A championship ring is often life’s highest goal for NFL players, but as Super Bowl XLVIII approaches on Feb. 2 at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, the quarterbacks for the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos cherish something even more.
Says future Hall of Famer and record-shattering Broncos QB Peyton Manning in the 2001 book Manning: “For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends, and football. … [A]s important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old.”
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson—NFL newcomer extraordinaire—says in a self-produced October 2013 video, The Making of a Champion, that his football goals changed when he became a Christian at age 14: “I realized that God had given me so many talents that I wanted to give Him all the glory.”
Before this year’s playoffs began, Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll interviewed Wilson and four other Seahawks (for Driscoll’s Resurgence interview series).
Defensive assistant coach Rocky Seto told Driscoll that Jesus is “even better than a Super Bowl.” All five have now reached the pinnacle of a football career, but free safety Chris Maragos said he knows “how empty that is” without Christ.
By contrast, Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman ranted after his game-saving play during the Jan. 19 Seahawks’ 23-17 win over San Francisco for the NFC Championship. He derided the 49ers and “sorry receiver” Michael Crabtree, whom Sherman successfully defended in the deciding play. Sherman implied he’s the NFL’s best DB. “I appreciate that he [Crabtree] knows that now.” Sherman later apologized.
Sherman’s hubris goes on the line against the Broncos’ Manning, who this season threw for 55 touchdowns, breaking a record held by New England Patriots QB Tom Brady. (Then Manning beat Brady’s Patriots 26-16 on Jan. 19 to reach the upcoming Super Bowl.) Unlike Sherman, Manning quietly handles criticism about his age and arm strength. He neither trashes others nor praises God on camera.“I just want my actions to speak louder,” he wrote in Manning.
Despite the endless football storylines—a rare matchup between No. 1 seeds, the best defense versus the best offense, and more—an equal contrast will be players’ worldviews as the Broncos and Seahawks meet. If the Seahawks win, Sherman may rave again, but not Seto. “If that [win] happens, God willing,” Seto told Driscoll, “we’ll be able to tell people that Jesus is way better still.”
The halftime show once again won’t be family friendly. Many parents may know pop headliner Bruno Mars only by his boyish voice and his clean love song “Just the Way You Are.” But much of his other work features explicit language and sex. The rock group Red Hot Chili Peppers will join Mars, and bassist Flea bawdily asked fans on Twitter if they wanted to see him nude at the Super Bowl. He’s been known to perform with little more covering than his guitar. —A.B.