ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)–When the Pittsburgh Steelers made their last Super Bowl visit in 2009, team chaplain Kevin Jordan was just a rookie in his first year of NFL ministry.
But when the Steelers return for Super Bowl XLV in Texas this weekend, Jordan returns as a seasoned spiritual veteran attuned to the team’s spiritual needs.
Jordan, 38, said he appreciates the strong support and access given to him by head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff.
“Coach Tomlin understands the big picture with this team,” Jordan said. “I like what he is doing and he understands what I’m all about.”
A former assistant to retired Colts head coach Tony Dungy, Tomlin became a spiritual protégé of Dungy and saw that a Christian chaplain leader was as important as any high draft pick for the team.
“You hear the media talking a lot about a person’s coaching tree and the success they have had,” Jordan said. “But Coach Dungy has a spiritual coaching tree, and you can see what’s come from that.”
Jordan flew on the Pittsburgh team plane that landed Monday afternoon in Dallas and said he plans to continue his regular schedule of players’ and coaches’ meetings, Bible study and a Sunday team chapel.
“It’s always good to get support, but you know you’re always going to be facing spiritual battles,” Jordan said.
The Steelers faced several such battles this year with key injuries and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s four-game suspension after twice being accused of sexual assault.
“We all go through various trials, but I saw an incredible leadership and resolve from this year,” Jordan said.
A big part of the leadership came from Jordan, who had a star college career at UCLA and then spent 10 years as the Bruins’ chaplain, working for the Christian ministry group Athletes in Action. He came to Pittsburgh in 2009 when the Steelers won their most recent Super Bowl against Arizona and is glad to be back again.
“We have had some solid ministry and I think have built a strong spiritual base,” he said. “I think it’s no coincidence, I’ve had strong support from the top down.”
One of the strongest evidences of Jordan’s spiritual harvest came this summer just before training camp. Steelers tackle Tony Hills told Jordan about his new faith and told him he wanted to be baptized. Jordan called together some of the Christian Pittsburgh players and told them about the decision by their new brother in Christ.
“It was a spontaneous moment for the Lord,” Jordan recalled.
Another measure of the spiritual support system came in early December when the Steelers were in the midst of a crucial stretch drive. Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, along with their wives, took a night out of their schedule to appear at a fundraiser for Jordan and his ministry with the team.
“They knew how they could help and took the time away to help us raise thousands of dollars,” Jordan said. “That shows a lot about the character of a man.”
After the Steelers defeated the New York Jets to capture the AFC title, Jordan huddled the team around him in the happy locker room for a post-game prayer and a telling Scripture — 1 Chronicles 29:11-13, about glorifying the God who reigns over heaven and earth.
It’s a message Jordan and Christians on the Steelers’ team hope to deliver this week in Texas.
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent.