Summer 2024

Bengals chaplain LaMorris Crawford praises God after thinking he was 'going to die' with COVID-19

LaMorris Crawford was in a gang by the time he was 11, and selling cocaine at age 14. He was born into poverty on the South Side of Chicago to a 16-year-old mother, who at 17 was shot and killed. He never knew who his dad was, so Crawford and eight of his cousins were raised by his grandmother.

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But at the age of 19, one of those cousins sat him down, talked to him about life and shared the Gospel with him. This cousin was a gang leader in high school before Christ came into his life. Soon thereafter, Christ also came into Crawford’s life.

These days, Crawford is a pastor and chaplain for the Cincinnati Bengals. And he’s thankful to be alive after a serious bout with COVID-19.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Crawford started feeling ill with fatigue and a minor cough on March 17. But his condition worsened over the next few days, and on March 20 he fell to his bathroom floor in the middle of the night.

“I literally thought I was going to die. I couldn’t move,” Crawford told The Enquirer. “I had a loss of smell, high fever, chills, loss of taste and fatigue.”

In those moments, Crawford told the Enquirer, he came to peace with dying, though he felt afraid for his wife, Megan, and their four children to be without their father. Then Megan awoke and found her husband on the floor. “Are you OK?” she asked.

She helped him to the car and they hurried to the hospital, where he was tested for the flu, strep throat and the coronavirus. They returned home that morning, though he went back three days later with less severe symptoms. He learned he had tested negative for the flu and strep throat, but doctors were still waiting on COVID-19 results.

A week after his first trip to the hospital, Crawford’s COVID-19 test came back positive.

Now two weeks later, Crawford is feeling much better. “God is good and brought me through,” he told Sports Spectrum this week.

God has brought him through a lot. After the tough upbringing and life-changing conversation with his cousin, Crawford completed two years of community college — the first in his family to go to college and get a degree — then transferred to Olivet Nazarene University to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Eventually, Crawford felt God’s calling toward ministry. God opened the door to a role as an NFL chaplain, where his message and personality would especially resonate. He realized that God would use his childhood struggles to impact others in his life, including the hundreds of NFL players he’s met.

He often tells the athletes he works with that football is a season of life. It’s important, but it’s not everything. One day, athletic ability won’t save you, he tells them. Your character will be what matters.

“The waves are going to come. They’re going to beat,” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2018. “The rain is going to come. The storm is going to come, so when they come, what have you built on? … My goal as a chaplain is to get them to a place where they can build that foundation on Christ, because that’s the only thing that will last in the end.”

Now, Crawford can share with his players how close to the end of his time on earth he thought he was.

“I look back on my story, and I can see God’s hand on my life, even during my heathen days,” Crawford said on the podcast.

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