Nothing incompatible about faith and football

Athletes say spirituality helps during tough times

Published: Saturday, Aug. 27 2011 1:00 p.m. MDT

"It's just the opposite for me," said Koskan's teammate, wide receiver Xavier Martin, an Evangelical Christian. "It was harder to resist temptation after I was saved. I have come to realize that the Devil is alive. He is real. You have to be careful. You have to protect yourself. I pray every day for God to send his angels to build a fortress around me to keep me safe from temptation and sin."

And that's something believing football players share, regardless of their belief background or the university they attend: trust in the power of prayer.

"There are so many ups and downs during a football season," said Mike Alisa, a BYU running back and another returned LDS missionary. "I always find myself turning to the Lord, offering little prayers in my heart to help me make it through a tough practice, or to be humble and accept a coaching decision. It's like I'm constantly praying, and I definitely feel the strength that comes from prayer."

"I pray for my teammates," Martin said. "And I pray for the opposing team. I pray that we'll all be safe, that we'll all do our best, and that we'll all play with good sportsmanship."

Utah freshman running back Lucky Radley, who is also Catholic (although he attends a Christian church as well), said he prays after every play "to thank the Lord for helping me get through that play."

"I pray before every game and every practice and ask the Lord to help me do my best and be safe," he said. "Then I pray after every game and every practice to thank the Lord for his blessings. It isn't something I have chosen to do — it's just something I do, part of my faith as a Christian to pray."

Tofaeono agreed. "Prayer isn't something you think about," he said. "If you're a Christian, it's just something you do — without thinking. You pray about everything."

Everything, that is, but winning.

"To be honest, I used to struggle with this a little," said BYU offensive line coach Mark Weber, another devout Christian. "I admit that I used to pray for victory. But I've learned and grown and mellowed a little through the years, as a person and as a Christian. Now I pray to do the best job I can do. I pray for our players to do their best. I pray for their safety. And I pray that Christ may be glorified by the way I work and conduct myself."

"I don't think you can pray to win," Koskan said. "I don't think God cares about winning and losing football games. All he cares about is if we do our best."

"Besides," Di Luigi said, "if you have God in your heart and in your soul, you never really lose, no matter what it says on the scoreboard. What's that scripture? If God be for us, who can be against us?

"So really," he said as he trotted off the practice field, "you can't lose!"

EMAIL: jwalker@desnews.com

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