Tebow, Bradford, McCoy benefit from spiritual mentors
DALLAS (BP)--The 2011 NFL season featured the appearance of three highly touted quarterbacks, dedicated to honoring God with their considerable ability.
Those who watched Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford in their first professional year said Thursday at Super Bowl XLV media headquarters they came away impressed with their ability and maturity.
Kurt Warner, who won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams and led the Arizona Cardinals to the verge of another one before retiring, said he was thrilled to see the faith-filled trio carrying on a Christian legacy.
"You always need standard-bearers to set the ground rules," said Warner, who wore a black and white T-shirt with the large word "Sanctify" on the back, while making the rounds in the media center. "To the extent I was able to make it easier for them, no matter if you're talking about faith or football or anything else, is great."
After completing a stellar college football season, Bradford, from Oklahoma, was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and almost led the Rams back to the playoffs while starting at QB his first season.
Tebow, the former Florida Gator, was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos and was able to start later in the year. McCoy, from Texas, wasn't picked until the third round by the Cleveland Browns, but also worked his way into the starting lineup later in the season.
"I was pleased with where I was picked, because I know there is always a plan and a purpose," McCoy said Thursday in the media center. "I feel I'm in the right place with the right team and the right opportunity. I'm convinced it will work out for the best."
He was married before his first NFL season in Cleveland and now lives in a condo in Austin, Texas, during the offseason with his new wife, a graduate of Baylor University. They still attend their college church.
Another Christian player, Dallas Cowboy All-Pro tight end Jason Witten, said the experience of older spiritual players has made it easier for the young ones to come along.
"You see some of the older guys like a Kurt Warner and a Jon Kitna set the bar high for sharing their faith and being up front with what is important to them and where they are in their faith," he said.
Witten, who grew up attending First Baptist Church in Elizabethton, Tenn., and currently attends Valley Ranch Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, said the ability to share to a wide audience was what he was looking for in the spotlighted rookies.
"I think they're beginning to see how important it is to have the ability and the platform to share in the NFL," said Witten, who played at the University of Tennessee.
Bradford said he felt blessed to have a productive rookie season. He is drawing serious consideration for the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year award, which will be announced later Friday.
"It's been great this year," he said. "I'm very excited for the future."
Before their first NFL season started, the three players were spotlighted in a unique sports book entitled "Playing for a Purpose," which chronicled their rise in faith and in sports, by author Mike Yorkey.
Warner said he has been keeping a close eye on the three Christian rookies this year, e-mailing and texting McCoy and the others to encourage them in their faith during the season.
"I've been there through that experience. I know what to expect," Warner said.
Before he became a most unlikely star with the Rams, Warner said he learned from Christian great Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers. Now, he's hoping to show the talented trio what they can do on, and most importantly, off the field.
"I'm happy to do it because it's always an honor to talk about Jesus," Warner said. "I take inspiration from that and know it will always be awesome."
SUMMERALL AWARD GOES TO FOX: The Pat Summerall Award, named for the legendary NFL broadcaster, went to the NFL on FOX TV crew Thursday night at the Legends for Charity Dinner, held at the NFL headquarters hotel in Dallas.
The honor recognizes charity service, community and faith in the television media market.
Summerall, who credits his faith in Christ in overcoming alcoholism and health problems, is a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Former SBC President Jack Graham, senior pastor from Prestonwood, delivered the invocation at the dinner, a fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent.