Among the many festivities leading up to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas will be the 36th annual Super Bowl Breakfast, hosted on Saturday by the sports ministry Athletes in Action. The highlight of the morning celebrating the intersection of sports and faith will come at the announcement of the winner of the 2024 Bart Starr Award. It’s an award given each year to “the NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.”
This year, the winner will be Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“Being an award voted upon by all of his peers, we are honored to be able to recognize Minkah Fitzpatrick Jr. as a true hero of the game by presenting him the Bart Starr Award,” Super Bowl Breakfast Executive Director Corwin Anthony said in a press release. “Minkah exemplifies the character of Bart Starr and has faithfully modeled his legacy for generations to come.”
Fitzpatrick’s response to winning the award was one of gratitude.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said, according to the team’s official website. “I am grateful for you guys to select me. I appreciate it very much. … The fact that people see a good man in me means a lot. I am always trying to be a better man, better brother, better son. The fact that people recognize that is a huge honor.”
.@minkfitz_21 is the winner of the 2024 Bart Starr Award for outstanding character, integrity and leadership on and off the football field.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 5, 2024
Since being traded to the Steelers from the Miami Dolphins during his second year as a professional in 2019, Fitzpatrick has certainly made an impact on the field with three first-team All-Pro selections and four Pro Bowl selections.
However, the 27-year-old’s presence in Pittsburgh may be felt even more off the field. Fitzpatrick is a member of the Steelers’ Social Justice Committee and he founded “Unshackled!,” a faith-based organization created to provide resources and raise awareness for children and families in need.
Unshackled! partnered with KidsVoice to “tackle abuse” in 2021, donating $39 (Fitzpatrick’s jersey number) for every tackle he made or turnover he forced. In all, the initiative raised more than $64,000 to fund legal representation and advocacy for neglected and abused children in the Pittsburgh area. Later that year, he partnered with KidsVoice and Dreambuilders Foundation to gift bikes to local foster children.
“I don’t think a lot of people have an understanding of the process these kids go through,” Fitzpatrick said on the team’s website. “They go from family to family, or from home to home. They never really get to develop the right way. … The kids that come out of this are scarred and have trauma from it, because it’s tough to go through.”
For Fitzpatrick, his efforts to positively impact the community around him stem from his faith in Christ.
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“One of the greatest commandments is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” for a reason,” Fitzpatrick said, referencing Matthew 22:39 in a recent video with CBN News. “When you do that, you create peace and a softness in other people’s hearts and love them as we would like to be loved.”
Fitzpatrick’s Instagram bio reads, “Kneel before God so you can stand before any man,” and he has faith-based tattoos on his left wrist. One is a cross surrounded by a crown of thorns and the other is a quotation of part of Matthew 16:24, which says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
“My identity is tied up in being a son of God, and if I lose sight of that, then I’m gonna struggle through this journey,” Fitzpatrick told CBN. “… I gotta lean on Him. I gotta trust in Him. I’m a young man — I’m still learning, still growing — the only thing that I know is for sure is Jesus. It’s Christ. It’s that I’m forgiven. It’s that I’m loved, that I have a Savior in Him.”
On Saturday, when he’s handed the Bart Starr Award, Fitzpatrick will become the latest in a long line of past winners — many of whom are faithful followers of Christ — who have made the world a better place through football and community outreach. Yet it all pales in comparison to the work of salvation Jesus purchased for them on the cross.
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