ORIGINALLY POSTED Feb. 3, 2008
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 the site of Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix, with exclusive coverage for BP readers on the spiritual side of the Super Bowl.
PHOENIX (BP)–San Diego Chargers record-setting running back LaDainian Tomlinson thanked God and his mom.
Tomlinson received the 20th annual Bart Starr Award during the Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast Saturday in Phoenix. Starr presented the award, which honors Hall of Famer Starr’s lifelong commitment to be a positive role model to his family, teammates and community.
In a brief but emotional speech at the NFL-sanctioned event, Tomlinson credited his mother, Loreane, for keeping the family afloat and attuned to faith.
“We didn’t have much growing up, but we had a home,” Tomlinson said of his upbringing in a small town near Waco, Texas.
“When I was in high school, my mom accepted Christ into her life and that made all the difference. That is what life is all about,” the All-Pro running back said.
“One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Luke 12:48 which says where much if given, much is required,” Tomlinson recounted.
“It also says in the Bible it’s harder for a rich man to get into heaven than a poor one. I have so much now; I’ll never forget that challenge. I live by that verse which always keeps me humble.”
When Tomlinson was in college, he had a chance to reconnect with his father, Oliver, who only sporadically had been part of the family.
“I understood he was still a special man because he gave me his last name and he gave me his heart,” Tomlinson said. “He passed away about a year ago, too early to get to know him better.” But when he gets to heaven, Tomlinson said, he believes he will be asked what he did with the Tomlinson name. His hope: that the name will be “something I’ll always be proud of.”
He thanked his mother and his wife, LaTorsha, for their willingness to stand with him in good times and bad.
“When you’re knocked down in life, Jesus Christ in us says get up and try again,” Tomlinson said. “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for allowing me to stand before you.”
Tony Dungy, who led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2007, said the right player received the Bart Starr Award for the right reason.
“LT has put the knife in us several times with the Chargers,” Dungy said of Tomlinson, regarded as one of this generation’s premier running backs.
“But there is no one I respect more for the way he carries himself,” Dungy told the breakfast crowd at the Arizona Biltmore, “and I make it a point to tell him that every time we play.”
During a 15-minute talk, Dungy made reference to the reason he decided to return as the Colts’ head coach for another year.
The Super Bowl “is not the ultimate. Life will go on whether I coach or not, but I feel like God’s hand has been placed on me and that’s what motivates me to stay.”
“The No. 1 reason we enjoy coming to the Super Bowl is not so much to see old friends or fellow coaches but to share Christ’s message,” Dungy said. “If you’re not doing it for God, you’re not doing it for long.”
Dungy concluded his remarks by offering people in the crowd an opportunity to ask Jesus Christ to come into their life as Lord and Savior.
Among those in the crowd was first-year Giants general manager Jerry Reese. “I’m just trying to stay in the middle of God’s presence,” Reese said. “I feel like you need to obey to receive and stay in the middle with God.”
From the Patriots were team chaplain Don Davis and injured linebacker Rosevelt Colvin.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve been hurt in my career,” Colvin said, “but I look at this as an opportunity to look back on the foundations of my faith.”
While the Patriots were eyeing professional football history as the NFL’s first-ever 19-0 team if they win the Super Bowl, Colvin added an eternal view to such pursuits.
“You can choose to focus on the one game or you can choose to focus what’s really important,” Colvin said.
Also speaking at the breakfast were Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary, formerly of the Chicago Bears and now an assistant head coach with the San Francisco 49ers, and Derrick Brooks, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker.
“Players will always follow someone with character,” Singletary said of the Bart Star Award honorees over the years. “They will gravitate to that person.”
The breakfast also included a video tribute to longtime Dallas Cowboys chaplain John Weber, a member of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, who died last fall. His widow was on hand to receive a special tribute from Athletes in Action President Bill Pugh.