The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

When the goal is God: NFL stars embracing faith

Hot on the heels of this piece about a devoutly religious NFL player, a reader sent me this item, from Sunday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, all about faith and football:

Adoring fans carried star safety Troy Polamalu on their shoulders — passing him off, one to another, as though they could live through his efforts.


Such adulation during the parade downtown honoring the Steelers after their victory in Super Bowl XL in 2006 might have given someone else a bloated sense of entitlement.

Polamalu? He flew to Greece, living for four days in a 1,500-year-old monastery with Greek Orthodox monks.

Polamalu, who is Greek Orthodox, had stepped back to wonder what the victory and accompanying fame meant. He was unimpressed.

“Oh, OK, I won a Super Bowl,” he said. “So what? I didn’t have that fulfillment like what God could provide for me.”

Polamalu is one of several Steelers who make religion and prayer a way of life while engaging in a sport that rewards brutality. It is such a part of the Steelers’ culture that Polamalu and other defensive backs pray in a huddle between each series. Back in the locker room, a small carton of scripture books, entitled “Our Daily Bread,” sits on a shelf next to a box of footballs.


“Nowhere in the Bible does it say that followers of Christ are soft,” safety Ryan Clark said. “If you think of some of the stories in the Bible, some of the strongest, hardest and most sacrificial men were men of Christ.”

Catholic and nondenominational church services are offered to Steelers players in the hotel the night before every game. Team chaplain Kevin Jordan, a Christian minister, conducts the nondenominational service, which attracts as many as 30 players, he said. He also leads players, their wives and girlfriends in Bible study during the week.

Nose tackle Chris Hoke, a Mormon who taught the religion to students in Belgium and France in 1995 and 1996, doesn’t attend the services, but he said he prays often.


“I do everything I can to stay close to my faith,” he said.

Rev. David Bonnar, pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Mt. Lebanon, presided over the Steelers’ Catholic service for 12 years and said attendance “was like the harvest. Every year is different. It depends on how many Catholics were on the team.”

He said one of his most fulfilling experiences was when tight end Mark Bruener accompanied him to Catholic high schools where Bonnar was attempting to recruit for the priesthood. Bruener, now a scout for the Steelers, spoke to the students about his relationship with God, Bonnar said.

Check out the rest.


Photo: Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike
Taylor pray together before the opener against the Falcons. Polamalu and
other defensive backs pray in a huddle between each defensive series. By
Chaz Palla / Tribune-Review

Comments read comments(5)
post a comment
doubtng deacon

posted September 19, 2010 at 6:35 am

Good press – if it’s true. Could be baloney, you know.

report abuse

jen ambrose

posted September 19, 2010 at 8:38 am

I am a huge Steelers fan. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania where we love God, our family, and the Steelers in that order. At one point, the sports museum of the Heinz History Center had no less than three rosaries in their collection, including one set of beads that once belonged to patriarch Art Rooney himself.
Most of the players quoted in this article are totally sincere about their faith. Troy Polamalu’s Orthodox faith has been documented in just about every possible news source from secular newspapers to the Catholic Faith & Family. Ryan Clark tweets almost daily from his morning scripture readings.
The one that everyone thinks might be insincere is Big Ben, though as Hines Ward says in the Trib article about Ben’s doubters “I wouldn’t say it just to say it. You don’t want to mess around with the Lord like that”
During Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season, he got into trouble with the NFL. At that time, though, it wasn’t the kind of trouble that has followed him the last few years. He had PFJ, Play for Jesus, written on his cleats, a willful violation of the League’s uniform policy.
Most of the time, though, it is wonderful being a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just like one would say, “Troy Polamalu eats his vegetables” to encourage a child to finish supper, we can say “Troy Polamalu prays every day.”

report abuse


posted September 19, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Catholic schools praise football and basketball players to the exclusion of good students. Is it any wonder that the Catholic students who become scientists often abandon their religion?

report abuse


posted September 20, 2010 at 11:34 am

frank…trying to figure out what you meant by your statement…
they abandon there faith cause of not being praised????

report abuse


posted September 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I am also from western Pa and a Steelers fan. I believe that articles like this need to be written to encourage your children that there is more to life then football. After all, it is what happens after we have died that really matters or should matter to all of us ! I steeped away from the Catholic faith during my late teens and 20’s which becamse a distartous period in my life. When I decided to return to the church because I felt that something was missing in my life, it wasnt always rosey and still isnt but I still rely on God and it is His will that comes first and not mine ! Faith and belief come from reading the word of God and practicing what Jesus himself taught, “love thy neighbor as thyself”! So, the next time someone asks you what you think about the present war and wears that have been fought in the name of God and America, think to yourself what would Jesus say about this !
God bless and Go Steelers !

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

This blog is no longer active
This blog is no longer being actively updated. Please feel free to browse the archives or: Read our most popular inspiration blog See our most popular inspirational video Take our most popular quiz ...

posted 10:42:40pm Dec. 12, 2010 | read full post »

One day more
A reminder: "The Deacon's Bench" is closed! Please enjoy the archives! ...

posted 11:26:20pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Meet Montana's married priest
Earlier this week, I posted an item about Montana getting its first married priest. Now a local TV station has hopped on the bandwagon. Take a look, below. ...

posted 10:29:55pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Big day in the Big Easy: 10 new deacons
Deacon Mike Talbot has the scoop: 10 men today were ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This group of men was formally selected on the day the evacuation of New Orleans began as Hurricane Katrina approached. The ...

posted 6:55:42pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Gaudete! And let's break out a carol or two...
"Gesu Bambino," anyone? This is one of my favorites, and nobody does it better than these gals: Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Staade. Enjoy. ...

posted 1:04:10pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.