Carl Mays: "It's how you play the game..."

Jan. 30, 2014 @ 11:50 PM

One day during this Super Bowl week, I was e-mailed a story regarding the spiritual life of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The next day a story came in about Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s spirituality.

The first story quoted Wilson saying, “I was always in church for as long as I can remember. My parents took me. But I was kind of a bad kid.”

He went on to explain his turnaround: “When I was 14, I had a dream my dad passed away, and Jesus came to my room. Jesus knocked on my door, saying, ‘You need to find out more about me.’ So that Sunday morning I ended up getting saved, became a Christian.” His father did pass away in 2010 at age 55 due to complications from diabetes.

Wilson’s story was excerpted from a 15-minute online video titled “The Making of a Champion.” The video features several Seattle players and coaches talking about their careers and lives, and about their relationships with God. I enjoyed and appreciated the video, and I think many of my readers will also. It can be found at

The second story quoted Manning as saying, “My faith has been number one since I was 13 and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning a simple question: ‘If you died today, are you 100 percent sure you’d go to heaven?’”

Peyton said, “It was a big church, and I felt very small, but my heart was pounding. The minister invited those who would like that assurance through Jesus Christ to raise their hands, and I did. Then he invited us to come forward, to take a stand, and my heart really started pounding. From where we sat, it looked like a mile to the front. But I got up and did it, and I committed my life to Christ, and that faith has been most important to me ever since.”

Peyton’s story is excerpted from “Manning,” the book he co-authored with his father Archie. More about this book can be found on I haven’t read it, but the book has some very favorable reviews.

The Wilson story points out that while some athletes get in trouble for Twitter comments, Russell posts daily Bible verses on Twitter. At age 25, he is in his second NFL season. His charity work includes weekly visits to the Seattle Children’s Hospital during the NFL season and visits with soldiers at the local military base. He is national ambassador of the Charles Ray III Diabetes Association. He says, “I realize God has given me so many talents, and I want to give him all the glory.”

Manning, age 37 and in his 15th NFL season, claims his four priorities, in order, are faith, family, friends and football. He testifies, “My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven.” In describing his spiritual life, he says, “I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people. But I don’t talk about it much or brag about it. It’s between God and me, and I’m no better than anyone else in God’s sight.”

Well-known for his various charitable works, Manning started his own charity shortly after beginning his NFL career. This PeyBack Foundation’s mission is to promote the future success of disadvantaged youth with programs that provide leadership and growth opportunities for children at risk.

Legendary sports journalist Grantland Rice is credited with writing, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Wilson and Manning will go into the Super Bowl with all intentions to be the best quarterbacks they can be in order to get a Super Bowl Championship ring. But apparently they know that how they play the game of life is far more important.

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. E-mail or view