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RUSSELL WILSON CAN THE SEATTLE QB LEAD HIS TEAM TO THE SUPER BOWL?

Danny Vernon Woodhead Davis San SanFrancisco Diego Chargers 49ers

Drew Brees New Orleans Saints

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Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers

Nick Foles Philadelphia Eagles

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OPINION

AIRING IT OUT BY BRETT HONEYCUTT

b h o n e y c u t t @ s p o r t s s p e c t r u m . c o m | F o l l o w @ b re t t _ h o n e y c u t t

Why the NFL matters

Ryan Succop Kansas City Chiefs

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Adam Vinatieri Indianapolis Colts

Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals

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Bowls have since 2010). It’s a sign of the times. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it does prove that people enjoy watching the NFL and especially the Super Bowl. Christians can view this several ways, with one being that too much attention is being paid to sports, specifically football, or that, although too much attention is being paid to sports, especially football, that believers who play this sport have a platform like no other person can have in the United States. When their platforms are used to honor God or bring glory to Him in some way, they have a platform that is broader than pastors, evangelists and common people like you and me. But, their platform doesn’t replace pastors, evangelists or ordinary people who share a faith in Christ. We have a platform, as well, but it’s different. And their platform actually helps us by providing a segue into sharing our faith with a culture that is crazy about sports, and the NFL in general. In the pages that follow, you will find those athletes, specifically football players (one from each of the 12 playoff teams) who have committed their lives to Christ and have been impacting others by sharing their faith. Not all of them will be able to win the Super Bowl, the prize they all strive for each season, but all are winners in God’s eyes because they follow Christ.

Danny Woodhead San Diego Chargers

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ports are popular in America. How popular? Of the top 50most watched television programs in America in 2013, 45 were sporting events. Of those top 50 programs, the top 26, and 42 of the top 50, were NFL games. The rest of the top 50 were the BCS National Championship Game (No. 27), NBA Finals Game 7 (No. 29), NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game (No. 39) and five episodes of NCIS (ranking anywhere from No. 40 to No. 50). To put that in perspective, 84 percent of the top 50 most-watched television programs were NFL games. And to put it in even greater perspective, the three most-watched NFL games (the Super Bowl at 108.69 million, and the AFC and NFC Championship games at 47.71 million and 42 million, respectively), combined pulled in 198.4 million viewers and outdid the eight other nonNFL games, which had 14 million less viewers at 185.04 million. The highest rated non-NFL game (the BCS National Championship Game) drew 26.38 million viewers (or less than a fourth of the Super Bowl and about half of the NFL’s AFC Championship game) In sports terms, anyway you look at the numbers, the comparison was an annihilation, no contest, a rout, etc. Seems like no sport (or television program) captures a nation’s attention like the NFL, which brings me to what’s happening for the next five weeks – the NFL playoffs. I love the playoffs and so do the majority of sports fans in America as the statistics prove. In fact, statistics also show that the NFL wasn’t just popular in 2013; it has been popular each year for a while – and it keeps building. According to television numbers, the top four, and nine of the top-10 most watched programs in U.S. history, are Super Bowls. The only exception in the all-time list was the last episode of MASH, which ranks No. 5 (until Feb. 2 when it likely will fade to No. 6 after this year’s Super Bowl vaults ahead of it as the last four Super

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Kyle Arrington New England Patriots

SPORTS SPECTRUM’S SUPER BOWL PREDICTION

At the beginning of the season, I said that the Denver Broncos would win the Super Bowl by beating the Atlanta Falcons. Well, Denver made it as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and Atlanta had one of its worst seasons and missed the playoffs. I still think Denver is the team to beat and will face the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl. Neither of their roads to the Super Bowl will be easy, but winning the biggest prize in American sports never has been.

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Brett_Honeycutt.

Winston Justice Denver Broncos

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Steve Smith Carolina Panthers SPORTS SPEC-

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“Without my relationship with Christ nothing else really matters. This is obviously the greatest situation to be in in football and in my athletic career but my faith comes first.� -Danny Woodhead as told to the media during Super Bowl XLVI while playing for New England

Danny Woodhead San Diego Chargers, running back

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Ryan Succop Kansas City Chiefs, kicker 7 4

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Joe Robbins

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Adam Vinatieri Indianapolis Colts, kicker

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“It gives us a big podium and great opportunity that the Lord gave us to be out here and to glorify Him.” -Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri on how he views his position as a pro athlete

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“One thing I have realized when growing in my faith is that I can’t be passive in my relationship with God. It is truly a relationship and I need to keep up with it.” -Andy Dalton as told to Athletes in Action

Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback

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Andy Images Lyons / Getty Images Cooper Neill / Getty

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“I reminded myself that whatever happened, it was definitely God’s plan and it was already written for me. What matters is health, faith and family. Football is just a game.” -Kyle Arrington as told to theinsightfulplayer.com when his faith began to dwindle after suffering some injuries

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Kyle Arrington New England Patriots, cornerback

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“I work to glorify God. I really felt that God put that in my heart. I think my goal is to be a great offensive tackle. But, my major goal is to glorify God. I want people to see Christ in me when I play.� -Winston Justice on what motivates him

Winston Justice Denver Broncos, offensive lineman

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Cooper Neill / Getty Images Hyoung Chang / The Denver Post, MediaNews Group

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Lesson Learned

SAN FRANCISCO TIGHT END VERNON DAVIS TOOK WHAT HE LEARNED IN 2008 AND BEGAN A TRANSFORMATION ON AND OFF THE FIELD BY BRETT HONEYCUTT

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SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2014

to watch Vernon Davis talk about art and football...

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Vernon Davis had just made a seven-yard catch, and after being tackled he slapped the helmet of a Seattle Seahawks defender that resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. Normally that would be the end of the story, with a few mentions on ESPN that day or in the sports section the following day. But for Davis it was only the beginning. As he walked to the sideline on that Oct. 26, 2008, day at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, with his team headed to a humiliating 34-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and a dismal 2-6 record, newly appointed head coach Mike Singletary, a Hall of Fame player, benched Davis. After thinking a little, though, Singletary went over to Davis and kicked him off the field. At some point Davis demanded to be traded, and Singletary bluntly said he would oblige. After the game, Singletary stood at the podium in the press conference and let his frustration with the former No. 6 overall pick be known to everyone in a now infamous rant. “Vernon is just…It was something that I told everybody at the very beginning of the week. I will not tolerate players that think it’s about them, when it’s about the team,” Singletary said. “And we can not make, we can not make decisions that cost the team and then come off the sidelines and be nonchalant. No. You know what? This is how I believe, I’m from the old school, I believe this: I would rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we gotta do something else, rather than play with 11 when I know that right now that person is not sold out to be a part of this team. It is more about them than it is about the team. Can not play with them, can not win with them, can not coach with them, can not do it. I want winners. I want people that want to win.” It looked as if Davis would be one of those high-priced draft picks who just didn’t pan out. Someone whose ego was bigger than his helmet. But that was then. Fast forward to the end of last season: Davis had helped San Francisco to the Super Bowl, and he acknowledged how much that incident paved the way for his success – as a person. “I came in with the attitude to catch balls and get statistics and things like that,” he said at Super Bowl Media Day before the game. “I didn’t care about the team. I was about Vernon, always, but now I could care less about catching balls Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

“I didn’t look at it from a team standpoint. I grew. Coach (Mike) Singletary was here, and he helped me make that transition from a boy to a young man. I’m very thankful for that. I thank God for that.”

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Trisha Leeper / Getty Images

Artistry in Motion Vernon Davis continues to surprise people, but it’s not only because of his personal transformation from ego-inflated NFL star to team-first, God-honoring player. Davis has an artistic side, but he was reluctant to show that as a child who grew up in Washington, D.C. because he thought people would make fun of him. He revealed that side on Dec. 12 in San Jose where he opened Gallery 85 (a nod to his jersey number) to help support the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts, which promotes arts education and art appreciation for at-risk youth. At the invitation-only event, where Davis wore a salmon-col18

SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2014

ored sports coat, he talked about his love for art while showcasing some of his own work and the works of other artists from that area, including youth. One in particular, Niyjale Cummings, was the recipient of the Vernon Davis Visual Arts Scholarship – another way that Davis is showing his love for the arts. “This is something I’ve been building toward for years,” Davis told the San Jose Mercury News. “Speaking for the 49ers, we’re proud to be part of one of America’s future cities.” - BRETT HONEYCUTT

Michael Zagaris / Getty Images

and getting statistics because I understand that the team is much bigger.” “I didn’t look at it from a team standpoint,” he told USA Today. “I grew. Coach (Mike) Singletary was here, and he helped me make that transition from a boy to a young man. I’m very thankful for that. I thank God for that.” But events in Davis’ life, on or off the field, aren’t just by chance, he says. God orchestrates everything. When asked about luck during Super Bowl week last year, Davis said the team’s success couldn’t be tied to something as trivial as that. “I don’t think that this is a game of luck,”

Davis said. “I don’t really believe in luck, I believe in God. I believe that He’s always the way, He’s the answer, so prayer is important to me. So as far as luck, it doesn’t really stick to me.” Though Davis’ team lost 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII in February, his faith is what he wants to be remembered for – not rings and championships – because his faith is a huge part of his transformation. “My faith as far as keeping me focused kind of works hand-in-hand,” said Davis, who was having his best season at the halfway mark since entering the NFL in 2006. “When I’m playing the game, my faith is what keeps me going, keeps me humble, it makes me a

leader. As far as off of the field, I can stay away from the negativity that life brings you and that transforms me into a leader as well because I can go back and implement what I do off of the field to my teammates.” “I want people to remember that I was a man of God, I was a leader and that I was dedicated to this game. I also want them to remember that I gave this game everything that I had as a tight end. I gave it everything. I gave it my all.” Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine.

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“It just clicked to me. For some r ‘You know what? I want to be men” (the pastor talked about). Christ into my heart.” -New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees on when he

Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints, quarterback 7 20

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Andy Lyons / Getty Images

reason, it clicked. (I said) one of those, “few good I really accepted Jesus became a Christian

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“Faith plays an interesting role in our game. There are a lot of guys that profess to know God, but myself included — we don’t always set the best example for Christ. It’s a work in progress as every relationship is, but we have an important opportunity as Christians in the NFL to use that platform to glorify God.” -Aaron Rodgers on the influence of Christians in the NFL

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Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers, quarterback

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Nick Foles

Philadelphia Eagles, quarterback 7 24

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Drew Hallowell

“I’m a Christian and I believe in God, and when you do great, you stay humble and you give Him glory.”-Nick Foles as told to Philadelphia’s SportsRadio 94 WIP on how he stays grounded

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“God is real. And even though you may not see Him, He loves you more than anything. God will leave those 99 sheep to pursue that one.” -Steve Smith on God’s love

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Tom Dahlin

Steve Smith Carolina Panthers, wide receiver

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Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks, quarterback 7 28

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Bob Levey/Getty Images

“You have to stand for something and (God) has given me this tremendous platform. I should not be in the NFL—I am 5-10 and five-eighths. All the adversity and naysayers, God doesn’t care about that.” -Russell Wilson, while speaking at Northwest University, a Christian school in Kirkland, Wash., during the school’s third annual athletic Hall of Fame Benefit in March

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2014 NFL Playoffs DigiMag