We Got Some Dudes
What if, as head coach on the first day of Spring football, you walk up to the first team meeting and begin to take roll and the names are oddly familiar. Instead of high school kids you have the Saints. No not the New Orlean Saints, the real Saints!
Real men who truly lived and loved and excelled in virtue to such a degree that they are exalted as having lived a life of heroic virtue. Each one in his own way, in his own time, in his own culture used his masculine power of body, soul and of mind to become open to grace and to fiercely execute the will of God. Taking out the physical, athletic attributes such as size, speed, agility and focusing only on personality types, character and virtue …If you could choose from all the men who became the Saints in the Catholic Faith it really would be the perfect team.
Imagine, at the end of summer the coaches meet to finalize the roster for offense and defense… each side arguing and making the case for why they need this guy or that guy. There is a prototype for each position coach has in mind when they strategize with personnel and position decisions. Size, speed, athletic agility, strength yes BUT most important, personality or character. Are they coachable? Are they mentally tough? Are they aggressive and focused? Are they able to lead or able to follow? Are they able to sacrifice for the sake of the team? Will they be good teammates? Do they love the game? Are they playing for the right reasons? Finally, when the meeting winds down, and the roster of holiness is complete, they look at each other and exclaim in unison…‘We got some dudes!’
After winning the SWAC Championship with Jackson State University with an undefeated season, coach Deon Sanders made the news with a ‘controversial’ interview. As the new head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes. “Well, we have different attributes. Smart, tough, fast, disciplined with character. Now, quarterbacks are different,” Sanders told Eisen. “We want mother, father. Dual parent. We want that kid to be 3.5 [GPA] and up because he has to be smart. No bad decisions off the field, at all because he has to be a leader of men.”
“Defensive linemen are totally opposite. Single mama, trying to get it, he’s on free lunch,” Sanders said. “I’m talking about just trying to make it. He’s trying to rescue mama. Like mama barely made the flight and I want him to just go get it.” He later said, “we stereotype everything”.
What football coach doesn’t relate to this? Personality types and the kinds of people you have at which position matters.
As a general rule offensive coaches look for guys who are coachable, loyal, smart and disciplined and dudes who are aggressive, instinctive and stubborn are defense material. An offense works as one unit in a different way than a defense. The execution of each player in carrying out his assignment combined with timing demands a certain mental fortitude, discipline and coachability from players.For defense there is a level of discipline in that each player has responsibilities in the first few steps but much of the rest of the play is predicated on reacting instinctively to the offense in real time. So definitely there is a prototype for each position that coaches have in mind when they begin to strategize with personnel and position decisions.
What follows in Part I and Part II is the perfect football roster for offense, defense, and head coach when focusing only on character traits, life story and virtue of those who so excelled in their own roles and positions in the history of salvation that we honor them as Saints. We will look at each position with a brief rationale based on the prototype football player and the spiritual attributes of the Saint who would excel in that position as a personality type.
Offensive Line: St. Luke, St. Mark, St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher and St. John Houghton
The O-line will be ideally as much of a unit as possible so it is good to pick a group who works together. These are the guys who take AP classes in high school. They are high level thinkers and know how to organize and categorize information quickly. They do not need to be flashy or popular. We are OK with ‘no-names’ for these positions. The perfect offensive linemen are humble giants, great communicators, they don’t mind bleeding, they can be nasty when needed, they are fiercely loyal. They are goal driven. They understand the game, the game situations and they are always alert, always thinking.
Saint Luke is suited for left tackle. He is bright, energetic and persuasive. He knows how to communicate and he is willing to suffer for the team. He believes wholeheartedly in the Game Plan (Gospel Message) and loves the game. Assuming the quarterback is right handed the left tackle will protect his blind-side. He works well with Saint Mark, the left guard. Their loyalty and friendship with the quarterback will pay off. They are a pair as they were both companions to Saint Paul and were his friends and underlings. As a pair they will double team, cross block and cover when the uncovered man needs to pull on a Counter or Trap play. They are excellent communicators and will be able to pick up any C gap stunts or any blitz off the edge. They are smart, educated writers and they know the game plan, they have studied it and have mastered the details. The ideal Center is St. Thomas More. St. Thomas More was a brilliant thinker, writer, lawyer and a leader of men. As a Center he will need to read the defensive front and locate the Mike linebacker. He will make game-time calls at the line. He will use the position of the ball and his hand placement to gain an advantage over a nose guard. He is willing to bleed for the success of the play. St. Thomas More went to his death in defense of Catholic teaching on the sacredness of Marriage. He refused to cave under intense pressure and chose to become a martyr for the truth. His right guard, St. John Fisher a high ranking Bishop and right tackle St. John Houghton, a Carthusian monk, were also English martyrs from the same time period. They worked together as a unit to expose King Henry XVIII. So they are a group, a unit all working against the same opponents all working to advance the same goal against an extremely hostile opponent. As English nobles, they speak the same language and are all extremely smart. They all refused the worldly honors that were promised to them if they would renounce their faith but they remained loyal to death. Not many have even heard of them, especially the right tackle, St. John Houghton. That’s perfect for O-line guys.
Tight Ends: St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine
The tight ends will be giant men who are nimble and able to be both skill players with good hands and run blockers. They are able to adapt to the play calling and know how to execute their assignments. They are facing the most aggressive kinds of opponents in outside linebackers and defensive ends. At the same time they need to be able to get open, or atleast post up against highly skilled defensive backs. They need to be able to block down and seal the edge or be able to outflank and hook block an end. These guys need to be sound in their footwork and fundamentals. They are not as flashy as wide receivers but they are key players nevertheless.
Here we have two giants, intellectually overpowering yet nimble in their orthodoxy. Great minds who each wrote masterpieces in the Catholic Faith with Aquinas’ Summa Theolgiea and Ausgiustine’s Confessions. While born on different continents and at different times, these two are closely associated. They both incorporated Aristotelian philosophy into their theology. They are both great Doctors of the Church, important theologians and they are arguably somewhat equal in importance in the life of the Church. They each in their own context, faced off against mighty opponents and heretics.
They are definitely not no-names! They have been in the endzone plenty of times coming in clutch for the win. They have also blocked and in a sense led the way for later theologians to score as well. Their strength was their footwork. They mastered the fundamentals of the game at every level. When you take into consideration St. Augustine’s sketchy past, you also have a nasty factor in him. He can get down and dirty with the Defense, pancaking them and enjoying it. One last thing, St. Thomas Aquinas was also physically big. He called his body the Dumb Ox. Perfect image for a TE. When the offense needs to go big and use both Tight Ends, nothing can stop them from imposing their will which is also the will of God.
Receivers: St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Stephen the Martyr, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua
The Slot Receiver lines up off the line of scrimmage between the tight end/tackle and outside receiver. The key skills are quickness, agility, hands and the characteristics are desire and courage. They may be given option routes depending on how the defense lines up. So they need to be coachable, disciplined and somewhat smart. They will often be asked to sacrifice their bodies by running crossing routes over the middle of the field exposing their bodies to linebackers and safeties. They need to be all in and willing to take one for the team.
Our Slot Receivers are St. Maximilian Kolbe a Franciscan priest who lived in the 20th Century and St. Stephen, a Jewish convert and deacon in the early 1st Century church. What they have in common is their smaller size and their shared fate as martyrs. They both faced persecution and a lot of talking and threats from their rivals. They were targeted for being outspoken for the Faith at a time and place where that could get you killed.
St. Maximilian Kolbe was an outspoken critic of the Nazis leading up to and during World War II. He was arrested and sent to Auschwitz where he voluntarily took the place of a fellow prisoner to be sent to a starvation bunker to die. His decision was a no brainer because he lived his whole life suffering for others and practicing agape love.
St. Stephen is known as the first martyr of the Church. Before he was stoned to death by the religious leaders of his time, he recounted the whole story of the Bible and pointed out that Jesus was the culmination of that story. He explained that he was willing to die like Jesus died for the same truth, for the same message.
Both are well known, both had humble origins, both were poor yet both had agile people-person skills and leadership abilities. They both were capable of making big plays when they had the ball. They had excellent vision and good hands. They both went down by taking a big hit in the endzone without fumbling the ball. Their teammates were left inspired.
Our Wide Receivers are St. Anthony of Padua and St. Francis of Assisi are like bookends in how similar they are. St. Francis is a little more flashy but they each pose a similar threat to the opponent. Both are from wealthy families and both lived in Italy at the same time and both were Franciscans devoted to the poor and the sick. They became beggars and lived under strict vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Because they are so similar, and can communicate so well with each other, they are able to work together on combination routes. When it came to spiritual warfare they were untouchable and easily outran the opponent.
St. Anthony, an intellectual and a Doctor of the Church, was one of the most quickly canonized Saints in the Church. As the patron saint of finding lost items, lost people and lost souls, he always comes in clutch when he is most needed and when the game is on the line.
St. Francis, a wiser, older friar was a mystic and stigmatic. Founder of the Franciscans, he is perhaps the most admired Saint by all around the world. He is known for his calling to rebuild the Church. He did this by selling all he had and becoming totally dedicated to seeing Christ in others and even in nature.
They both chose religious life after a brief time in the military and they both died from natural causes. They weren’t the first to put their bodies on the line like the Slot Receivers but their legacy as great Saints puts them in the MVP discussion.
Running Backs: St. Padre Pio and St. Joseph
Our running backs have to be fast, agile, tough, have good vision and sharp instincts. When needed they also will be able to catch the ball on a screen, a wheel route or as a check down. The best backs are able to lower their shoulder and get that extra yard. When needed they may also have to get airborne. When we need excitement to cause a momentum change our back can spin, jump, hurdle, jump cut, reverse direction just to get into the endzone. The full back, on the other hand, just needs to work. He’s not flashy, not talkative, not interested in accolades. He just wants to sacrifice himself for the team by running into people and springing his back into daylight. His favorite assignment is to kick out an end or to blast a middle backer. Every once in a while he will get the rock in a quick hitting, short yardage scenario. He will always get that first down when needed. Defenders fear him and dread tackling him.
St. Joseph spent many years with Jesus alone working in the carpenter shop. He had the privilege of teaching Jesus how to work hard without complaining and how to get the job done without much in the way of resources. St. Joseph understands what team he is on. He knows the team goals and places them above any of his own. St. Joseph as a fullback makes sense because he was ‘Joseph the worker’. In the Gospels Joseph is mostly silent and he is happy to be in the background. He is someone who has a proven track record of coming in clutch when his team needed him. He led Mary and the unborn Jesus safely to Bethlehem and protected her and the holy child on a perilous journey to Egypt. He led the way and made it possible for Jesus to return to Nazareth and he then developed a relationship with Jesus as a father. Joseph is called the ‘terror of demons’. No one wants to take him on. He had self control and the fundamentals of faith he mastered. He is a wrecking ball in the spiritual world but one that is under total control, one that takes out the enemy one by one springing anyone who follows his lead into spiritual daylight.
St. Padre Pio is to the canon of Saints what a combination of Walter Paton, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders is to football. He could do it all! He was a mystic, a stigmatic and an incorruptible. He could communicate with angels, levitate, bilocate and read minds and souls. Talk about hard to tackle, he had an ability to transcend space and time. He was a physical guy too. When he needed to stay in bounds he confronted the devil. In these encounters his body was actually beaten up and kicked around. Whether he wanted to be or not, he became famous for his sanctity while he was still alive on earth. At the same time, he didn’t let his fame get to him. He remained humble and obedient to his superiors. St. Padre Pio was the ultimate team player.
Quarterback: St. Paul
Accuracy, vision, footwork, athleticism, anticipation, decision making, pocket presence, mental toughness, communication and leadership are just some attributes of a good QB. The QB is the coach on the field. He is always aware of the down and distance, the clock, the score, the play, the cadence, the footwork and the tempo of the game. He is in control and he makes it happen. His confidence is infectious with his teammates especially with his O-line.
Our quarterback has to be St. Paul. Here’s why…St. Paul, before he became Paul, was Saul the Pharisee. He was educated by the best rabbis. He was raised in a wealthy and educated family. Yet he knew the cost and value of hard work as a tentmaker growing up. After his conversion, he went from being the best Pharisee sitting on the Sanhedrin to becoming arguably, the greatest Catholic Christian theologian ever. St. Paul knew the game plan because helped create it. He wrote the most books of any New Testament writer. He had the inspiration of the Holy Spirit working in him and through him.
As someone who was once an enemy of the Church, He knew his opponents’ playbook better than they did. He studied so much he could read a defense and he had amazing situational awareness to use the cultural customs and languages of the people he encountered to his advantage. Following a detailed game plan which he developed through muscle memory, St. Paul led other men on foot to three missionary journeys through hostile territory. When his boat crashed up on the shore of a distant land he was ready to adapt and improvise with a plan B.
As a leader, he persuaded the apostles and even Peter that he was also an apostle. He had the vision to see that the Church was truly universal and open to Gentile lands. Through his communication skills and preaching he converted more people than any other man.
Finally, he demonstrated time and time again that he was all in for the team. He stood in the pocket and took his shots. He suffered arrest, persecution and finally martyrdom for the sake of the Church as the Body of Christ and for Jesus Christ as head of the Church.
For Part II click here...https://www.catholic365.com/article/30003/we-got-some-dudes-if-catholic-saints-played-football-part-ii-defense.html