A popular religious Web site named its top 12 evangelical Christians in sports this weekend in time for Sunday's Super Bowl XLII between the undefeated New England Patriots and the New York Giants.
In pro-football, running back Shaun Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks, punter Hunter Smith of the Indianapolis Colts, and Colts coach Tony Dungy made beliefnet.com's "Who's Who" list.
Alexander, the 2005 NFL MVP, is always seen pointing to the sky after a touchdown to credit God for his success.
"Everyone has been given gifts that can be used to bring glory to God," Alexander wrote in his 2006 memoir Touchdown Alexander. "And when we bring glory to God through the gifts He has given us, we are blessed. For me, the gift was athletic ability."
He and his brother, Durran, are co-founders of the Shaun Alexander foundation which supports various organizations, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Alexander's memoir noted that both he and his wife Valerie were both virgins when they were married. They now have three daughters – Heaven, Trinity, and Eden.
Moving east in the country, Colts punter Hunter Smith not only likes to talk about his faith, but recently began a second career to proclaim it – as a Christian rock artist. He met one of the band members, Chris Wilson, while leading worship together for a young-adult ministry at their church and formed the band Connorsvine. The band has opened for big name Christian acts such as TobyMac and Mercy Me.
"I feel just as strong of a call to worship leading and ministering through music as I do in football," said Smith, according to beliefnet.com.
He also just released a Christian novel which he co-wrote with fellow NFL player, kicker Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos, titled Monday Night Jihad. The book narrates the story of a pro-football player who returns to his former profession as part of a special ops team responsible for stopping terrorist attacks.
But perhaps the most prominent evangelical Christian in the NFL is none other than Colts coach Tony Dungy who led the team to its 2007 Super Bowl win. Just last week, Dungy announced that he will continue as head coach of the Colts. He said after praying and discussing it with his family he felt that coaching was the best pulpit for his message.
"I enjoy my job, the players, the staff we have here and Bill (Polian) and Jim," Dungy told reporters. "But it is a platform and that's something I talked to my wife and pastor about. I said 'I could stop and start a ministry, but I might not have a platform like this.'"
"I look at this as a job," he said, "but I also look at it as a ministry…I might not have as effective a ministry as I have right now."
Earlier in his career while working as head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he considered leaving football to work with a prison ministry. He is active in several Christian organizations including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the National Day of Prayer and Athletes in Action.
Last but not least is up-and-coming Tim Tebow who is not yet in the NFL, but is wowing Florida college fans not only with his athletic ability but also his faith. Tebow is the quarterback for the University of Florida's Gators and was raised by missionary parents and homeschooled. Tebow is the first homeschooled athlete to win the coveted Heisman Trophy and was the first sophomore to win the Heisman.
12 Top Evangelicals in Sports List
• Joe Gibbs - owner of champion NASCAR team, Joe Gibbs Racing, and until January 8, 2008, the head coach and team president of the Washington Redskins
• Mariano Rivera – relief pitcher for the New York Yankees who helped the team win four World Series titles throughout his career
• Derek Fisher – point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers
• Shaun Alexander – running back for the Seattle Seahawks, 2005 NFL MVP
• Allyson Felix – track and field sprinter, won three gold medals at the Outdoor World Championship in Japan in 2007
• Hunter Smith – punter for the INDIANAPOLIS Colts
• Jake Peavy – pitcher for the San Diego Padres
• Tony Dungy – coach for the Indianapolis Colts
• Curt Schilling – pitcher for the Boston Red Sox
• Tim Tebow – quarterback for the Florida Gators at the University of Florida
• Michael Waltrip – driver and owner of Michael Waltrip Racing
• Zach Johnson – American golfer, won the 2007 Masters Tournament