But there was little mentioned in the secular press about the team's longest-tenured staff member, the person who had seen the Eagles through good times and bad, Southern Baptist pastor David Hoke, who has served as the team chaplain for the Eagles the last 12 years."I was there for the 3-13 seasons, so I guess it's nice to be there for the good years as well," said Hoke, senior pastor of New Horizons Community Church in Voorhees, N.J., less than 30 minutes from downtown Philadelphia."David is a great ambassador for God, a great servant of Jesus Christ, and that's what we need with this team," said Eagles running back coach Ted Williams.
Before the Eagles
take the field late Sunday afternoon for their match-up with the New England Patriots, Hoke
will conduct his
regular chapel service with the players and coaches at the team hotel.
"I like to help the players focus on what's really important.They are playing to win to achieve their God-given potential," said Hoke, who recently served as president of the executive board for the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey.
Each week of the season, Hoke
is responsible for a players Bible study and a couples study in addition to the regular chapel service held either on Saturday night or Sunday before the game.He
works with another local pastor, Theodore Winsley, to provide spiritual help and guidance for players and coaches during the week with private discussions and public meetings.
"Our church really sees this as an outreach opportunity to the players and the coaches," Hoke
Britt Hager, a linebacker back then, was in our church, and helped me get started and it's grown from there," Hoke
Since then, he's
gone through three different head coaches, an entire roster changeover of players and more losses than wins, all the while maintaining his
focus on helping the Philadelphia Eagles
find meaning and purpose off the football field.
After three consecutive NFC title game losses, Hoke
has had a unique opportunity to share with several players and coaches.
"They had a pretty good attitude, because they all have a personal life outside the team.It allowed me to work on my relationships with the players about what mattered most."
But as the Eagles
geared up for another title game run this year against the Atlanta Falcons, Hoke
dealt with a question from several members of his
"They wanted to know if it was OK to pray to win," Hoke
recounted."I thought about it for a while and said if I was a player I would pray to win because it would honor Him with my ability and, regardless of the outcome, that's what I would always seek to do."Hoke named more than a dozen Christian players on the team, including Corey Simon, Roderick Hood, whose dad is a Baptist evangelist in Georgia, Ike Reese, David Akers, Hank Fraley and coaches Steve Spagnulolo, Trent Walters and Williams.
After flying into Jacksonville to look after his
players on Sunday, and conducting his
chapel service at about 1:30 p.m., don't look for Hoke
on the sidelines."I gave that up years ago," he
will be in the background, trusting that his
spiritual work with the team has been accomplished for the day.