The 2021-22 NFL season has been one of firsts for former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey. It’s his first season as the team chaplain, and it’s his first season that will end in the Super Bowl.
Rey has been along for the ride as Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Trey Hendrickson and Evan McPherson have led the Bengals (the AFC’s No. 4 seed) to three one-score playoff wins. The last two were game-winning field goals by McPherson in hostile road environments against the top two teams in the AFC.
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The upstart Bengals have relied heavily on young and inexperienced — but extremely talented — players to get the franchise to its first Super Bowl since 1988, and will have to do so again in the big game. And even as the players prepare to face the favored Los Angeles Rams on LA.’s home turf on Sunday in Super Bowl LVI (6:30 p.m. ET at SoFi Stadium), Rey will be busy preparing what he hopes to be the most impactful message of his first year.
Like many of his players, Rey has had to learn on the job. He played nine NFL seasons, all with the Bengals, and was a regular attendee at chapel services. But as he said on Sports Spectrum’s “Weekly Slant” leading up to the AFC championship game, doing it himself is a challenge.
“It’s been tough, because I haven’t been a preacher like that, not formally,” Rey said on the show.
He continued, “Leading chapel, that’s kind of like preaching. That’s giving a message every week. And to prepare a message, it’s tough! It is tough. So I’m praying to the Lord like, ‘God, help me. I’m not really formally trained in this, but I have several people who help me out and tell me different ways to go about it.
“I think I’ve been getting better and better, but really it’s me communicating to deliver life change for other men, and if anyone’s receiving life change from the words that are being spoken, I’m happy.”
The Bengals’ roster looks very different than when Rey last played for the team in 2018, and connecting with the players has been made more difficult because he’s had to perform his responsibilities virtually. Still, he says he’s received feedback from players that his messages are resonating with them.
Former Bengals chaplain LaMorris Crawford knew Rey could one day serve as a chaplain himself, so when Crawford left Cincinnati to pastor a church, he gave Rey a call and asked to be his replacement. Little did Crawford know that Rey and his wife, Noel, had prayed the night before about whether they should leave Cincinnati like a lot of their friends. Neither sensed God’s call to leave, and the next day, God showed them why.
“Literally the next morning, we’re outside going on a walk with the kids,” Rey said on the show. “… We get a FaceTime from LaMorris and his wife, Megan, and they said, ‘Hey, we would like for you to be the next chaplain. So what do you think?’ It was absolutely God’s timing. He was speaking to us there and we think that we are in His will and we’re glad to be serving with Him.”
Rey knows what NFL life is like. He knows about the crises of identity that often befall professional athletes, and he knows about the temptations that come with fame and massive contracts. Yet he also knows what it’s like when the production dwindles and the money stops flowing and the fans move on. It’s into those burdens that Rey seeks to deliver the truth God has revealed in His Word.
“The Bible says that His people, we are righteous,” Rey said he told the team before Cincinnati’s playoff game against Tennessee. “We have right standing with Him, so even when you don’t feel righteous, you are righteous, not because you feel it but because He said you are. He made you righteous. You are adopted. You are His child. He loves you. You’re loved with the very love He has for His own Son, Jesus Christ. You’re in the family.
“And lastly, you are a minister of reconciliation. You’ve been reconciled to God through His Son living the life you were supposed to live and dying the death you were supposed to die.”
Rey continued later: “I’m happy [the Bengals are] winning, but what I’m thinking of is them 10 years from now, 20 years from now, when football is done, that they know who they are, that football is what they did but it’s not who they are. Who they are is they’re human beings, the crowning creation of God. Secondly, if they are following after the Lord, then they are children of the Most High God.”
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