It’s down to four teams remaining to decide who will participate in the February 5th Super Bowl LI in Houston. The Green Bay Packers will be playing the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and the Pittsburgh Steelers will be visiting the New England Patriots in the Conference Championships.
In an interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), many players spoke candidly about their faith and their walk with God.
L.J. Fort (Pittsburgh)
L.J. Fort is the Steelers linebacker. He found God in the FCA Huddle at the University of Northern Iowa. Fort’s wife, Stephanie, will be commencing a position as FCA staff member for college women’s ministry in Pittsburgh.
Fort accepted Jesus in his college sophomore year, and increased his faith while attending ministry events. He met his wife, Stephanie, at FCA, and they were married last summer. In Pittsburgh, L.J. participates in a team Bible study while his wife participates in a women’s study with the player’s wives. Additionally, both attend a couple’s study.
The couple continues to meditate and feed themselves with scripture. They believe their identity in Christ is what holds them together.
Fort said to FCA, “Relationship with Christ is my key. It’s about perspective, to bring Him in at the center of everything for His glory. God’s still allowing me my dream, but it’s His [dream] too.”
Fort says in a feature story for the Pittsburgh Steelers, God is his absolute motivation and inspiration. He plays football to glorify Him, and wants to use his skills to worship Him.
Jordy Nelson (Green Bay)
While it may be unlikely that Nelson will be able to play on Sunday after breaking his ribs in a game against the New York Giants, people say this receiver has been a presence in Green Bay since drafted in 2008. Nelson has had almost one hundred receptions for more than 1,200 yards this season.
In 2011, Nelson revealed in an interview with FCA Magazine that he grew up in a small-town family that was involved in sports.
Nelson recollects that he grew up going to church with his family on Sundays, but that was the extent of his faith. He was, however, a member of his high school’s FCA Huddle, and credits FCA with helping him see how God and sports can be intertwined.
Nelson turned to God when an injury at Kansas State put him on the benches, and his relationship with God blossomed when he met his now wife, Emily.
“With her support,” he said, “I began to go deeper in my faith and eventually recommitted my life to Christ. I realized that I was called to be the spiritual leader in our relationship, which would require more of me than just talking the talk.”
Now Jordy and Emily find opportunities to help people in their community. They look to spread the gospel through their words and actions.
Matthew Slater (New England)
Matthew Slater is on the special teams for the Patriots, and is integral to their success. He has played a huge role in their dominance in the NFL for the previous nine seasons. He is a six time Pro Bowler.
Earler this month, according to ESPN, Slater was voted by his teammates to receive teh Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award. The award honors players who exemplify outstanding leadership and character in the home, the field, and the community. Pro Football Hall of Famer and Slater’s father, Jackie Slater, received the same honor in 1996.
Slater was raised in a family of believers in California. He came from loving and supportive parents. He credits his love of Christ and football to his father who shared Christ with him when he was seven. He then asked Jesus into his heart.
His parents fostered a relationship with Christ daily, and grew through his local church in Santa Ana.
While he attended a Christian school and was active in church, he found his faith challenged
Slater attended Christian school and was active in church, but wasn’t forced to make tough decisions about his faith until he enrolled at UCLA when he found himself immersed with different kids from all areas of life. It did inspire him to dig deeper into scripture seeking God’s truth so that he could stand for his faith. He also is grateful for the friends who poured into his life.
In his career, Slater never started a game at UCLA, and had numerous injuries as a Bruin. New England drafted him in 2008, and Slater calls it a miracle.
“For my family and me, being drafted was much like the miracle of Lazarus coming out of the tomb,” he said. “You just don’t see kids who never started a game in college get drafted. Getting the call from the Patriots was a very emotional moment. It was hard evidence for us that God is real. He is alive and active and working. The eight years since then have been an unbelievable journey, no question.
“My faith has been very, very vital in me sticking around the NFL for this long,” Slater continued. “In this sport, there’s so much uncertainty, so many unknowns. Through it all, I’ve had to put my whole trust in the Lord and know that He is in control. My purpose in the NFL is to bring Him glory and make His name more famous. It’s really been fun to see how He’s opened doors and allowed certain conversations of faith to come up over the years—in ways I never could have imagined.”