The Super Bowl is perhaps the biggest sporting event each year in America and each year, the day before the Super Bowl, Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Cru, hosts a Super Bowl breakfast in the host city.
This year, the Super Bowl and Super Bowl breakfast was in Los Angeles for the first time since 1993.
This event is not a casual affair. 1500 attendees experience a top-notched, NFL-sanctioned event featuring some of the biggest names in the NFL.
The program honors a recipient of the Bart Starr Award, which is given to an NFL player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.”
Past recipients of the award include Peyton & Eli Manning, Kurt Warner, Drew Brees, Mike Singletary & Reggie White.
This year’s recipient was Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.
In addition to presenting the Bart Starr Award, the program includes a keynote speaker who shares a testimony or a message of faith. This year’s speaker was Frank Reich, the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Pulling off an event as big as this is not easy, and the fact that the event is in a different location each year makes it challenging to secure the manpower to pull it off.
Being on staff with Cru, I was made aware of the need for volunteers and so I made myself available while also recruiting my high school friend and NFL fan Mike to help.
Mike and I were assigned security detail, no doubt due to my massive physique and imposing stature.
It was quite a long day, which involved arriving at the hotel by 5:00 a.m. to help set up tables and then prepare for 1500 guests to arrive.
In addition to helping to ensure that attendees didn’t bother the special guests during the breakfast, Mike and I helped to secure the Guest VIP room that was located off of the lobby area. Our job was to keep eager fans from entering a special room reserved for special guests like Russell Wilson, Anthony Munoz and Ronnie Lott.
While we were waiting for the program to end, we saw Coach Ed Orgeron in the lobby. Coach O, as he’s called, was most recently the head coach of the LSU Tigers and led them to the National championship 3 years ago. His quarterback was Joe Burrow, who is now the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals who happened to be playing in this year’s Super Bowl.
My friend Mike approached Coach O and told him that his dad is from Baton Rouge and is a HUGE LSU fan.
Coach O, in his typical gravelly, Cajun voice asked, “Your daddy, is he alive?”
Mike responded “yes”, to which Coach O replied, “well call him up.”
Mike quickly dialed the number of his dad and handed the phone to Coach O. The exchange went like this:
“Hello Jim….this is Coach O!”
“No it isn’t.”
“Yes, it is. I’m in a hotel lobby and your son Mike tells me you’re a huge LSU fan and so I just called to say ‘Go Tigers.’”
He then handed the phone back to my friend Mike.
Our job was actually not very glamourous. Other than Coach O, who was not actually there for the Super Bowl breakfast, we didn’t talk to or rub shoulders with any sports celebrities. I had to get my suit altered, I got up at 3:30 a.m. to drive to L.A., paid a small fortune for parking and didn’t eat breakfast or even see most of the program.
I certainly wasn’t making friends when I had to tell a number of people that the lobby restrooms were not available while being used by certain VIPs.
So why did we do it? What was the benefit?
The benefit was that because of our help and the generous support of hundreds of other volunteers, 18 people indicated a new commitment to Jesus in response to Coach Reich’s message. And that number is likely much higher due to an online component to the event that is harder to accurately evaluate.
Our job was very much behind the scenes and under the radar, and yet, we rejoice in knowing that people entered the kingdom as a result of the events of that day. When people come to know Jesus, it is rarely a one-person effort but often the result of hundreds, if not thousands of people who each play a small part in the journey.
We are grateful for the part you play in helping us as we minister to Young Professionals and volunteer at Super Bowl events!
And as a long-time Los Angeles Rams fan, I personally rejoice in a narrow Super Bowl 56 victory!