Before facing the Carolina Panthers, the Philadelphia Eagles held a baptism in the pool at their Charlotte, North Carolina, hotel Thursday for a teammate who wanted to display and celebrate his faith in Jesus Christ.
Eagles wide receiver Marcus Johnson posted a photo of the event Thursday on social media for all to see as six of his teammates surrounded him to witness his rebirth in Christ.
"First time being Baptized!” Johnson tweeted Thursday. “Corporate Worship is a beautiful thing!! Cleansed & Reborn in JESUS name!"
Fueled by faith on the field
The Eagles’ stellar season so far has been credited to their spiritual cohesion as a team that honors Jesus Christ.
“One of the driving forces of the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, or at least the unity behind the team's hot start in 2017 – Philly is 5–1 after Thursday night's 28–23 victory over the Carolina Panthers – has been faith,” CBS Sports announced.
And baptisms are not the only show of faith that players have shared with the public
“Whether through quarterback Carson Wentz's infectious vow to play for an ‘Audience of One’ or a collection of Eagles sharing their Christian testimonies by way of their own Bible app devotionals, the team has showcased its band of believing brothers as much as it has a trust in Wentz as the face of the franchise,” CBS’s Cody Benjamin noted.
At last week’s baptism, Johnson was in good company, as both offensive and defensive teammates shared his faith-inspiring experience.
“Wentz appears to be among the group of Eagles whose heads are bowed and hands are interlocked around the makeshift baptismal pool in Johnson's photo,” Benjamin pointed out. “Tight end Zach Ertz, offensive guard Stefen Wisniewski, tight end Trey Burton, linebacker Jordan Hicks and backup quarterback Nick Foles also appear to be among those in attendance.”
Faith pooling up
Last year in October, the Eagles held a similar showing of faith at their practice facility’s recovery pool, which was transformed into a pool of spiritual rebirth.
The Eagles’ team pastor, tight end Trey Burton, baptized five players, including wide receivers Paul Turner and David Watford, along with linebackers Michael Kendricks, Jordan Hicks and Kamu Gruigier-Hill. Praying for them in the pool were 15 other Eagles teammates.
"We were doing it in the cold tubs, so it was kind of like, 'Ohh,'" Grugier-Hill told ESPN. "But the power of everything that was happening there – when you got in – you weren't even thinking about how cold it was."
Eagles backup quarterback Chase Daniel was excited to be on a team so firmly grounded in the Christian faith.
"This is by far the most spiritual team I've been on," Daniel said, according to ESPN.
Burton also acknowledges the spiritual strength that players glean from on and off the field from other players.
"Even guys who weren't here last year, or guys that were on other teams, say this locker room is unbelievable with how many believers we have compared to where they've been," the tight end told ESPN.
With the rigors of playing in the NFL, many players rely on their faith to get them through the season and find that inner strength to succeed – while trying to be an inspiration to others.
“Finding men of faith in the NFL is not hard to do,” ESPN Staff Writer Tim McManus discovered. “It is a profession of intense stress and high risk. For the majority of the players, it is a life spent on the bubble and on the move. For some, religion serves as a source of comfort and stability.”
Faith in many forms …
Last year, as well as this year, Eagles players have had many ways in which to share and grow in their faith.
“With the Eagles, you don't have to look far to find players who point to faith as playing a primary role in their lives,” McManus pointed out. “Backup quarterback Chase Daniel hosts a couples' Bible study each week that draws about 20 to 25 people. There is Thursday Bible study at the facility, Scripture text chains and late-night prayer sessions at the team hotel the night before each game.”
When Wentz joined the team last year as its rookie quarterback, he shared his life motto, “Audience of One,” and its acronym “AO1” is tattooed on his right wrist. At the Eagle’s training facility earlier in the year, he was eager to participate in My Cause, My Cleats week, when teammates donned Easter-themed shoes.
Win or lose, Wentz feels blessed to be on a team where players feel free to share their faith and encourage others in their spiritual walks with Christ.
"It's just a better atmosphere,” Wentz shared with ESPN. “On Sundays, we might lose, things might not always go our way, but to be with those guys and to have a positive environment in this locker room -- not just the Christian brothers, but everybody – it just brings out a better atmosphere."
He said something about the fellowship and the embracing team atmosphere generated by faith makes the Eagles a team like no other.
"I enjoy coming to work – I always have, but [it's] just a whole other level now,” Wentz added. “I don't just always have to talk football all day. I can go talk about my faith or personal struggles or whatever it is, and to know there's other brothers here that ... have been there or gone through the same stuff."
A living testimony
Just last month, Wentz joined Burton and Wisniewski to take part in a special live broadcast of the Philadelphia radio show Faith on the Field at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, where a crowd of 2,000 braved the weather.
The faithful QB told the listening audience why the number one priority in his life is Jesus Christ.
"At the end of the day, just kind of how I live and what I'm about, and hopefully, [I] can kind of speak through [that]," Wentz shared with the crowd, according to The Christian Post. "I never want to be the guy who's beating people over the head with the Bible. That's not what I'm about. That's not really what Christianity is about. Christianity is all about love and showing that love, and that kindness, and that grace."