Wednesday, February 1, 2012

God in the Game? Former Patriots Player/Current Chaplain Coordinator Plans Message for Super Bowl

Don Davis (courtesy photo)

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
January 31, 2012
(This story appeared January 31, 2012, online at The Salem News.)

Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow’s openly religious behavior in the National Football League this season captured the attention of the nation. But this week Patriots’ chapel coordinator Don Davis is interested in getting the attention of his players the night before they face the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5.

Davis, 39, is responsible for organizing non-denominational chapel services and setting up speakers for home and away games. Though he currently lives in Leesburg, VA., he often speaks himself, as he will this weekend in Indianapolis. He also serves as the Director of NFL Programs for Pro Athlete Outreach and is the Regional Director of the National Football League Players Association.

The optional chapel services, which are held for players the night before every home and away game and every Sunday morning for players’ families, typically last for 20 to 30 minutes. Davis said chapel topics vary on a needs basis, but that it’s common for speakers to select topics such as why players should strive to be the best they can be on—and off—the field, motivated by serving their team and God.

“It’s typical for a speaker to try to tie the message into football,” Davis said. “I’m going to take a different approach [in the message the night before the Super Bowl].”

Not a newcomer to the NFL, Davis spent eleven years a defensive player in the league, including four seasons with the Patriots that earned him two Super Bowl rings. Davis led regular Bible study discussions for his teammates while with the Patriots from 2003-2006. After retiring in 2007, he was hired as the Patriots’ assistant strength training coach and team chaplain for the next season. He was the official chaplain of the team from 2007-2009, a position that no longer exists within the organization. 

Davis also refers players to Paul Friesen, 61, of Bedford, Mass., who leads a weekly couples Bible study with his wife Virginia for Patriots’ players and their wives. The couple has led the study for twelve years. Friesen said the group meets every Thursday nigh during the season at different locations including homes, churches or Gillette Stadium for a meal and a discussion around particular passages of scripture.

“The focus is always on marriage,” said Friesen. “Not football.”

Friesen said that the number of players and their wives in the group varies from season to season, but this season there are six couples who consistently attend.

Though the couples study didn’t meet this last week, Friesen said he and his wife have been sending emails of encouragement to the players as they prepare for the Super Bowl game.

The Patriots last appearance in the Super Bowl was in 2008 when the team suffered a 17-14 loss to the New York Giants, and Davis said he knows the Patriots players are prepared for the game.

“When you’re a player all the X’s and O’s are done by Thursday,” he said.

That’s why he hopes to inspire team members this Saturday night with a talk that goes beyond football.

“My message is about regardless of outcome, what will your legacy be?” he said. “Winning a Super Bowl championship is great, but what will you be known for outside of football?”

Davis said that on average 15 to 20 players attend chapel services, though he anticipates attendance could be higher for this week’s pre-game gathering. The chapel service will take place at the Patriots’ team hotel in Indianapolis the night before the game.

Davis, who was in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl this past week, will be in the stands watching Super Bowl XLVI. When asked if he’ll have access to Patriots’ locker room after the game for what he hopes will be a celebration, he laughed.

 “I certainly hope so.”