It has been said that football isn’t a contact sport; it’s a collision sport. And for those who play in the National Football League, certainly athletes easily described as the best of the best, wins, and even losses, come exclusively through sheer force. Players don’t seek to hurt but they must overpower to win. Overpowering in a collision sport is no small feat.
While a handful of NFL players have made headlines in recent years for carrying that overpowering, even brutal attitude off the field, brutality is not the essence of most men of the game. For some, perhaps many players, faith plays a role equal to or even greater than physical strength.
The role and importance of faith for those in an arguably violent sport took the stage in the Riverview High School auditorium one evening last week as two Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the team chaplain spoke to a group of mostly young people about their own faith and what it means to them.
For many people, faith is intensely personal. It’s not always easy to stand up in front of a group of strangers and discuss that which lies in your heart and soul.
But that is exactly what Buccaneers team chaplain Doug Gilcrease, offensive tackle Demar Dotson and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy did. All three men, former or current professional athletes (Chaplain Gilcrease played Major League Baseball in the 1980s with the Kansas City Royals and has been the Buccaneers’ team chaplain for nearly two decades), talked about football and how real wins are not necessarily found on the field.
Dotson spoke of experiencing turmoil and anxiety in his life, something few may necessarily expect from a highly regarded professional athlete. And then, at one point in his life, he “knew he had to get right with God, to serve and forgive his fellow man in order to maintain the inner peace” he found in his faith and “to have everlasting salvation.”
McCoy then took the stage and immediately got the crowd moving and laughing. And then he turned serious.
He talked about how fortunate he was to be able to make his living playing a game that he loved. He also remarked that people would often ask how he could smile, even after a loss. He could smile because he did his best and, primarily, because he knew it was all merely momentary.
Speaking directly to the young people in the crowd, McCoy stressed that things like Facebook, Twitter, and even football were all things that would someday fade away. But “salvation will never fade away” — and he found “everlasting salvation in God.”
Their faith likely tells both Dotson and McCoy to do their best for the Buccaneers, their teammates and for the fans. They hit hard; they want to win. But in the end, their personal wins are in their hearts and souls through their faith and their actions as a result of it, with the Super Bowl of eternity lying down the road. Games end. Faith and their salvation carry on.
The event at Riverview High School on Oct. 5 titled, “Going Deeper with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Bell Shoals Baptist Church. Free hot dogs and chips were provided and there was no charge to attend the talk.