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Cardinals coordinator Haley has ‘God to lean on’

Miami-born Courtright says sports can be ‘for God or for good’


TAMPA (BP)–In Arizona’s red-hot run to their most unlikely of Super Bowl berths, nobody has been hotter than Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

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Through each improbable round of the playoffs, Haley has received more attention and praise for his work with Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and the team’s innovative offense –- becoming one of the top prospects as an NFL head coach.

As the pressure has heightened, Haley said his faith has deepened.

"To me, my faith in Christ is so important to get through every day," Haley told a group of reporters in response to a Baptist Press question at a Super Bowl media session.

"It keeps me from getting too high or too low. And as the [playoff] rounds go on, the highs and the lows are much more pronounced. Without God to lean on, I would be lost."

Christ is "my rock in these times of stress and commotion," Haley said.

Haley was a Dallas Cowboys coach before receiving the offer to join Arizona two years ago. While pleased with the promotion, he was even more thrilled in a spiritual sense when he met up with Warner, who’s always ready to witness for Christ.

"I’ll just say I’m glad my paths crossed with Kurt. It’s been very good for my life to be with Kurt the past two years. He has helped me a lot of and I think we’ve helped each other.

"I’m just very fortunate to be with Kurt."

Photo by Joni B. Hannigan

“Sport is a great platform,” Arizona Cardinals assistant defensive backs coach Rick Courtright tells the media in the run-up to Sunday’s Super Bowl. “You can use it for God or for good, and I think God expects us to use our platform.”

Rick Courtright said he is amazed to be coaching with Arizona in its first Super Bowl. The assistant defensive backs coach has been with the Cardinals for five years, longer than anybody on the coaching staff. When former head coach Dennis Green was replaced by Ken Whisenhunt two years ago, most of Green’s staff was released, but Courtright was retained.

"I was raised in a Christian home and a Baptist church and I was taught our role is to stay true to God’s Word in difficult times," said Courtright, who grew up at Wayside Baptist Church in Miami and now attends an evangelical church in Phoenix. "That was a very difficult time, but God had a plan for me here."

Part of the plan was to join in welcoming fellow believer Warner to the team and to use the opportunities he is given for sharing his faith with others.

"Sport is a great platform. You can use it for God or for good, and I think God expects us to use our platform," Courtright said.

Regarding Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Courtright noted, "My faith is not going to change if we win or lose on Sunday. My life might, but my priorities never will." Before the game, he said he will repeat the same verses he reviews before every Cardinals game, Psalms 1 and Ephesians 4:13.

Defensive line coach Ron Aikin said the Super Bowl has altered the team’s routine because the team is spending an entire week in a city before a game instead of just one night. But it also has given him more time to think and pray.

"I wake up every morning with more time to pray and more time to listen. I want to be a better listener for what God says," Aiken said. "He helps me keep my perspective this week and every week."

A former college coach who was hired by Whisenhunt, Aikin said his main priority is impacting the young men he coaches for the Cardinals.

"This is my ministry here. I want to encourage people and try to help them with their faith. One thing Kurt Warner and [former Indianapolis Colts coach] Tony Dungy have shown, it’s OK to tell people you love Christ."

Art Stricklin, a Baptist Press sports correspondent based in Dallas, is in Tampa covering activities leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl.