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Issue: "Follow the Greenback Road," Jan. 25, 1997

Super Bowl glory

The original New England Patriots two centuries ago (Samuel Adams, quarterback) were strongly motivated by Christian faith. Judging by locker-room statements following their January 12 playoff victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, so are some of the current Patriots who are scheduled to play in Sunday's Super Bowl. Willie Clay, who saved the game by intercepting a Jags pass in the end zone, told interviewers, &quotThanks be to the Lord." Otis Smith, who recovered a Jags fumble and ran it back for the clinching touchdown, said, &quotGlory be to God." And Curtis Martin, who scored the Patriots' first touchdown in their 20-6 win, said, &quotWe feel we're a blessed team. We thank God for this victory." Teams that lose are also blessed, of course. Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell said before the game, &quotThe most important thing in my life is my relationship with Jesus Christ." But reporters are not interested: &quotA lot of people don't ask about your faith. And when you do say something about your faith, you don't see it that night on the news." Such censorship does not occur when players are interviewed on live TV directly following a victory. Reggie White, the leading defensive player on the Green Bay Packers, said after his team's win over the Carolina Panthers, &quotI have to give Jesus the praise. All glory belongs to God." The 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound Mr. White, an associate minister in the inner city (see adjacent story), wears a jacket with these words on the back: &quotJesus Christ, Alpha Omega, Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords." Some Christian critics of professional football are not impressed by the new openness. They are concerned that Christians are supporting a violent game played on the Lord's day.

Praying to No. 1

University of Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel's opportunities for public testimony surged nationally during a whirlwind three-week period in December and January. Immediately after the Gators' 52-20 defeat of Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, resulting in Florida's first national championship, Mr. Wuerffel gathered Gators and Seminoles together on the Superdome field for a prayer meeting. The FSU contingent was led by that team's offensive and spiritual leader, Warrick Dunn. Christians from the two teams celebrated their oneness in Christ after two intense games. In December, Mr. Wuerffel's first words in accepting the Heisman Trophy as the nation's most outstanding college football player, were, &quotFirst and foremost, I give all the glory to God, He is the rock on which I stand, and I would publicly like to ask him to forgive me for my sins, of which there are many." The quarterback thanked his teammates, his coaches, his family, and the other finalists, and then said, &quotIt's a blessing to be here, a blessing to play college football and receive an education. But nothing can compare to the blessing of having a living, loving relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ." Keeping with the spirit of the ceremony, host Chris Fowler of ESPN closed the New York awards telecast by pointing out that although Danny Wuerffel had just picked up 25 more pounds of bronze in the trophy, &quotProverbs tells us, a good name has more power than gold and bronze."

Coming off the bench

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It's a pleasure for Christians to hear the testimonies of high-powered stars--but there are many more players who sit on the bench and need to remain faithful by practicing hard, even though it seems as if the opportunity to start will never come. Such a player is a University of Texas fifth-year senior, Al Coleman, who considered leaving school &quotplenty of times" since after four years on the basketball team &quoteveryone thought I was an assistant coach because I never played. When you sit on the bench, I used to slouch, but you think, 'This is bad for my back.'" Many players in such circumstances would complain, but--according to an Austin American-Statesman sportswriter--&quotColeman's such a goody-two-shoes, he doesn't even curse. He always practices hard, never sulks, is a team favorite, never even once came into [Coach Tom] Penders' office requesting a release." What was the secret behind Mr. Coleman's good attitude? &quotIt was tough," he said last week, &quotbut I gave it up to the Lord." The guard came off the bench twice early in January and played well; on Jan. 12 he received his first start and responded by hitting 10 three-point shots to set a school record; he missed only four times. Afterwards, Mr. Coleman talked with sportswriters about God's work in his life and mentioned that he even tried to get in some evangelism during the previous game while guarding Kansas star Jacque Vaughn: &quotI asked Jacque during the game, 'How come you're not living for Jesus? Who's your spiritual coach?'"

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