Travis Kelce is the Kansas City Chiefs’ longest-tenured player. But can you guess who’s second? It may surprise you. It’s not superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and it’s not five-time Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones.
It’s long snapper James Winchester, who’s been in Kansas City since March 2015.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 22, 2023
The 34-year-old from Washington, Oklahoma, went undrafted in 2013 out of the University of Oklahoma. After a brief stop with the Philadelphia Eagles, Winchester finally caught on in Kansas City. It was a great time to join the franchise, as he’s been around for the entirety of the Chiefs’ dynasty. In fact, the year before he arrived was the last one to feature a postseason without Kansas City.
It’s been nine seasons and counting, and Winchester has never even missed a game. He’s taken part in six consecutive AFC championship game appearances and now four of the last five Super Bowls, twice winning it all — one of those wins was against the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31-20 in the 2019-20 season.
The Chiefs will match up with the 49ers again on Sunday in Super Bowl LVIII, set for 6:30 p.m. ET from Las Vegas. Winchester hopes that, at about 11 p.m. ET on Sunday night, he’ll have a third Super Bowl title to his name.
But he’s not playing just for his name; he’s also playing for the Choctaw Nation and for indigenous peoples everywhere.
“It represents something bigger than myself,” said Winchester, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, before last season’s Super Bowl, according to the Navajo-Hopi Observer. “It represents the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and so many back home with my family and friends that I love and appreciate. It’s such a cool thing to represent a nation and my family, so that’s probably what means the most to me to play in the Super Bowl.”
Winchester and Chiefs center Creed Humphrey of the Potawatomi Nation will be the only players of Native American heritage in this year’s big game. Yet as important as his earthly identity is, something even deeper than his last name or his indigenous ancestry is what drives Winchester: his identity as a child of God.
“My faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of everything. It’s why I’m here today,” Winchester told Sports Spectrum three years ago before Super Bowl LIV. “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.”
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Winchester, who doesn’t know “what I would do without prayer,” lists the Bible verse Psalm 27:4 in his Instagram and X bios. It reads, “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
Winchester has spent a lot of time in prayer, as he seeks God’s guidance on how to train his children up in faith. The Winchester household is now at five, as James and his wife, Emily, have three curious young children with questions about God. Sports Spectrum caught up with Winchester again on Monday ahead of Super Bowl LVIII and asked him about Christlike fatherhood.
“To be able to speak to those kids and teach them about Jesus, I think that’s been such an amazing thing for my wife and I,” Winchester said. “Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, you know, but what a blessing to continue to get to breathe into them and teach them about the Lord and what He’s done for us.”
With his children watching, Winchester will seek to enter rare air as a three-time Super Bowl champion. He’ll be playing for many people on Sunday night, but most of all, he’ll be playing to glorify his Father in Heaven.
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