For as long as sports has been around, there have been many athletes open about their faith and not afraid to express it to the world. Whether it’s been something as simple as thanking God after a touchdown, or a player doing the sign of the cross before an at-bat, or expressing thanks after a game, spirituality has played a part in many athletes’ lives. Many times, they’re outspoken about it, and it could rub some people the wrong way. While it may not be as common today, religion still has its hold on athletes. Here are 10 of the most religious active athletes.
10) Clint Dempsey
He just captained the United States in their recent World Cup run. Clint Dempsey is open about his faith as a devout Roman Catholic. He has not been shy in saying he prays a lot for God to help him in his profession.
Dempsey grew up going to church every Sunday and at 12 years old, had an experience that had him questioning his faith. His sister died from a brain aneurysm and he struggled for year to find faith. He says he did, and went to the bible for answers.
“I found that questioning Him and searching for answers through Scripture helped me grow and gave me direction,” he said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “Now my faith in Christ is what gives me confidence for the future. I know that through both good times and bad, He is faithful and will watch over me.”
9) Josh Hamilton
As is the case with many drug and alcohol addicts, Josh Hamilton turned to faith and spirituality to turn his life around. He has never been shy about expressing his belief that Jesus helped him recover and stay on the right path.
He wrote an autobiography, Beyond Belief, which describes in detail his road to recovery and how God was the reason he was able to overcome his addictions. Hamilton went through a relapse in 2009 and his first words about it publicly were that his relationship with God must come first.
8) Jimmer Fredette
New Orleans Pelican Jimmer Fredette was raised by a Mormon father, who converted when he was 18. Fredette grew up going to church and was baptized as a Mormon at the age of 10.
Fredette went on to play basketball at BYU, which is owned and operated by the LDS Church. Fredette married his wife, former BYU cheerleader Whitney Wonnacott in the Denver LDS Temple.
7) Venus and Serena Williams
Serena has even said she won’t date another man, unless he’s a Jehovah’s Witness as well.
Both have also expressed that they don’t vote in any elections, based on their religious beliefs. In John 17:14 and other passages in the Bible, Jesus says of his followers: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret this as a rule to remain neutral in all political matters.
6) Philip Rivers
Philip Rivers and his wife Tiffany are very active Catholics. His wife actually converted to Catholicism. The couple have seven children together.
Rivers has spoken to kids many times about the importance of faith and has tried to spread the message of abstaining from premarital sex. Once you’re married though, all bets are off.
5) Ian Kinsler
Ian Kinsler has become quite a prominent figure in the Jewish community, donating time and money to various causes. He’s done all this while being one of the very best second basemen in the game today.
His father is Jewish, while his mother is Catholic. In 2008, Kinsler won the Rangers’ Jim Sundberg Community Achievement Award, which was a way of commemorating him for his devout work in the community.
4) Jake Peavy
San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Jake Peavy has described himself as a devout Christian since the age of seven. He has been interviewed many times about his faith. In an interview with cbn.com, he described the moment he first became a devout Christian.
“I remember I was at Moffat Road Baptist Church, where I grew up with all my friends and family, and probably didn’t understand nearly enough, but I knew enough to understand I wanted to be saved and wanted Jesus to be Lord of my life,” Jake said. “What an awesome experience.”
In that same interview, the former Cy Young Award winner says that God is who helps him with his baseball career.
“He’s the reason that I believe I’m able to do what I do. There’s no way I can tell you that on my own I can go out and be able to perform in some of these stadiums and some of these atmospheres.”
3) Dmitriy Salita
Dmitriy Salita is a Ukrainian-born welterweight boxer, currently residing in New York. He is a practicing Orthodox Jew. So much so, that he doesn’t fight on the Sabbath (Saturday) or any Jewish holidays and he keeps kosher. In total, there are over 70 holy days a year during which he refuses to fight.
He holds a professional record of 33-1-1 with 17 knockouts.
Salita says no matter how famous he gets, he would never compromise his beliefs. “Never. It’s not a question. I have a personal relationship with God that I won’t compromise. My boxing is such a big part of my life, but it won’t get in the way of my religion. It can’t, and it won’t.”
He trains near a Synagogue, always within walking distance. He even enters the ring to Yiddish rap. Yes, that exists.
2) Manny Pacquiao
Another man born in the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao was born and raised as a Catholic, but has since converted to Evangelicalism.
Pacquiao actually recently made some news, when he threw down a Bible quote on Floyd Mayweather, warning him of God’s mysterious ways.
“He (Mayweather) should fear God,” Pacquiao said, advising him to heed the biblical passage reading “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
Great, so when will they fight?
Anyway, Pacquiao has credited his newfound faith in turning his life around, saying he was spinning out of control with drinking, gambling and unfaithfulness to his wife.
1) Tim Tebow
Okay, you knew this one was coming. Tim Tebow hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2012 season, but the fans have still made a connection with him, due to his polarizing nature and his outspoken demeanour on his religious beliefs.
Tebow’s parents were living as Baptist Missionaries in the Philippines at the time of Tim’s birth. All the Tebow children were homeschooled and raised as Christians.
Tebow has spoken in many schools, prisons and churches sharing his faith. He has also taken a vow of abstinence until marriage.
His act of “Tebowing” was all the craze three years ago. His series of miracle last-minute victories even had non-religious folks wondering if there really was a higher power helping him and the Broncos.