Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Like last year, Chiefs' Stefen Wisniewski lives out 'God's plan' to Super Bowl starting lineup

TAMPA — One year ago as the Kansas City Chiefs prepared to face San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV, Chiefs offensive guard Stefen Wisniewski spoke to Sports Spectrum during “Opening Night” about the crazy journey he’d been on that 2019-20 season. There was so much he wanted to say, he told us, that he’d actually written it down.

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He then asked if we’d publish it. We, of course, said yes. Here’s a snippet:

OK, so it’s the beginning of Week 6 this year in the NFL, and finally I get the call I’ve been waiting for. It’s the Chiefs. I’m thrilled to get to play for a really good team and organization. So I fly out to Kansas City, and a few days later I’m in my pads again on the sideline on game day as the backup guard. The season rolls on and I play a little bit here and there, but I never get to play a whole lot or start a game.

That is until Week 16, the second-to-last regular-season game. I get an opportunity to start, play the whole game, and I play well. Week 17, I start, play well again. Then two playoff games, I start and play well some more. Now here I am, a few days away from starting in the Super Bowl.

It is truly an unbelievable story — one that only God could have written. It’s more than I could’ve imagined as I sat unemployed, watching football all September long. But then God’s plans are always better than ours.

Well, we spoke to Wisniewski again this week, seeing as how he’s back in the Super Bowl with the Chiefs. But the journey he walked from our conversation last year to the one we had this week was wild — and in many ways mirrored the season he endured a year ago leading up to the Super Bowl.

After celebrating Kansas City’s first Super Bowl in 50 years, the Chiefs didn’t bring Wisniewski back. So in late March, he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his hometown team. He grew up watching Steelers games, his wife is from Pittsburgh, and his mom had been praying for years that he’d join a team closer to home. He said his family “lost their minds” when he signed with the Steelers.

Week 1 of the 2020 season rolls around and Wisniewski is starting for Pittsburgh against the New York Giants. He played 58 snaps that day, but late in the game suffered a pectoral injury, which forced him to miss the next six games. It was his first time on the injured reserve.

“When you’re hurt, essentially you don’t have any value to the team. Luckily, though, my identity is in Christ and my identity doesn’t change whether I’m playing great, playing bad, starter, backup, hurt, healthy — my identity is that I’m an adopted son of God through faith and I’m more than a conqueror,” he told Sports Spectrum. “God is with me. He’s for me, not against me. He’s with me through it all, to the very end of the age. I do believe all those things and I can rejoice in all those things even when I’m going through a frustrating time with football.”

On Nov. 9, with Wisniewski eligible to return to the roster, the Steelers cut him.

At 31 years old in his 10th season, with two Super Bowl rings in his collection (he also won Super Bowl LII with the Eagles), he considered retiring. He admitted that would have been the easy thing to do, but that’s not the way he’d want to go out.

“I’m a fighter. I want to go out fighting, go out playing,” he said.

Seventeen days later, he got a phone call.

“Sure enough, the Chiefs call and the Chiefs are like, ‘Do you want to come back?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah! Yeah, I do! I sure do,'” Wisniewski said.

So he joins Kansas City’s practice squad, and spends most of his time with his new/old team running the upcoming opponent’s plays against the Chiefs defense in practice. He wasn’t brought in to be a starter. In Week 14, he gets activated from the practice squad and sees some special teams action. In Week 15, he does get a start and plays 100 percent of the offensive snaps. In Week 16, he’s back to just a few specials teams plays, but in the regular-season finale, he starts again with some starters resting.

Kansas City got a bye for the first round of the playoffs, and against Cleveland on Jan. 17, Wisniewski didn’t see the field. Things looked to be about the same for him in the AFC championship game against Buffalo, but then left tackle Eric Fisher suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. So Mike Remmers shifted from right tackle to left tackle, Andrew Wylie moved to RT from right guard, and Wisniewski entered the game at right guard.

Next up is Super Bowl LV on Sunday.

“I hadn’t played much in the playoffs, until now. It looks like I’m going to start in the Super Bowl, which is just crazy,” Wisniewski told Sports Spectrum. “It’s so crazy what God can do. The best way I can say it is, God can do whatever He wants whenever He wants, and I’ve seen that before, I’ve always trusted that. … I really believe when He’s got us in those trials, it’s for a purpose and we’ve just got to trust Him in it and wait, and His timing will be perfect. Sure enough, here it is, just in time for the Super Bowl, I get a shot to play. It’s unbelievable.”

Wisniewski realizes he could still be unemployed, or he could be done with football, or he could still be hurt. But he’s not. He’s back in the Super Bowl because God allowed him the opportunity.

“It’s really been a rollercoaster ride of the last few years for me,” he said. “There’s been a lot of really low points, frustrations where my career is not all what I hoped it to be or wanted it to be. And then there’s the highs of playing, starting and winning the Super Bowl, where it’s like, ‘Wow, this is everything I’ve ever dreamed of, and God’s given it to me.’ I really think He did it in that manner so that He would get all the glory.”

Known as a veteran in the league and a man of strong faith, Wisniewski is often asked to lead his teams in prayer before games, an honor he much enjoys. And his prayers aren’t ignored or dismissed.

“His faith obviously plays a very important role in his life,” Remmers said this week, adding, “He relies on his faith and goes out there, and he’ll just do whatever the coaches ask him to do, and he’ll do it to the best of his ability. He’s a great, great player. He leads our prayer before the game. I think it inspires a lot of guys. I think a lot of guys come out of that prayer better than they were at the beginning of the prayer. He’s a tremendous teammate.”

Wisniewski prayed before the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win last season, and is set to do the same again this year. While he didn’t yet know what he’d pray about on Sunday, he did share his message from last year’s Super Bowl.

“I quoted David before his battle with Goliath. David had said, ‘The God who delivered me from the lion and the bear will deliver me from this Philistine.’ And I prayed that because David was going into his battle with Goliath with confidence. Goliath was way bigger and stronger than him, and every other Israelite was terrified to fight this Goliath, this Philistine. And David says, ‘No, the God who delivered me from the lion and bear will deliver me from this enemy.’

“And I just prayed that because God has delivered me and He’s delivered any of us who have been to that Super Bowl from so many trials in our life, and we just have to have confidence that the God who’s delivered us before will deliver us again. It’s important too, what David said. He didn’t say, ‘I killed a bear and I killed a lion, so I can kill Goliath.’ David said, ‘The God who delivered me from those enemies will deliver me.’ So his confidence isn’t in himself, his confidence is in God.

“That’s where my confidence is and that’s why I can go into any game not afraid of anything. ‘You know what, God’s delivered me before, God can deliver me again. God’s with me, whom then shall I fear?'”

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