Tim Tebow has become the poster boy for religious devotion in the National Football League, but other stars have largely flown under the religion radar.
The managing editor at Patheos, a website devoted to religious issues, told USA Today that Tebow may not even be the most vocal Christian on the Broncos. "It is odd that there are more outspoken Christians on the Denver Broncos like Brian Dawkins. It is odd that Tebow has become this figure," Patton Dodd told the national newspaper.
Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu is most often mentioned by fellow players for his spiritual devotion, according to Dodd, who authored The Tebow Mystique. Polamalu, famous for his long hair and huge hits, actually prays during the action.
"I often think about Troy Polamalu, who you will hear Pittsburgh Steelers players say is the most religious athlete in football," Dodd told USA Today. "He crosses himself before every play and sometimes after. He prays during plays."
Polamalu, 30, one of the NFL's hardest hitters, has won two Super Bowls with the Steelers and has been to six Pro Bowls. Born Troy Benjamin Aumua, he legally changed his name to his mother's maiden name of Polamalu, which he had gone by for 15 years following his parents divorce.
On a quest for religious guidance, Polamalu decided on becoming an Orthodox Christian after spending four days living with monks in a monastery on Mount Athos, a peninsula in Greece.
The Steelers star convinced his wife to convert to Orthodox Christianity in 2007, the same year he took a religious pilgrimage to Orthodox Christian locations in Greece and Turkey. Polamalu named both his children (Paisios, and Ephraim) after legendary Greek Orthodox Christian Saints.
“Football is part of my life but not life itself,” Polamalu says. “Football doesn’t define me. It’s what I do [and] how I carry out my faith.”
While Tebow, the son of missionaries, lives the evangelical Christian life, the Steelers star said in an interview that he's cautious not to push his religious beliefs onto strangers.
“It can lead to resentment, and that is not what you want,” Polamalu said. "There is also a sense of arrogance sometimes when people are really hearty, evangelizers, and that is opposite of what faith is. Like, ‘I know this better than you.’ There are a lot of pitfalls to that."
Both Polamalu and Dawkins were named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s.