Legend and rising star give glory to God, win or lose
“I know why I’m here and it’s not about winning football games.”
When the San Fransisco 49ers headed into the locker room at halftime of the NFC Championship game (NFL semi-final) trailing 24-7 to the Detroit Lions, it seemed their fortune had run out again.
The 49ers, their fans and their young quarterback, Brock Purdy, are no strangers to heartbreak.
In 2019, they cruised into the Super Bowl, then cruised to a 20-10 lead with six minutes remaining. Only then did the wheels fall off, with the Kansas City Chiefs, led by superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, stealing the trophy.
In 2021, the 49ers clawed their way back, winning two unlikely playoff games before losing in the semi-final to the eventual champs.
In 2022, after an underwhelming start, the 49ers rode a 12-game win streak into the semi-final, having struck gold with a rookie quarterback: Brock Purdy.
Always an underdog, Purdy had been selected with the very last pick of the 2022 NFL draft, making him that year’s ‘Mr Irrelevant’. But when circumstances forced him into the starting quarterback role, he flourished, leading the 49ers to seven consecutive wins.
Purdy’s talent and intelligence weren’t the only things on display. He speaks openly about his Christian faith, and the way it shapes his approach to football and to life.
After beating Tom Brady in the first game of his career, Purdy was asked if he had always played so fearlessly. “Yes sir,” he replied. “I believe in the Lord. I trust in him, and I go out there and just play.”
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Purdy’s magical rookie season was cut short in the semi-final, when a crushing hit and a torn elbow ligament knocked him out of the game, along with all hope for the 49ers. When his backup went down too, the Eagles (led by Jalen Hurts, himself an outspoken Christian) cruised to a 31-7 victory.
In the post-game press conference, Purdy only had one complaint: “I’m just so sad for the older guys. I want it for these guys, the older guys, more than anybody.”
“Win or lose I’m going to glorify you.” – Brock Purdy
So as the 49ers sat in the locker room, down 24-7 to the Lions, twelve months after Purdy had torn a ligament in his elbow in the same stage of the NFL playoffs, it seemed the clock had struck midnight again.
But Purdy wasn’t fazed.
“When I’m down 17 at half,” he recalled after the game, “honestly I’m just thinking, ‘All right God, you’ve taken me here, and win or lose I’m going to glorify you.’ That’s my peace, that’s the joy, that’s the steadfastness — that’s where I get it from.”
The 49ers came out firing, racking up 27 answered points to beat the Lions 34-31 and advance to the Super Bowl, which will be played on Monday 12 Feb (Sunday in the US).
Life worth living
Unfortunately for the 49ers, they again face the task of slowing down arguably the best player in the history of the sport, Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs superstar will be playing in his fourth Super Bowl, having won last year and in 2019 against San Fransisco. Meanwhile, Purdy will play in his first, as the third-youngest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history (24).
But, again, I doubt Purdy will be fazed. He says his peace and steadiness come ultimately from knowing Jesus.
“I believe that Jesus Christ did come down and died for my sins and rose again, and he is living and sitting beside God on the throne,” Purdy told Sports Spectrum. “I believe that. It’s not just some story fairytale thing; it’s real. And it allows me to stay level-headed and real with life.
“My identity can’t be in football; it can’t be in the things of this world. It’s got to be in him. The minute you have fame, and if you’re trying to chase status and money and all this stuff, you’ll lose your life — rather than denying yourself, picking up your cross, keeping your eyes on Jesus and his promises … That’s life, and that’s a life worth living.”
“I know why I’m here and it’s not about winning football games.” – Patrick Mahomes
Brothers and rivals
Purdy isn’t the only high-profile quarterback to own his Christian faith publicly this season. Rookie sensation C.J. Stroud made headlines when he began a postgame interview with NBC, “First and foremost, I just want to give all glory and praise to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” In NBC’s social media video, only the beginning of Stroud’s answer was cut out, removing any reference to Jesus and sparking significant backlash online.
Mahomes has also spoken on several occasions about the centrality of his Christian faith. “My Christian faith plays a role in everything that I do,” he told the media before last year’s Super Bowl. “I know why I’m here and it’s not about winning football games, it’s about glorifying him, and that’s why I have no pressure when I step on the football field,” he said. “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about going out there and being the best I can in His name”.
Mahomes says he has grown in his faith over the last few years, while attending weekly Bible studies with the team chaplain, as well as chapel services the night before each game. “That’s huge for me,” he explains, “because it gives me that last touch to help me know I can go out there and just play and be myself, and whatever happens God has my back.”
Before each game, Mahomes prays “that whatever happens, win or lose, that I’m glorifying him and doing everything in the way that he wants me to.”
Purdy has endured crushing disappointment, but praised God through every up and down.
Purdy too spoke recently about praying during games, especially for peace, steadfastness and clarity from the Holy Spirit. He says he has been reading Psalm 23 every morning while spending time in solitude.
For football reasons, I’m pulling for the Chiefs. But it’s encouraging to see such high-profile athletes owning their faith in public and especially behind the scenes.
Again for football reasons, the 49ers haunt me. But if they do manage to take down Mahomes and the Chiefs, it will be hard not to be happy for Purdy, who has endured crushing disappointment, but praised God through every up and down, trusting him regardless of wordly circumstances.