at Ford Field in downtown Detroit, Holmgren said he is counting on a different kind of power to make it through another crazy Super Bowl week: his personal faith in Jesus Christ.

“If I didn’t have a foundation in my faith with Christ to keep me through the high and lows of this week and every week, this job it would be very hard,” he said during the Jan. 31 media day.

“My faith gives you a perspective and that’s the most important thing in this job,” he shared.

Holmgren’s eternal perspective allowed him to send his wife Kathy and one of their four daughters on a medical mission trip with Northwest Medical Team, a Portland-based group this week to Africa, where they will be during Sunday’s championship game with Pittsburgh.

“My wife has been there before [on a mission trip] and my daughter is a nurse so they will enjoy it more. It’s more important.”

More important than the Super Bowl? That’s the ultimate message Holmgren subtly sought to spread to the disbelieving media.

While not outspoken about his faith when talking about football matters, Holmgren said he is happy to share the reason for his success with anyone who asks and the reason for the team’s surprising post-season success.

“I’ve always said this [job] would be hard without my faith,” the head coach said.

Defensive line coach Zerick Rollins said Holmgren is good about setting the tone for the team’s preparation for Sunday’s big game or any game.

“My faith in God is first in everything I do. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Super Bowl or a preseason game,” Rollins said. “You have to prepare to do your job and do it well, but the first thing you do is give God praise because He deserves it.”

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell has seen the high and lows of the NFL as a player with the St. Louis Cardinals and a coach for the last seven years with the Seahawks. As a Christian leader on the coaching staff, he knows this can be a tough week for his team.

“We have a lot of mountains to climb and a lot of temptations to face, but our faith puts it all in perspective.

“This,” Mitchell said of the Super Bowl, “is a small issue to God.”

After helping coach his team to the NFC Championship over Charlotte Jan. 22, putting the Seahawks in their first-ever Super Bowl, Mitchell said God quickly stepped in to show him the real importance of his life.

“When I came off the field, I found out I lost my father who had been sick and passed,” Mitchell said somberly. “This is just a game, but life goes on regardless. This is all secondary to Christ.”

To make sure Seattle is ready for its first Super Bowl game, the Seahawks coaches and players have been through seemingly endless meetings and drills to go over the attack they expect to see from Pittsburgh on Sunday.

But Mitchell said the Christian players and coaches likely will have a more important meeting this week in Detroit.

“We will have a share time with just players and coaches when we all get together. That’s a good part of our schedule.”

As a Christian coach, Mitchell said he never forgets to remind players of the blessings they enjoy on the field and off.

“They should enjoy the blessings of being a professional athlete but remember they are a role model at all times. We are instruments for Him on the field and off. That’s the most important lesson they can learn.”

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  • Art Stricklin