I'm not going to make this ranked.
I'm not going to say one Christian is more influential than the other.
My purpose of this article is to highlight the men and women that do their job as a believer in Christ Jesus.
I'm aware that this will offend some. I'm aware that there might be attacks on the subject matter. I believe that these people need to be recognized for what they do.
Naturally there will be some off the list...some that I had forgotten about. That doesn't lessen their beliefs or contributions though.
Pujols is one of the best players in the MLB. You can't pitch around him because he's got such a long, searching swing. He routinely hits them into the corner and over the wall. He is quickly rising on the record charts. You can even compare his talents to that of A-Rod.
However...there's one thing that many people don't realize.
He attributes all he's done to God.
“It doesn’t matter if I hit a home run. It doesn’t matter if we win a game. It doesn’t matter if I go four for four,” Pujols says. “Whatever happens at the end of the day, as long as I glorify His name, that’s what it’s all about.”
He met his wife right after she rededicated her life to Christ after becoming a single mother. They started going to church weekly and he recognized that their relationship was nothing without God.
One of the more admirable things he does is that he attributes it all to Christ when it's at a personal level. You'll often hear a scantily clad singer at the Grammy's say "and I want to thank God!" In their personal life though, they live it as though they have no morals.
This man is different.
“The kids look at me, ‘Ah, you’re my hero.’ I want to teach those kids. ‘Hey listen, God is my hero. He died on the cross for my sins, and He’s the one. That’s how I wanna live -- like Him and I want you guys to do the same thing.’”
The fact that this man, who is a national superstar, shares his faith at such a personal level shows you how strong his faith really is.
He didn't start in NASCAR as a Christian. In fact, he was focused on the worldly things. His career, his money, etc. He knew there was something missing though.
"Before, I was totally focused on driving. How it went on the track was my life," Jeff recalls. "Becoming a Christian changed my priorities. Now God comes first, then my wife and family, and then racing. I think being a Christian has made me a better husband and son and a better driver."
He is very outspoken about his faith. Even if you don't want to hear it, this man will talk your ear off about Christ(a trait that many Christians regrettably do not have).
Yes, he's had some turbulent times in his life...but he still holds true to the one truth that he believes in.
Humble, steadfast, generous, kind...
These words all describe Mariano "Mo" Rivera.
At the beginning of his career, he was not a Christian. However, certain things fell into place that made him realize that God was right there with him.
"Every time I was going through a hard time, somebody was there to help. It's not too often when you play in the minor leagues that a coach will tell you he will take care of your son while you stay with your wife at the hospital.
"My pitching coach did that, and one lady from Panama-I never knew her (before)-offered to stay with my wife while I was playing. Even though I had nobody here, I was never alone. That made me accept Jesus as my Savior. I knew it wasn't a coincidence. It was the Lord putting someone there for me."
During his time off, Mo visits churches with Christian ministries...especially ones geared to children. He financed the building of a church in his home city of Panama City.
Perhaps what inspires me most is his wish to become an evangelical preacher at the end of his career. He could sit there with his money and retire quietly...but no. He wishes to use a portion of his earnings and give it up to God.
This is a man of loyalty—to both his team and his faith.
If you follow sports, you know this man's story.
He spends his spring breaks at missions doing any work he can—surgery, building, destruction, preaching, etc.
He rarely fails to mention God in interviews. Heck, he even tends to walk back to the podium if he forgets to say "God Bless."
If Tebow wasn't on the fast-track to the NFL, you can bet he'd be becoming a preacher, missionary, or one of many other faith-based jobs.
He has a passion for God that is sadly unmatched by many people.
When he's in the NFL, expect his evangelizing to be ever-present on that field...like it is now.
That's the age that Reggie White became a minister for Christ.
Whether it was on the field or in the locker room, this man kept on talking about Christ.
"God allowed me to use this game as a platform to proclaim the name of Jesus. ... I know some people don't like what I say sometimes, but God has called me to preach a message, and I have to preach the message."
Unfortunately, he died at the tender age of 43. At least we know where he is now.
After his death, his legacy still lives on. Churches all around know of his passion that he had...and they all still draw from it. His love for God is still here, even if he isn't.
Kurt Warner is rarely seen without his bible. In the airport, locker room, etc., he always has it.
"I believe that the Lord has a plan for each of us that's better than anything we can imagine--even if that plan isn't obvious to us at every stage.
"He prepared me for this over a long period of time--in lower-profile locker rooms and the grocery store and in Europe, through all the personal tragedies and in spite of the people who doubted me along the way," Warner explained.
"Whether I'm a Super Bowl Champion or a regular guy stocking groceries at the Hy-Vee, sharing my faith and glorifying Jesus is the central focus of my time on this earth.
"And the fact that I now have a podium, I believe, is no coincidence. I want to be a role model for Christ in everything that I do. Living my life for Him and showing people the beauty of that reality is my mission in life."
Warner's humility is something to be loved. The fact that he does what he does on the field, yet can get off the field and prefer to talk about God rather than the game is awesome.
No matter where he is, he is always spreading the name of Christ.
The death of James Dungy was a tragedy to many people around the country.
Imagine what his father felt.
This did not deter him though. He did not slow down. He did not surrender. He kept his faith...a faith that was visible to the public eye.
This man has repeatedly said that his Christian walk is more important than sports. These statements have been marveled at by many and appreciated by less.
The fact that he was willing to lay down his career for his Lord was something that inspired thousands, even millions.
There are many figures not included.
Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Michael Irvin, Andy Pettitte, Bill Bates, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Michelle Akers. That's just a couple.
Honestly, to put all of them in one article would be overwhelming. I am thankful that there are so many strong Christians in the sports world.
I know some heckling and whatnot will be thrown my way...but these are my beliefs, and I'm glad these men and women share them with me.