(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Stone)
The annual Super Bowl Breakfast will be held in New Orleans on Friday and, for the first time ever, will be made available to watch via webcast throughout the weekend.
The 26th annual event, which features appearances by some of the NFL's biggest names, is organized by Athletes in Action, a ministry of Cru. Tim Pitcher, director of communications for AIA, says the event highlights the integrity and character of certain NFL players and also serves as a faith-sharing opportunity.
"The Super Bowl breakfast is, for us, an evangelistic outreach that we use around the platform of the Super Bowl to reach people with the Gospel," said Pitcher.
The live event usually lasts about 90 minutes, though the webcast will be edited down to about one-third of that time and will be made available online Saturday through Sunday.
While individuals can pay to watch the webcast at home, AIA hopes that churches will also use it as an outreach opportunity. Most churches are unable to bring big-name athletes to their communities, but the webcast enables them to host events where the local community can gather and listen to stories of faith and football as told by the players themselves.
"Athletes in Action's mission is really to win, build and send people in their faith," said Pitcher. "And we really feel that there's no greater platform to winning people to Christ, exposing them to the Gospel, than the platform of sport."
Each year the Bart Starr Award, named after the NFL Hall of Famer, is given to the player who best displays a commitment to family, team and community. This year's award recipient, as chosen by his fellow players throughout the league, is Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
"They really felt that he exemplified what Bart feels is important in having character, integrity, not only on the field but off the field in their home and in the community," said Pitcher.
Jason Witten's SCORE Foundation has funded several building projects in Texas and his home state of Tennessee, and has launched a number of different outreach programs. One program, SCOREkeepers, combats the cycle of domestic violence by placing male mentors in Texas battered women's shelters so the children living in those shelters can have a positive male influence on their lives.
Witten, who is married and has three children, has also worked with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club of America, NFL Play 60 and other organizations.
Other finalists who were considered for the Bart Starr Award were Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and New York Giants defensive end Just Tuck.
The 2013 Super Bowl Breakfast, which will take place at the Hyatt Regency hotel in New Orleans, will feature appearances by former Bart Starr Award-winners Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and London Fletcher, linebacker for the Washington Redskins, along with other current and former NFL players.