Christian Athletes and the Experiences That Built Their Faith
You’ve probably heard of all-star athletes like NFL Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz and New York Yankees slugger Darryl Strawberry, but have you heard about their faith? Angel Studios’ Playing for Eternity delves into the prestigious careers of famous Christian athletes who didn’t just play for the love of the game, but played for the love of God. Read on to learn how their faith influenced every play.
1. Anthony Muñoz
Anthony Muñoz is a former American football offensive tackle. Muñoz played his entire NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals from 1980 to 1992. Widely regarded as one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history, he was selected to 11 Pro Bowls and earned nine First-Team All-Pro selections. Muñoz was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, recognizing his outstanding contributions to the sport.
With a career that spanned decades, Anthony has a lot to be proud of, but nothing gives him greater joy than his faith in Jesus. Anthony was introduced to Christianity his freshman year at USC when one of his friends shared the Gospel with him. He got married shortly after and he and his wife embarked on their faith journey together. One thing he quickly learned is that faith doesn’t mean life is easy. Anthony went through multiple injuries throughout his career and Jesus helped him through it all. He says everything he’s done in his career has been to glorify God.
See Anthony Muñoz relive his career highlights and discuss his faith with host Josh Merrill in Playing for Eternity.
2. Darryl Strawberry
Darryl Strawberry is a former professional baseball right fielder. Born in LA, Darryl played 17 seasons in the MLB and is famous for his prolific number of home runs and his looming presence at 6 foot 6 inches tall. During his lengthy career, Darryl led the New York Mets to a World Series championship and the New York Yankees to 2. The 8-time All-Star also won 2 Silver Slugger Awards, hit 335 home runs, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated 7 times, worked as an analyst at SportsNet New York, and published a memoir entitled “Straw: Finding My Way.”
Darryl is the first to admit that he was a big partier while playing in the MLB. He came from a broken family with an alcoholic father and found himself following the same path, even as a star baseball player. If he had stayed away from partying, he says he could’ve been in the Hall of Fame. However, if he hadn’t gotten in trouble, he says he never would have found Jesus. Darryl gives all credit to his mother for introducing him to Jesus at a young age. That being said, Darryl didn’t find God until he prayed for the first time on his mother’s deathbed. His life was profoundly changed as he developed his faith and started living his life with a bigger purpose in mind.
See Darryl Strawberry walk us through his faith journey in Playing for Eternity.
3. Shaun Alexander
Shaun Alexander is a former professional football running back and Hall of Famer. Born in Kentucky, Alexander played college football with the Alabama Crimson Tide (for which he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame) before being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. Among many other accomplishments, Alexander set several records for the NFL and the Seahawks franchise, was named the NFL MVP in 2005, holds the Kentucky State record for touchdowns in a season, was named by the NFL to the 2000 All-Decade Team, and holds the record for the eighth most rushing touchdowns in NFL history.
Shaun grew up in a Christian home where his mom was a believer and his father was not. Despite having parents with mixed faith, Shaun always believed and let his faith influence every part of his life. His faith has been especially important as the father of eleven children. His biggest priority as a father is helping his children understand their true identity as children of God. To him, it’s most important to train their heart, and not their talent. He says if you train people’s hearts, their potential is limitless.
See Shaun and host Josh Merrill chat on and off the field in Playing for Eternity.
4. Leah Amico
Leah Amico is a retired American softball player from Fullerton, California. Known for her exceptional skills as a first baseman and outfielder, Amico was a key player on the United States women's national softball team. She won three Olympic gold medals in softball, in 1996, 2000, and 2004. Leah Amico has also contributed to the sport as a coach and mentor, making a lasting impact on the world of softball.
Because Leah had such a successful career, she knew she had to stay grounded somehow. The way she did that was through her faith. She wrote Philipians 4:13 in her softball mitt: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” to keep her faith close. That scripture centered her throughout her illustrious career and gave her a new sense of purpose and passion for her sport. She believes God gave her this talent for a reason and that her story is bigger than representing the United States of America in the Olympics—she was always playing for God.
See Leah Amico tell all in Playing for Eternity.
5. Jessica McDonald
Jessica McDonald stands as a proud 2019 World Cup Champion and two-time NWSL Champion. She played at the University of North Carolina, where she clinched a National Championship in 2008. With an impressive tally of 54 professional goals, McDonald's goal-scoring prowess has been a defining feature of her career. In the 2018 NWSL Championship Game, she earned the coveted MVP title. Beyond her accolades, Jessica McDonald is rooted in her faith which serves as an inspiration to the next generations of athletes.
Growing up, Jessica’s grandma frequently quoted the Bible to her which helped solidify her faith at a young age. After rupturing her tendon during her rookie season in the NWSL, Jessica had no choice but to rely on her faith. On every team she played for, she found a core group of teammates who were believers and they would meet together for Bible study. But it wasn’t until the 2019 NWSL championship that Jessica started sharing her faith publicly. Her friend made her a Nike undershirt that read “Jesus paid it all” and she showed it off after winning the game. She recalls getting a lot of backlash for being so public with her faith, but has no regrets. She went on to join the U.S. Women’s National Team in 2019 where they won the World Cup. Her then seven-year-old son was able to witness her not only excel at her sport at age 30, but witness her proclaim her faith on a worldwide stage. To this day, that is her proudest moment as a mother.
See her share her story in Playing for Eternity.
Meet More Christian Athletes in Playing for Eternity
These are just five athletes among dozens of others who have chosen to play for eternity. Relive their incredible careers and discover their devotion today when you watch Playing for Eternity.