FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (RNS) It’s easy to see why, if there are no atheists in foxholes, there are also few on a field where huge, strong men collide at tremendous speeds. Football players who gather at midfield to pray together show that faith is an ever present part of the game.
But with the Indianapolis Colts, it all seems to be something bigger.
At Super Bowl XLIV, faith is a topic that has come up repeatedly.
The Colts, seeking their second NFL championship in the last four years, were molded by Tony Dungy and are now coached by Jim Caldwell, two devout and openly Christian men.
Several Colts players and assistant coaches share that faith. In addition to questions about football, there are also representatives of various Christian media outlets following the team.
Yet while religion can be controversial when it repeatedly crops up in conversations focused on more secular pursuits, it doesn’t seem to be an issue with the Colts.
“I don’t think so because it’s not something that anybody tries to force on anybody,” Colts center Jeff Saturday said. “We talk about our faith openly. I don’t ever try to hide it…. It’s the same way for Caldwell and a number of players on our team. But at the end of it we’re all a team and we’re going to fight together and bond together. We enjoy what we do and we don’t let (religion or faith) become the centerpiece of it.”
Assistant head coach and receivers coach Clyde Christensen spent a portion of his time Wednesday (Feb. 3) talking with a religious television crew about the role Jesus Christ plays in his life, and then filmed a pitch for Haitian hurricane relief efforts.
Head coach Caldwell fields questions on the topic at seemingly every public appearance he makes. He, too, never tries to downplay his faith — he quoted Scripture in answering a question about the Colts possibly losing to the New Orleans Saints — while insisting he doesn’t think he should use his perch to proselytize.
“Obviously it is no secret that I am a Christian and I don’t hide from that fact at all,” he said. “I am not here to prove anything. I am not here to prophesize. I am here to do a job.
“It just so happens that you have a guy that is a Christian doing the job and I don’t hide from that fact.”
Dungy said that he and Caldwell shared long conversations about how their faith molded their approach to coaching — one Dungy characterized as built on positive feedback. Their goal was to forge a new coaching template in which winning was achieved without sacrificing personal lives or forcing onerous burdens on players and staff.
What’s more, Caldwell said his faith not only shaped his personality but contributed to his success.
“My father and my mother both were very fundamental as Christians and our household was basically one where your adherence to Christ and his commandments were extremely important,” he said. “It taught us discipline. It has helped a tremendous amount. I think it does instill some things in you that help you in terms of leadership.”
Again, though, he stressed that is not his locker room speech.
“I am not really out to make any kind of impression at all, that’s not my goal and aim,” he said. “I certainly think our platform is such that we use it for Christ’s benefit but also want them to understand that I do my job. That’s what I am here to do. I am there to direct the team and make certain that we’re in the best possible position to win.”
(James Varney writes for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.)
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