Summer 2024

Kirk Cousins to be honored at 2023 Super Bowl Breakfast, where faith & football intersect

It was just over a month ago when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed to the turf after suffering cardiac arrest during a “Monday Night Football” game. In the days that followed, the sports world was full of messages from people praying for Hamlin.

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Athletes opened up about their walk with God; ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky even prayed on live television. Signs and shirts filled stadiums with messages about praying. Hamlin recovered, and recently released a video message saying he believes God is “using me as a vessel.”

Organizers of this year’s annual Super Bowl Breakfast say what could’ve been a tragedy now provides a unique opportunity to share the Gospel.

“I think people will be more open this year after experiencing that and thinking about their own mortality,” Terry Bortz, director of the Super Bowl Breakfast, told Sports Spectrum. “Here’s a young, healthy athlete whose heart just stops on the field. That can happen to anybody, so I think people are really thinking about that.”

The Super Bowl Breakfast is an annual NFL-sanctioned gathering that takes place the Saturday before the Super Bowl and is one of the only events during game week that intersects faith and football. This year’s event will feature a presentation that honors Hamlin, his recovery and his testimony.

The main event of the breakfast each year is the Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award — an honor voted on by players for a player who exemplifies exceptional integrity, character and leadership, both on and off the field. This year’s winner is Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who in 2020 shared the Gospel at the conclusion of the breakfast.

He’s been involved with Athletes in Action since he played at Michigan State, Bortz said. The Julie and Kirk Cousins Foundation exists to support a number of non-profits, such as Bethany Christian Services, International Justice Mission, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Holland Christian Schools, among others.

“We’re really looking forward to honoring him,” Bortz said.

Former NFL coach and current NBC commentator Tony Dungy will be on hand to help present the award, along with Bart Starr Jr. and past award winners Anthony Munoz and Demario Davis.

Other special guests include former NFL players Sam Acho and Luis Sharpe, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt and Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner. Sharpe and Conner plan to share their testimonies of perseverance and suffering that turned to being on fire for God, Bortz said.

One new addition will be Peyton and Eli Manning doing a pre-recorded “ManningCast,” as they do on “Monday Night Football,” to congratulate Cousins on his award, “and probably giving him a hard time, too, so that will be a lot of fun,” Bortz said. The brothers are both previous Bart Star Award winners.

Akbar Gbajabiamila, co-host of “American Ninja Warrior,” will emcee the event.

The first hour typically includes interviews, some humor, and highlights on a big screen. Then someone from the program, which could potentially be Cousins this year, will give their testimony, share the Gospel, and people will have an opportunity to respond.

Attendees will fill out a comment card, where there’s a box that people can check if they made a decision upon hearing the Gospel. Representatives from the Christian nonprofit He Gets Us, one of the event’s presenting sponsors, will follow up and help people get plugged into a local church.

Museum of the Bible, located in Washington, D.C., and another one of the event’s presenting sponsors, will be giving away two free Super Bowl tickets to someone who fills out a comment card online, Bortz said.

“We can reach people who won’t step foot in a church,” Bortz said. “You might be praying for a friend or family member, talking to them and they’re just not interested, but they will gladly come to an NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl event to hear from some of the biggest names in the NFL and to see the presentation of the Bart Starr Award.”

This year’s Super Bowl Breakfast will take place at the Desert Ridge Marriott Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. The event is open to the public and tickets can be purchased at SuperBowlBreakfast.com while tickets last.

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