"Big Four" Highlights


Gridiron Grace

Catholic faith backs these Super Bowl participants

As defending Super Bowl champs, the Seattle Seahawks carry pressure into the game this Sunday (Feb. 1) against the New England Patriots. But they may also have some grace to spare, with a pair of committed Catholics on the squad – one on the sidelines and the other on offense.

Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator, and tight end Luke Willson were interviewed in the past by Trent Beattie for the National Catholic Register. With permission, Fathers for Good reprints parts of those interviews here, in preparation for Super Bowl Sunday.

Dan Quinn (reprinted with permission from National Catholic Register, 11/27/2013)

Was the Catholic faith an important part of your upbringing?

Yes, Sunday Mass was a regular part of our week. It was seen in our family as it is seen by the Church: not optional, but necessary. My father insisting that we go to Mass was such a great blessing to me, because it laid the foundation for living life as God wants it to be lived. Giving God one hour of our time is nothing compared to what he gives us back in the Mass.

Regular Sunday Mass attendance helped me to understand coaching better. The importance of structure, discipline and fraternity were clear in church, and they were also made clear to me in athletics. When you have a set routine that you stick to as a family or a team, it is so much easier to get things accomplished.
It’s also necessary to take time every day to step back, think and pray. Reflecting on what’s happened, what you’d like to happen, how to get there — all in the context of God’s will — helps you to see things in their proper perspective. When you take the time to think and pray, then you make the right moves in life, rather than just reacting to things as they come up.

Connecting with God is the way to gain wisdom. In Sirach (6:37), it says: “Reflect on the statutes of the Lord, and meditate at all times on his commandments. It is he who will give insight to your mind, and your desire for wisdom will be granted.”

You’ve had a good number of Catholic colleagues, right?

Being part of a team is great, and going to Mass with others on the team raises it to another level. It seems that ever since I started coaching, there have always been some faithful Catholics around me. I learned early on that being centered on God brings you stability in what can be a very unstable (constantly changing) line of work, and that there are so many lessons you can learn from being Catholic that carry over into the work world.

It reminds me of my father, who actually went to Mass every morning before going to work. He saw Mass as a regular part of his day, and I think it helped him fulfill his duties as a husband and father.

My parents’ dedication in over 50 years of marriage has helped in my marriage as well. My wife, Stacey, and I have been married for over 18 years. What has also helped our marriage is Stacey’s selflessness and supportiveness. She has been with me through all the moves, from team to team, over the years.

Luke Willson (reprinted with permission from National Catholic Register, 1/31/2014)

Have you always been able to connect your Catholic faith with sports?

My faith is a huge part of who I am today, and it always has been huge, ever since I was a child. My siblings and I were raised to believe what the Church teaches and to act in certain ways. Clear demarcation of right and wrong made decision-making pretty easy. That’s incredibly helpful for pursuing excellence in life, because you see what’s truly valuable and worth sacrificing for and also what you shouldn’t even bother to give attention to.

It’s an irreplaceable thing to be raised in the Catholic Church, where you have the teachings of Jesus passed down through the centuries. His goal is our eternal salvation, but even if you look only at the earthly benefits you get from being Catholic, they’re amazing. The peace of mind that comes from being in God’s will is awesome. I’m very grateful for the Catholic upbringing I had. Without it, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today. Not even close.

Do you have a favorite Catholic book?
Outside of the Bible and Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are many others. One that I have with me now is called Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft, a professor from Boston College. The book is not meant to be a replacement of the Catechism, but a summary of sorts. Dr. Kreeft has a way of organizing and explaining things that makes them very accessible to laymen. He’s very precise and insightful, which helps clarify misconceptions you might have. I’ve read some of his other books, which in turn have led me into reading works of C.S. Lewis, such as Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.

You attend Mass with other members of the Seahawks, such as Dan Quinn. Why is the Mass important to you?

Wherever you go in the world, the Catholic Church is the same. Whether I’m at Mass in Ontario, Houston, Seattle or anywhere else, it’s the same Mass. Some of the externals will be a little different, but even if it’s in a language you don’t know, the core of the Mass — the very heart of what it is — is the same. That’s because the Mass is essentially a re-presentation of the life of Jesus, and Jesus is unchangeable.

From the readings of the Old Testament, where Jesus is prefigured, to the readings of the New Testament, where he walks the earth, to the actual sacrifice that happens on the altar, it’s all about Jesus. He’s the one who sanctifies and unifies us, no matter what differences we might have. This guidance received in Mass is incredibly important, and it’s awesome to have it all capped off by receiving the body of Christ.

The whole team doesn’t attend Mass, but we do all pray in the locker room before games. That connection is important for playing as well as we can. Camaraderie is all the better when it not only has a social component, but a spiritual one.

After we’ve prayed in the locker room, I pray alone in the end zone before the game. I thank God for getting me that far and ask for his guidance and protection on that day. I’m incredibly blessed to be where I am, so I can’t help but acknowledge that and ask for God’s continued assistance to do what I’m supposed to do.