The gospel meets the gridiron for BET’s Super Bowl Gospel Celebration when it returns on Saturday (Feb. 1) for a collaborative commemoration of faith.
For its 21st annual go-round, the attending artists and athletes will synergize in Miami one day before the Super Bowl LIV kicks off on Sunday (Feb. 2). As prominent voices of faith exalt the gospel through performances and inspirational messages, the Super Bowl Gospel celebration also grants footballers the opportunity to properly align their spirits before one of the world’s biggest sporting events. Renowned vocalist Yolanda Adams, singer and minister Donnie McClurkin and the NFL Players Choir are just a few of the names slated to grace the stage for the 2020 affair.
NFL brothers Quincy and Quinnen Williams (of the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, respectively) will also accept the 2020 Faith In Action award. Outside of the field, the Williams brothers serve as American Cancer Society ambassadors in honor of their late mother who passed away from breast cancer 10 years ago. Quincy and Quinnen now avail their ambassadorship to several resources, such as proper testing, for underserved Black communities.
In acknowledgement of such faith-filled devotion, we revisited five more football disciples who have powered through some of the toughest tribulations with the sanctitude of the Lord:
Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints
You may recall the name Demario Davis from 2019 headlines after the New Orleans Saints linebacker’s uniform violation controversy. The NFL fined Davis $7,017 for sporting his custom-gold Man of God headband beneath his helmet on gameday, a penalty that spurred discontent from several fans and Christian supporters. Davis not only successfully appealed the fine (on the grounds that the policy wasn’t fully understood nor was the headband visible on the field), but sparked a movement inspired by the gear. Elementary students of the St. Louis King of France School in Metairie, Louisiana stood in solidarity with Davis by recreating their own “Child of God” headbands. Additionally, these same students were pleasantly surprised when the 30-year-old showed up for a visit bearing pizza, drinks and gratitude for their support of his “Man of God” campaign.
Deion Sanders, formerly Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens
Despite triumphing as a two-time Super Bowl victor and World Series champion, all that glittered in the life of famed NFL retiree Deion Sanders wasn’t gold. The pro hall-of-famer attempted suicide in 1997 amid his divorce, driving his car off a cliff down a 30-to-40-foot plunge.
“I was going through the trials and tribulations of life,” he shared via The Undefeated. "I was pretty much running on fumes. I was empty, no peace, no joy. Losing hope with the progression of everything.” Thankfully, Sanders made it out of the attempt unscathed and with a new spirit, mentality and purpose pivoted toward the hands of God. He recalls this epiphanous moment where he “got on [his] knees and gave it all to the Lord.”
“I don’t believe you can be at your optimum without your faith,” Sanders continued. “Sports is sports, it’s a game. My faith is everything. It’s the gas that propels the courage, the truth, keeps me going. It’s the wind, it’s the wings, it’s the air that pumps into my lungs, that provokes me to live. Faith is everything.”
Earl Wolff, free agent
A hedge of protective angels encompassed the life of Earl Wolff when a harrowing robbery and kidnapping threatened the life of the 30-year-old in February of 2016. Sharing the gripping details of the incident with Sports Illustrated, the then-Jacksonville Jaguars player remembers being forced at gunpoint out of the driver’s side of his white Range Rover and shoved in the backseat as masked, AK-47 armed men flanked him on both sides and rode off with him. From there, his recountal worsens as his captors violently demanded cash in exchange for his life and attempted to leverage him as a hostage to rob his friend. Wolff was zip tied and left to wonder if he’d survive the robbery before the culprits finally tossed him from the vehicle and back to freedom. “I live life every day with purpose and do it with a smile,” he said of the incident. “I am so blessed that I have a chance to compete. I am so blessed to be alive.”
Devon Still, formerly Cincinatti Bengals, Houston Texans, New York Jets
As an All-American honors college player and NFL defensive end standout, Devon Still might never have imagined that he’d be putting his career on hold after two years. Courageously, the New Jersey-native did so after his daughter, Leah Still, was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma stage 4 cancer in June 2014. The 30-year-old father moved his career (and even his own injuries) to the backburner to stick beside Leah’s journey through her hospitalization, surgeries and, eventually, recovery to live a completely cancer-free #LeahStrong life.
“As we started going [through] this battle with cancer, I started to gain a closer relationship with God because I realized He had already shaped me and gave me that playbook that I needed for Leah to beat this disease,” Still told the Jesus Calling Podcast. “So just to see the work that He was doing in our lives, the work that He was doing other people’s lives and how He was using us to make an impact on the world—I’ve never [seen] God move that way before in my life. And there’s nothing—like, absolutely nothing—I can go to in my life that can strip me of my faith that I have in God.”
Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks
While an injury poses one of the most daunting threats to any athletic career, Seattle Seahawks’ Robert Turbin feared that it may result in the end of his. The Oakland-raised footballer sunk into uncertainty when he dislocated his shoulder during his time with the Indianapolis Colts. He was later released from the team in November 2018. Turbin was left without a team and anxious to know where his next opportunity would land. Despite the dubiety, Turbin kept his head in the game by steadying strong in NFL workouts and with trainers and physical therapists. Now, Turbin’s NFL home is back with the Seahawks for his second stint and he's increasingly confident in the Lord’s grace after resuming his pro-football career.
“What really helped me was my relationship with Christ. Just trusting in God that something would happen for me and understanding that there’s only a certain amount of things that are in my control,” Turbin said. “I can’t control everything. What I can control is my preparation, my work ethic, and being disciplined every day.”
(Photos: Sean Gardner/Getty Images, Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Pepsi, Joe Robbins/Getty Images)