Summer 2024

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson wins 2022 Bart Starr Award for character, leadership

Sports and faith intersect every year at the Super Bowl Breakfast, which takes place the day before the Super Bowl and is hosted by the sports ministry Athletes in Action. The event is headlined by the presentation of the Bart Starr Award, given annually to a player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.

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The award is named after the legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback and voted on by the NFL’s players. Previous winners include Eli and Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner and Drew Brees.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was announced as this season’s recipient of the award Wednesday. Starr’s widow, Cherry, broke the news to Wilson on a video call.

“I’ve been fortunate to win some cool accolades and this and that, but to be a part of this award, it takes so many people,” Wilson said during their conversation. “It takes such a village of people. This is really a blessing.”

Before the Seahawks’ 51-29 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Wilson and his wife, Ciara, announced a $2.7 million donation to Seattle Children’s Hospital’s immunotherapy program through their Why Not You Foundation. The money will help fund treatment to fight pediatric cancer.

After the game, the 33-year-old Wilson pointed to his faith as the driving force behind his desire to serve.

“I believe that God’s given me so much ability but also so much opportunity to serve, and I just thank God every day I get to serve and to give back and to help,” he said. “And that’s what’s been probably the coolest part of the journey is just to be able to make a difference for people and to see kids walk in with cancer and then to be able to help raise funds or to be able to encourage them, give them a word of ‘Why not you?’ or whatever it may be, give them that glimpse of hope.”

Investing in the Seattle community has been a priority for Wilson since the Seahawks drafted him in 2012. He regularly made visits to Seattle Children’s Hospital before the pandemic and is always finding new ways to help those who are less fortunate.

In 2019, the seven-time Pro Bowler and his weekly Bible study group of around 40 college and professional athletes went to donate clothes, jackets, toiletries and more to the Seattle community. Wilson led the group in prayer after distributing the goods.

“Jesus, You call us to love,” he said that night. “I pray we would love more like You, to speak more like You and sound more like You, and to not judge, Father God, but to just love one another.”

Wilson and Ciara also stepped up at the beginning of the pandemic to donate a million meals through a local nonprofit.

This is not the first time Wilson has been recognized for his community service, either. He was also named the 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his excellence on and off the field.

Wilson missed three games due to a finger injury midway through this season, making this year the first time in his career he will not play in every regular-season contest. He has 12 touchdowns and four interceptions in eight games since returning from the injury.

Seattle will close out its season with a road game against the Arizona Cardinals at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.

The Super Bowl Breakfast on Feb. 12 is set to feature Hall of Fame offensive lineman and Bart Starr Award winner Anthony Muñoz, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich and New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis (last year’s Starr award winner), among others.

The breakfast is an awards ceremony with an inspirational message. Organizers hope those in attendance leave with an understanding of who God is and what the Gospel is all about. A Gospel presentation concludes every Super Bowl Breakfast — last year Benjamin Watson shared the Gospel; Kirk Cousins did the honors in 2020.

“If we can put on an event at the Super Bowl — and we do them at the Final Four and NBA All-Star Weekend as well — and have some of the top names in the NFL come, we’ll attract people who maybe never will attend church and really aren’t interested in the spiritual things,” Terry Bortz, director of the Super Bowl Breakfast, told Sports Spectrum two years ago. “But they’ll come because they’re going to see their heroes up on the stage and they’re going to hear stories that they would never hear anywhere else. It’s just been amazing to me what God does every year.”

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