The underdog Philadelphia Eagles took on the legendary Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII on Sunday – a rematch 13 years in the making.
The Eagles were seeking their first Super Bowl championship in history, and they finally got it, defeating the Patriots 41-33 in a record-breaking nail-biter of a game.
There was a lot of pressure on the players, but while winning was important, some of them were playing for much more than a Super Bowl Championship. Before the game, many of them spoke out about the faith that keeps them grounded, win or lose.
The Eagles had arguably been the best team in the NFL this season. Safety Malcolm Jenkins said it has a lot to do with the brotherhood of faith he and a lot of his teammates formed in the offseason through Bible studies, praying together, and even baptism.
"I've seen like three guys get baptized at the team facility. I don't think that's happened anywhere. It's just one of those things that faith is a really important part of this team. And we commune with one another often times. We talk about it, and it's been unique and special to watch that unfold in an NFL locker room," said Jenkins.
Tight End Zach Ertz agrees with Jenkins. He says he is personally reaping the benefits of a faith-filled locker room.
"I dedicated my life to Christ back in March. I was baptized in March, got married the next day. Our marriage has been built on that foundation from the word and Jesus and it's changed my life. And just to have these guys hold me accountable on a daily bases has been phenomenal for me. I hope I do the same for them," said Ertz.
"My faith in the Lord has been my foundation. It's been as they say your rock, your strong point. He's what I stand on. As a team, we're strong in the faith. People say underdogs, and we're like, we consider ourselves blessed," said Eagles Tackle Will Beatty.
Eagles Quarterback Nick Foles has been on quite a journey to get to this point. He was traded by the Eagles 2015. Two seasons later, the team signed him again as a back-up to Carson Wentz.
Then Wentz tore his ACL in week 14, and many questioned whether Foles had the goods to lead them all the way to a championship. Now they've just won their first Super Bowl ever under his calm, steady leadership.
Foles says it's all because of God's faithfulness.
"My faith in the Lord means everything. I'm a believer in Jesus Christ and that's first and foremost. That's everything. I wouldn't be able to do this game without Him because I don't have the strength to go out and do this. This is supernatural," Foles said.
"It's also an opportunity to go out there and share what's He's done in my life. And it's not about prospering at all. It's about how He's humbled me. In my weaknesses, He made me strong, 2 Corinthians 12:9. You know, whenever I was at my lowest, that's where my relationship with Christ grew," Foles continued.
And there's plenty of faith on the New England side too.
The Patriots won two championships in the last three seasons. For a lot of the players, this was just another opportunity for them to glorify the name of the Lord on the biggest stage in football.
"I feel like my purpose here in the National Football League and on this earth is bigger than the game of football. I firmly believe I've been given the platform of football to build relationships, build bridges, and connect with people, and show them the love of Christ. And that's something that I've enjoyed doing since I got here to New England and something that I continue to enjoy doing," said Patriots Wide Receiver Matthew Slater.
"I go through my ups and downs. I'm a broken human being and I have flaws and my struggles and God's the one that's consistent. God's the one that carries me through. And I'm so thankful for Jesus Christ and the things He's done in my life," said Patriots Tackle Nate Solder.
The Patriots' veteran defensive backs Duran Harmon and Devin McCourty says it's when things get tough that they lean on their faith the most to help them stay focused and poised.
"This whole journey has ups, downs, but the one thing that has been consistent is God – His love for me, His grace, His mercy continually shows His favor. I know that He has something bigger in store for me than football but I just have to stay the course, continue to keep serving Him and everything else will fall in place," Harmon said.
"I think one of the cool things that we talked about this year is just joy. You know I think football brings a lot of ups and downs and you can easily just ride with that roller coaster. Even today in our chapel before we came here, we talked about embracing everything, being here tonight and enjoying this process. And just being authentic, being ourselves and not being scared to be different and talk about being blessed and the opportunity to be here," McCourty said.
Tight End Dwayne Allen signed with the team in the offseason, so this was his first Super Bowl appearance. He worked hard to get here. While he was elated about the opportunity, he said none of his success would have been possible without his relationship with Jesus Christ.
"I go back to January 8, 2014, in my bedroom I had an intimate moment where I submitted to Christ. When I said, 'I can't do this alone. I tried it the last 23 years and it's just not working. I need You.' And the way that He has come into my life has changed my life for the better," Allen said.
"Taking that step to submit your life to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not something easy. But life isn't meant to be, but take heart because He's conquered all, and that's the faith that I have," he said.