Seventy-two-year-old Susan Collesidis was never a football fan until she heard Carson Wentz talk about his faith.
Then she was hooked on the Philadelphia Eagles.
When Wentz found out his newest fan was fighting an advanced stage of cancer Patrick Roy Jersey , he sent her an encouraging message with inspirational Bible verses.
”How much joy I get from watching him and his team play supernatural football every week,” she said after reading it.
Two weeks later, Collesidis lost her battle with cancer the night before Thanksgiving.
”The message meant so much to Susan because she admired Carson as a person and believer more than a football player,” son-in-law Doug Horton said. ”He’s the reason she started caring about sports and she couldn’t wait to watch the Eagles every week.”
Wentz isn’t playing in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots because he tore his ACL in Week 14. But backup quarterback Nick Foles also is a ”brother in Christ” and one of the leaders in a locker room filled with guys who have formed a strong bond because of their faith.
”It truly is a brotherhood,” Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz said. ”Those guys are holding me accountable. Off the field, I’m holding them accountable. We truly care about each other, we truly care about the growth that each individual has in the word, as believers, as well as friends and family. There are a lot of guys who are truly trying to boost me up and keep me focused on the main thing, which is obviously the word. …”
Christian players openly expressing their faith is nothing new in the NFL: Reggie White, Kurt Warner, Tim Tebow, Ray Lewis and Russell Wilson among many others. But these Eagles are an unusually close-knit group.
”There is a stronger connection here,” said defensive end Steven Means, who played for three other teams. ”It’s another level because we push each other in certain areas that we are flawed at and open ourselves up to each other. We text each other throughout the day making sure that everybody is on the right path and doing the right thing.”
Torrey Smith played with Lewis on the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in 2012. They had a solid core of Christian players who used their faith for inspiration during their journey. Smith also spent two years in San Francisco before the wide receiver came to Philadelphia this season. He said it’s different here.
”I’ve been lucky to be part of three organizations that do have a very strong Christian presence,” Smith said. ”The difference here is a lot of younger guys lead.”
It starts with Wentz John Hayden Jersey , the face of the franchise.
Wentz went on a mission trip to Haiti last May with former teammate Jordan Matthews and a group led by Kyle Horner, lead pastor of The Connect Church. He delivered a sermon a month later at a church back home in North Dakota and launched his Audience of One Foundation in July. Wentz and several teammates even created a devotional video series for the Bible app.
Four days before the season opener, Wentz and teammates Trey Burton and Stefen Wisniewski spoke at a faith event in front of a crowd of 2,000 people who sat in the rain for a couple hours to hear their favorite players share their testimony.
But before he had an MVP-caliber season and led the Eagles from worst to first, Wentz received plenty of criticism from some media and fans because he openly talked about his faith on social media .
He wasn’t deterred.
”Jesus was persecuted everywhere he went,” Wentz said. ”So if Jesus, who is our ultimate example, endured that, then I can endure a couple tweets. I can endure a little riff-raff here and there.”
A large group of players meet for Bible study on Thursdays and hold a study for couples on Mondays. They get together for prayer and devotionals the night before games. They’ve even gathered for baptisms in some unusual places.
In October 2016, Burton and pastor Ted Winsley baptized six players in a cold tub at the team’s practice facility.
”It was crazy,” said Winsley, the team’s longtime chaplain. ”The guys were just hungry, wanting their lives changed.”
Before a Thursday night game at Carolina last October, second-year pro Marcus Johnson was baptized in a hotel pool.
”Since I’ve come to Philly, I’ve grown in my faith so much,” Johnson said. ”As a rookie last year coming in James Hurst Jersey , you always hear about the locker room and how dysfunctional it can be and people playing for money and this and that, but when I got here, everyone was so supportive and I knew it was something special.”
Having strong faith doesn’t make players immune to adversity, but it helps them deal with it. The Eagles (15-3) have overcome numerous injuries to important players on their way to winning the NFC championship.
Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, running back/return specialist Darren Sproles, special-teams captain Chris Maragos and kicker Caleb Sturgis suffered season-ending injuries along with Wentz and Jordan Hicks, the playmaking linebacker and quarterback on defense.
Instead of anger and resentment, they’ve leaned on their faith to maintain a positive attitude.
”Character is always revealed in times of testing,” said Horner, who pastors several players. ”For these men, Christ is not a crutch to lean upon, he is the foundation which their life is built upon. For them, faith is not an intellectual acknowledgement of truth, but a day-by-day expression of their love for God. This is where it all starts.”
Speaking to the media for the first time since the Giants disclosed in early June that he had lymphoma, Gettleman said Friday he's had four rounds of chemotherapy and will need another three more to complete his treatment.
The 67-year-old Gettleman returned to the Giants earlier this year to replace the fired Jerry Reese. He says he is feeling better than expected, but is limited in what he can do.
"I feel really good and sometimes I feel like I am apologizing for that http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/davante-adams-jersey ," Gettleman said. "But you know my energy is good. I don't mind telling you chemo ain't fun. There has been a couple of days where 'whef,' it rocks your world. Now that I am going through it ... my gosh, it's not fun."
Gettleman said when he gets treatment he has to stay in the hospital for three or four days. When he is in the office, he works roughly from 10 a.m. to 7 or 7:30 p.m.
The treatments have weakened Gettleman's immune system and he said he can't have much contract with people. He has to watch training camp practices from a distance in the shade, eat alone and can't fly on airplanes. He is going to miss the Giants' workouts in Detroit with the Lions next month.
Gettleman also predicted he would return to his job full-time this season. He also plans to take part in the upcoming contract talks for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Gettleman said it was weird hearing from his physician, Dr. Andre Goy, that he was in remission.
"Just all of a sudden you go from, within a five-week period I'm told I've got aggressive lymphoma, and in five weeks, he said everything is going to be OK. That's a quick turnaround," said Gettleman, who served as the Carolina Panthers' general manager from 2013-16.
Gettleman spoke to the Giants players after they reported to training camp Wednesday, saying that he told them two things.
The first was about the importance of being a team, and was highlighted by a recent comment from New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello after center John Tavares signed as a free agent with Toronto earlier this month.
"Lou made a great statement, which I believe in and subscribe to, in that individuals win games and teams win championships Devin Shore Jersey ," Gettleman said.
The other point Gettleman stressed was that the players have earned the right to be in training camp and now it was up to them to make the 53-man roster and the 47-man dress squad for games.
Gettleman also showed he has not lost his sense of humor, noting that he told the players it feels different being bald. The chemo caused his hair to fall out.
"It's weird now getting up with a head of hair and looking at that face," Gettleman said.
Gettleman said the cancer has not changed his approach to life, adding he firmly believes it is centered for him on faith, family and football.
"Life is precious," he said. "I don't care what it is, you just can't not appreciate how important people are and how, really, we're in the people business. At the end of the day, it's not about how much money you make. It really isn't, it doesn't mean anything. It's really about what you do with your gifts, and family is our true legacy."
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