San Francisco’s ability to embrace an attitude of selflessness was the key to the 49ers’ drive to the Super Bowl, according to team chaplain Earl Smith, who also says that theme was mirrored in the team’s Bible studies over the past year.
The 49ers will face Kansas City Sunday in Super Bowl 54.
Smith told Sports Spectrum the 49ers’ season reminded him of the selflessness exhibited by the NBA’s Golden State Warriors when they won their championship in 2015. Both teams played as “one unit,” he said.
“[The 49er players] were happy for each other, and it wasn't just a personal happiness, but there was a joy among the guys, the coaches, the administration, and for me, that's really what it was about,” Smith said. “… These guys are just one. They're not selfish. They really want each other to do well. And I was really proud to see that. I was really happy and blessed that I could see that materialize on the field.”
The players, Smith said, studied “hope, trust and accountability” during Bible studies with him during the season.
“We spent like a month – a series – on each of those things,” he told Sports Spectrum.
They also studied the Lord’s Prayer and the theme of what “the Lord is.”
“Because if you look at David's story, he continuously talked about who the Lord was to him – in so many different ways beyond just being the Good Shepherd,” Smith said. “And so telling the guys to find a personal way to explain and express who God is for them was really a point this year.”
Faith became a central theme during the season when the brother of backup quarterback C. J. Beathard was stabbed and killed in December. Beathard and his family, Smith said, relied on their faith.
“I grieved for C.J., and I still do, yet I know that C.J. has a faith that's bigger than the incident that happened to his brother,” Smith said. “And his family does [have that faith]. … It was really a learning lesson for me to watch them – to watch that family stand up and acknowledge their faith before a group of people and say that it was our faith that has kept us together. [They said,] ‘It hurts, we're in pain, but our faith is secure.’
“When you hear someone share that – what an encouragement,” Smith said.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ezra Shaw/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.