When the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams step onto the field at Sofi Stadium on Sunday for Super Bowl LVI in L.A., they’ll be stepping onto perhaps the biggest stage in American professional sports. A championship will be in the balance, legacies will be at stake and the eyes of the nation will be upon them.
But for Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson, Sunday’s game is simply another opportunity to glorify his Father in Heaven by playing a game God has given him the talent to play at the sport’s highest level.
During his media session this week in the lead-up to Sunday’s deciding game, Hendrickson was asked about how his faith in Christ relates to his career as an NFL football player.
“My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is more to me than just football,” Hendrickson said, “but it’s application and what I’ve read through my faith and my wife and our meditations and things like that, is that it’s pretty similar to the game of football. And its application for the game of football is very simple.
“So it’s one of those things that anything that I do on the field is to glorify Him, through Him for Him for His glory. So it’s one of those things that just my life is a sacrifice, and the days after football will be the same as the days playing football. I try to encourage people any way to crack open their Bible, [with] Instagram (where he frequently quotes Bible verses), things like that, just look up the verse and continue to grow stronger in faith because that’s where it starts.”
“My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is more to me than just football -it’s application…”@bengals DE Trey Hendrickson shares what his relationship with Christ means to him at #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/KWDAzVUUue
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) February 7, 2022
Hendrickson’s platform to share about his faith has grown this season as he’s flourished on the field in his first year in Cincinnati. After leaving the Saints to sign a four-year, $60 million free-agent contract with the Bengals last March, Hendrickson was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2021-22 (which he didn’t get to play in because he’s in the Super Bowl). The fifth-year vet out of Florida Atlantic recorded career highs with 34 combined tackles, three forced fumbles, 27 quarterback hits and a team-leading 14.0 sacks (fifth in the entire NFL).
He’s added another 2.5 sacks and four QB hits in Cincinnati’s three playoff wins, all by one score. The final two wins were on the road with last-second field goals by Evan McPherson against the AFC’s top two seeds.
Much of Cincinnati’s defensive improvement this year has been due to Hendrickson’s arrival. The Bengals held five opponents to 13 points or fewer in 2021-22 (they never achieved that mark last season, when they were 4-11-1), and they allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards in the league (29th in that category last year).
“Our defense goes out there and we’re not really worried about where we’re ranked or anything like that,” Hendrickson said during his Super Bowl media availability. “… We’ve got guys on the sidelines helping pick up the guys on the field and how we can all improve to win. Like I said, I’m blessed to be a part of this defense.”
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Hendrickson was also asked about the people in his life who’ve helped him reach the Super Bowl.
“It is exciting to be here. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to play in a game like this,” he said. “There’s been so many people along the way, but it starts with my mom and dad and what they instilled in me as a young kid. It was hard work and enjoying what you do, things that my dad instilled in me from a young age. When you empty the tank and you look back on things, it’s a lot easier [when you] know that you gave it all.
“… My grandfather, he was a strong man of faith, and my family has always been there supporting me. … I’m really thankful that I’m playing football at a high level, because I wouldn’t be here without the people that have helped me get here.”
So as the nerves that come with playing on Super Bowl Sunday begin to ratchet up, Hendrickson will remain grounded by his faith, knowing that he’s already been given the ultimate victory in Christ.
Super Bowl LVI is scheduled to kick off at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
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