Patriots’ Chaplain’s authenticity: ‘I’ve lived it’
When it comes to the NFL’s ultimate game, the Super Bowl, the league keeps track of facts and figures covering each phase of the game.
From the most wins of the coin flip to most yards rushing, passing, received and scoring, the NFL has a category in the record books.
But as the New England Patriots head into Sunday’s Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix, they are likely to add a new entry: First former Super Bowl champion player to become a team’s Super Bowl chaplain.
That’s the role former Patriots linebacker Don Davis is serving in his first season as New England’s chaplain, working with the players he played with for years.
“I’m glad the guys can see the life I lived [on the team] was the consistent life. They know the things I’m telling them -– I’ve lived it. I can either encourage them or speak a soft rebuke,” Davis says.
Davis graduated from the University of Kansas in 1997 and spent 11 years in the NFL, the last four with the Patriots, winning two Super Bowl championship rings.
But all the while he felt God was calling him into ministry. He had been discipled and greatly influenced by Christian NFL leaders like Tony Dungy and Kurt Warner before he came to New England and met longtime Patriots chaplain Walt Day.
Day continued to pour his life into Davis. And when Day saw Davis’ heart for ministry, he asked him about taking the job after Davis retired following the 2006 season. Davis also serves as assistant strength and conditioning coach with the team as well as ministering at several small churches outside Boston.
“I really enjoyed being around Don,” Day said, “and saw his heart for ministry. He can be a great asset to the team ministry because he is considered more of an insider and can relate to the guys.”
Day, longtime director of Athletes in Action-New England, will continue his role as chaplain for the Boston Red Sox and will help with overall AIA outreach. But he was glad to turn over the Patriots ministry to someone who has lived it for several years.
Davis, although removed from the game for just a year, said the players “may look at me as a grandfather and a chaplain, but the guys are going to need help more. For all of this talk about a perfect season, we are in the midst of a perfect storm. That’s what life really is.
“I’ve challenged the guys to live a victorious life regardless of the circumstances, [to] put in principles for victory and study the playbook of life.”
While the Patriots haven’t lost a game this year, Davis emphasized to the team that the fans’ appreciation can be fickle at the first loss or first sign of faltering, but the players have to focus their lives on real importance, not on-the-field glory.
“You can’t live for the applause of man, but only grow in the knowledge of God,” Davis said.
His responsibilities as a chaplain include, but are not limited to, organizing weekly men’s and couples’ Bible studies and arranging speakers for the weekly chapel services the night before every game -– in addition simply to doing his best to serve the flock that God has entrusted to his care.
“One of the things we’ve been doing is looking at the landmines to faith. They include women, drugs and materialism,” Davis said. “If we step on one of those, it can blow our lives away as well as our witness.”
With the focus on the Patriots’ chance for NFL perfection and league history this week, Davis is making sure his former teammates receive one consistent message: “An undefeated season, doesn’t mean an undefeated life. That’s where the focus should be.”