Faith Comes First for These Super Bowl Players
By Movieguide® Staff
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the defending Kansas City Chiefs anticipate Super Bowl LV this Sunday, several players attribute their success on the field to their faith in God.
Last year, Chiefs rookie defensive back Juan Thornhill helped bring his team to a playoff run, which would end with them winning their first championship in 50 years. Unfortunately, Thornhill watched his team’s playoff run from the sidelines after he tore his ACL in their final game of the season.
Despite the physical pain of rehab and the emotional pain of not playing in the Super Bowl–a dream since his childhood–Thornhill said he relied on God.
“With this ACL injury, it can really knock you down. A lot of guys don’t really know how hard it is on the body and on the mind. The biggest thing for me, I was trying to keep a positive mentality, relying on God, reading different books and things like that, just so my mind could stay clear. Because if your mind’s not clear, you’re not going to be able to make it,” Thornhill said. “There were some hard times throughout the year. I was struggling mentally and physically, but was just keeping my faith in God, just knowing that He’s going to push me through those hard times and get me back to where I want to be.”
One of the books Thornhill referenced is the Bible.
“Whenever you’re down, there’s always the Word of God that can lift you up and bring you through that hole,” the athlete said.
But as the Chiefs return to the Super Bowl, Thornhill has a second chance to play his first minute in the biggest game of his life.
Although his season back from injury was not easy, Thornhill said that he feels 100 percent ready to help his team.
“Obviously it means a lot. I didn’t have the chance to play last year, and it really hurt me a lot just to be at the game but not able to be on the field with my team,” Thornhill said. “So this whole offseason, in my mind, I was just thinking we were going to get back to the Super Bowl. Like, there was no other option. So it definitely means a whole lot for me just being able to actually step [on the field], play in the Super Bowl. This is like your childhood dream to go out there and play in one of the biggest games ever. So I’m really excited.”
Thornhill will play defense while the Chiefs’ quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, leads the team’s offense.
Mahomes is also candid about his faith in God. Mahomes earned the Super Bowl MVP in last year’s big game. As many fans expect a similar performance in this year’s championship game, Mahomes said glorifying God remains his priority.
“Faith is huge for me,” Mahomes said.
In a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) video, Mahomes said, “Before every game, I walk the field and I do a prayer at the goalpost. I just thank God for those opportunities, and I thank God for letting me be on a stage where I can glorify him.”
The Chiefs are not the only team with players who play with a focus on God.
On the opposing team, Buccaneers’ kicker Ryan Succop also places his faith in God. Although Succop has experienced 12 years in the NFL, similar to Thornhill, this is his first Super Bowl.
After six seasons on the Tennessee Titans and an injury-riddled 2019 season, Succop was released and without a job amid the pandemic.
“Last year was a really difficult year for me, coming off of an injury, trying to play and maybe wasn’t where I needed to be, and really struggled when I played,” Succop revealed in an interview with Sports Spectrum. “It was tough, it was frustrating, there was definitely some adversity. When you go through something like that, I think it’s human nature where you start to kind of doubt yourself.”
However, just four months later, Succop is set to suit up with the Super Bowl-bound Buccaneers.
Succop prayed the night before his first workout in Tampa and said that his faith was in God no matter the outcome.
“This is wild, but literally the night before that workout (in Tampa), I had been praying about this like, ‘Lord, if You want this for me and my family, I just trust You with it and I’ll just trust You to take care of it. And You’ll show me if You want us to be here or not,” Succop said.
He continued: “There’s a rainbow that goes directly over, and it looks like it goes directly into Raymond James Stadium. … It was unavoidable, like I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the Lord is showing me that He wants me to be here.'”
Succop helped the Buccaneers’ reach only their second Super Bowl appearance in history as the NFL’s leading postseason scorer with 32 points in three games.
“It’s a really neat experience,” Succop said. “It’s something that, I’m in my 12th year and it’s the first time I’ve gotten this far.”
Succop shared that he reads Philippians 4:6-7 before every game and prays before every kick.
“When we trust Him, man, it’s amazing what He’ll do in our lives,” Succop said. “… Sometimes I think God uses the challenging times to grow us and mold us. He’s the Master Potter and we’re the clay, and I think He uses these times to get the clay exactly how He wants it.”
Super Bowl LV is set for Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET in Tampa.