Super Faith Taking Packers to Super Bowl?
Some Cheeseheads might say that the Green Bay Packers’ road to this year’s Super Bowl is nothing short of miraculous.
Many of the players who call “The Tundra” of Lambeau Field their home would have to agree.
And if they reach Super Bowl XLII on February 3rd at the University of Phoenix Stadium, two star defensive linemen in green and yellow will be found humbly giving thanks.
They may be called fierce troops on the gridiron, but in the locker room, the “Pack Attack” can be considered the fiercest prayer warriors in the game.
But these aren’t your typical prayers for victory.
Powerhouse of Prayer
Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila converted from Islam to Christ after he joined the Packers, and today he is one of the most powerful Christian witnesses both on the field and on his knees.
“My prayers are that God will bless my hands, increase my territory and allow me to be a blessing to my team,” said Gbaja-Biamila, who volunteers with a local food pantry and thrift store in Green Bay, called Manna for Life. “I pray for protection for me and my teammates, but ultimately I wrap it up by saying that, ‘God, I just pray you’re glorified through this whole thing, and ultimately, let Your will be done. If that means losing a game, so be it. If it means winning a game, so be it. If it means being hurt, so be it.’”
Gbaja-Biamila, whose name means “big man come and save me” in Nigerian, was raised by a Muslim father and a Christian mother. He followed Islam until he witnessed the life of a devoted Christian he would later marry.
The Christian convert beat out Rev. Reggie White’s all-time franchise sack record earlier this season – a record many thought would never be touched.
Every time the defensive end sacks a quarterback, he gives $1,000 to a local homeless shelter known as Freedom House, where he serves on the board or directors.
Last July, Gbaja-Biamila was involved in Leap of Faith Lambeau, where thousands of Christians participated in a day of repentance.
But with all of his accomplishments, Gbaja-Biamila doesn’t want any of the credit.
“By God’s grace, I’ve had great success on the football field. I’ve set sack records for one of the most storied franchises in all of sports – the Green Bay Packers – and I plan to do more in my football career as long as God allows me the opportunity,” Gbaja-Biamila said. “As much as I enjoy football and the success, I know that those things won’t last forever. There is one thing that will, however, and that’s my relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This by far is my greatest victory.”
Defending the Goal and the Faith
Lining up with Gbaja-Biamila is fellow-defensive end Aaron Kampman. He also ”goes deep” in prayer, proving to be a blessing to his teammates and community.
“I do believe that God is sovereign and He does orchestrate or know what’s going on, yes,” said Kampman. “Do I think that God cheers more for one team than the other? No.”
Kampman is also open to God working through his life on and off the field.
“I think that our ways are His ways,” continued Kampman. “So the outcome of a game, while very, very important, could be part of His plan to achieve something. But a loss could do that. It’s a lot bigger than trying to put God in a box for the NFL playoffs. It’s the other way around. Everything filters down from God.”
Kampman’s commitment to be a faithful servant on the sidelines can be seen as he distributes food to those in need at Paul’s Pantry in Green Bay.
While in college Kampman was president of the local chapter of the Christian outreach Athletes in Action.
In 2006, he was named as one of the NFL’s “Good Guys” for serving in his community. And in 2003, the defensive end was a finalist for the “Walter Payton Man of the Year” award, which is rewarded to the NFL player who has “demonstrated an outstanding balance between civic and professional responsibilities.”
Kampman remains surrendered to the will of God.
“I go back to a verse in Colossians (3:23) that says ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as though you were working for the Lord and not for men,’” said Kampman. “To me what that means is applying that to all aspects of your life, my marriage, this job here, my parenting. Work at it with all your heart. Not for the external outcomes that men will give you but for your internal gratitude for what you’ve been given.”
Packing on the Faith
Many would agree that Gbaja-Biamila and Kampman powerfully help their teammates whether kneeling on the sidelines or penetrating offensive lines.
On Thursdays between games, Kampman leads a Bible study group in the Packer’s defensive meeting room.
Before game day, a member of Athletes in Action leads a half-hour interdenominational chapel service at the team’s hotel.
So, it can be said that the Packers’ defensive ends have the team well covered.
But instead of a Super Bowl trophy, Gbaja-Biamila and Kampman are looking forward to an even better reward - the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
On Sunday, January 20, the Packers will host the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game, whose victor will win a trip to the Super Bowl.
If the undefeated New England Patriots make it past the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship game and the Packers triumph in The Tundra, a huge upset could be in the making.