No matter what happens on the field at Super Bowl LIV between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday, there is one thing that fans who watch closely are sure to see: a postgame prayer huddle formed by members of both teams.
It’s tradition now for many NFL players to come together after battling for 60 minutes and give thanks to the God who unites all believers. It’s a tradition that spans from high school football to the Super Bowl, and it’s a tradition that has been decades in the making.
The first prayer huddle happened after a Monday night clash on Dec. 3, 1990, between the two best teams in the league at the time, the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.
At a time when being a Christian in the NFL was frowned upon, a core group of believers on the 49ers decided to conceal their faith no longer. They invited the Giants to do the same. Tight end Brent Jones was one of those 49ers, and he remembered the night well on a recent episode of the Sports Spectrum Podcast:
“For the very, very first time ever, five or six guys from our 49ers Bible study decided to let the world know that Christ was the most important thing in our lives and we had the opportunity to … kneel down and pray with a couple of Giants after a game, which had never been done,” Jones said.
The display of faith resulted in notes from the league in their lockers the next week threatening a $25,000 fine if they did it again — no small amount considering the contracts of the era.
“We just felt like God was telling us to keep doing it,” Jones said on the podcast, “and we did it again. A couple weeks later, we had letters in our lockers saying, ‘If you guys continue to pray, your owner will be fined $1 million.'”
San Francisco’s owner at the time, Edward DeBartolo Jr., gave his blessing for the players to continue to huddle. The Giants continued, and well-respected players like the legendary Reggie White were eager to participate as well.
What those brave believers did that night in 1990 started a movement. And it hasn’t stopped since.
“The overflowing impact of it was all the teams were praying,” Jones said. “Christians across the league, coaches eventually. Subsequently a few years later, you’d see college teams doing it, high school teams doing it. That was really the genesis of it way back when.”
Jones said that the simple yet powerful expressions of faith after games offered him more opportunities to discuss his faith with others, and ultimately helped to bond the team more tightly together.
Jones, who himself accepted Christ during his sophomore year of high school, says he’s confident that without his faith in Christ, he would have never been in the NFL. And even while he’s been a Super Bowl champion three times under football’s brightest lights, it was a short, tranquil, tender moment at the 50-yard line that he remembers just as vividly.
Now, he can look on proudly this Sunday night as the current batch of 49ers try to accomplish what he did three times in his career. And he can look on just as proudly as some of them kneel in prayer during the post-game madness, regardless of the outcome.
Super Bowl LIV will be played in Miami Gardens, Fla., with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. ET. Kansas City is favored slightly to defeat San Francisco for their first Super Bowl victory since the 1969 season. San Francisco is seeking its sixth Super Bowl title in franchise history.
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– Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leads Kansas City to Super Bowl as he leans on faith
– Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt sees God at work ‘in all aspects’ of his life