Summer 2024

Led by his faith in Jesus, long snapper James Winchester ties Chiefs playoff appearance record

A win against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday would put the Kansas City Chiefs one win closer to a third straight Super Bowl appearance. They have made the playoffs every year since 2015, and won their division every season since 2016. It’s the best stretch in Chiefs franchise history. One of the staples during this run of playoff success? Long snapper James Winchester.

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Along with tight end Travis Kelce and safety Daniel Sorensen, Winchester is now tied for the Chiefs record for playoff appearances with 13, after all three reached the mark during last week’s wild-card win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Winchester has been in the NFL since 2013 but joined the Chiefs in 2015. However, it was never in his grand plan to end up in the NFL. He mostly just wanted to follow his late father’s footsteps and play at Oklahoma, which he did as a walk-on after turning down scholarship offers elsewhere.

He’s relied on his faith in God every step of his football journey.

“I just wanted to be like Dad and play for the Sooners,” Winchester told SI Sooners in 2020. “It’s pretty incredible to see where God has taken me into the NFL and being able to provide for my family and provide lifetime memories and experiences for everyone that I love, everyone back home in Washington (Oklahoma) and Norman, everyone that’s followed my career all the way up.

“I think that’s one of the most rewarding things about what I get to do. You see how many people are rooting for you and how many people are proud of you. To me, that’s priceless. That’s one of the things I love about this job the most, is what it provides for everybody. That’s so cool.”

Winchester was a member of the Super Bowl LIV-winning Chiefs team, and he spoke with Sports Spectrum ahead of that game about how important his faith in Jesus is to him.

“My faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of everything. It’s why I’m here today,” he said. “It’s why I’m able to wake up every morning and breathe the air that I do. He is the reason for everything. Through the good and the bad, He’s been with me. He’s been so good to me and my family. There are so many blessings, and things through life that happen — good or bad — that He’s been with us. I think we just owe it all to Him. I’m thankful to be here.”

His faith is what has helped him cope with the tragic loss of his father all these years. Winchester’s dad, Mike, was just 52 years old when he was murdered by a Southwest Airlines co-worker in 2016.

“You obviously can’t imagine going through something like that and losing your father that way,” Winchester told SI Sooners.

He’s grateful his father was able to see him play all four years at Oklahoma and for almost two years in the NFL. James dedicated the Super Bowl win to his father.

In the absence of his earthly father, he’s relied heavily on prayer and the comfort of his Heavenly Father. And it’s not just Winchester on the Chiefs — faith has been a big part of the K.C. locker room. With the help of team chaplain Marcellus Casey and a locker room full of spiritual leaders, the Chiefs are no strangers to how powerful prayer can be, Winchester said.

“It’s hard to put a word that describes how important prayer is for us,” he told Sports Spectrum in 2020. “It really is a huge help to us in our daily walk. To be able to bow your head and talk to the Heavenly Father is something that I’m thankful we have — the gift that He’s given us. I think it’s such a huge part of our everyday life. I don’t know what I would do without prayer, to be honest with you. I don’t know how I’d get through situations in life without praying to the One who created us.”

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