Scandal seems to be commonplace in the world of professional athletes — there are frequent stories of promiscuity, domestic violence, drug abuse. Fortunes have been won and lost over bad decisions. Careers rise and fall with poor personal choices.
So it is quite refreshing, as Super Bowl LI approaches, to know that two current NFL players are striving to live their lives with faith uppermost on their minds.
“It was hard evidence for us that God is real. He is alive and active and working.”
Matthew Slater, 31, has been a wide receiver and special teams player for the New England Patriots since he was drafted in 2008. He credits his mother and father — former NFL offensive tackle Jackie Slater — with providing a strong Christian foundation of faith in his life.
The younger Slater, born in Baldwin Park, California, was plagued with injuries during college while playing for the UCLA Bruins. However, the New England Patriots recognized his talent though he’d never started a single game. And Slater gives all the glory to God for that opportunity and trusts in His daily provision.
“For my family and me, being drafted was much like the miracle of Lazarus coming out of the tomb,” he said in a statement to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which was founded in 1954 to challenge both athletes and coaches to impact the world in the name of Jesus Christ. “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.”
He continued, “My faith has been very, very vital in me sticking around the NFL for this long. 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.”
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Jacob Tamme, also age 31, is currently a tight end for the Atlanta Falcons. The native of Lexington, Kentucky, has previously played for both the Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts. Tamme has spoken about the Christian foundation his parents gave him, which he is now passing along to his own family.
“My faith is important because it’s the core of why I believe we exist as humans. Faith allows us to spend an eternity with God and it fuels my every day actions. I’ve seen how having faith in God can change lives and it certainly has changed mine,” Tamme told the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“My faith is important because it’s the core of why I believe we exist as humans.”
One of his favorite verses is Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ”
“It is an incredible promise and healthy to refer to and meditate on during times when we don’t feel like things are going our way,” Tamme said.
When it comes to demonstrating faith in his career, Tamme said he intentionally brings Jesus into his game by “praying that I would play in the fullness of His Spirit and with the goal of bringing Him glory.”
Both men are known for living their lives with character on and off the field. As they play in what could be the greatest game in either of their careers, it is encouraging to know their focus goes beyond the football season. They are grounded in their faith in Christ — and focused on living their lives in way that is worthy of their calling as Christians.
Katie Nations, married for 15 years, is a working mother of three young children. She lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.