PHILADELPHIA — Stefen Wisniewski had envisioned playing in the Super Bowl for as long as he could remember. The son and nephew of former NFL players, Wisniewski’s championship dreams formed when he watched games as a kid in the Pittsburgh area, strengthened when he first pulled on shoulder pads at age 9 and remained present through a winding career.
But another thought occured to the Philadelphia Eagles left guard the week leading up to his team’s victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
Wisniewski said he imagined day in and day out what it’d be like to lead his teammates in prayer moments after they claimed the franchise’s first Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“I had been thinking about that all week,” Wisniewski said. “Obviously you think about holding the trophy and the confetti shower. But I was hoping and praying that I’d get that chance to say that prayer after the game.”
And Feb. 4 at Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium, it came to fruition.The Eagles beat the Patriots, 41-33, in a thrilling contest, and after photographers flooded the field and players pulled on hats and shirts commemorating their Super Bowl championship, Wisniewski gathered with a handful of teammates.
He reached to his left to grab tight end Zach Ertz’s hand and to his right to lock hands with offensive tackle William Beatty. Then he began. You can watch the prayer below.
Wisniewski, a former all-conference center at Penn State, said he thought hard about the message he wanted to send with his prayer — he mentioned that with all their injuries, the Eagles “had no business being here” — but most of the words came off the top of his head.
A large contingent of Eagles players and coaches have participated in bible studies together, and Wisniewski had long been a leader within the group of Christians. He grew up in a religious family and his father, Leo Wisniewski, is the executive director of Locking Arms Men, a Christian-based nonprofit.
“It’s been my honor to pray for this team,” Wisniewski said. “I usually pray before the game. Like 20 minutes before kickoff or so, we have a big group that prays, and I usually get to lead that. And then after games, often I’m the guy that prays. It’s been my honor to be that guy on this team. There’s a lot of pretty serious Christians on this team, but it’s been my honor to be that guy and say that prayer.”
Safety Malcolm Jenkins, wide receiver Torrey Smith and offensive coordinator Frank Reich were among the notable Eagles to join the prayer circle with Wisniewski. A few Patriots players joined, too.
Wisniewski, 28, has played for three teams over a seven-year NFL career and had to win the starting left guard job midway through the season. He said some of his most meaningful moments after winning the Super Bowl included hugs with teammates and photos with the trophy and his wife.
Wisniewski also shared the accomplishment with his dad and uncle, two former NFL players who never reached the Super Bowl.
But the prayer ranks up there as an unforgettable part of the experience, Wisniewski said. And looking back, he thinks he said all the right things.
“It was pretty emotional,” Wisniewski said, “and it was pretty fun.”