DALLAS, Texas (BP)--Atlanta Falcons All-Pro fullback Ovie Mughelli flew directly from sunny and warm Hawaii, after his first Pro Bowl appearance, to snowy and bone-chillingly cold Dallas for only one reason on Friday.
His appearance was for the 12th annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, an officially sanctioned NFL Super Bowl XLV event, and one that has grown significantly over the years.
"In the NFL, we gain our strength through Him and we need to sing about it. For me, I pray through song and this is a chance to do it," Mughelli said.
Said Devin Wyman, who once played with the New England Patriots prior to a career in the Arena League, "I came here to honor my Father. There is something powerful when men come together to praise God."
That certainly was the case in a loud and worshipful three-hour concert Friday night at a sold-out Dallas Music Hall, as 40 NFL players and some of the greats of the gospel music industry -- CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary -- came together for a prolonged time of praise.
For the third year, the players formed the NFL All-Star Choir, performing with Winans and McClurkin. The choir includes current and retired players from almost every team
Chicago defensive tackle Tommie Harris came for one simple reason.
"I love Jesus and I want to share about Him any chance I get," he said.
While in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, Mughelli said players came up to him asking about the concert and if they could be a part of it this year.
"Players are seeing it's not some low-level event, but an amazing experience to sing, and a great gospel concert as well."
In the decade-plus time the event has been staged, Mughelli said the concert has grown in stature.
"You're certainly not laughed at now or get the scorn you used to for sharing your faith." he said.
NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, who played for more than a decade with the hometown Dallas Cowboys, was involved in the event for the first time. He said it was a natural outpouring of gratitude.
"God has blessed me so much and I believe to whom much is given, much is required," Smith said. "I want to use this platform to use the talent God has given us to praise Him."
In 2009, when Pittsburgh last played in the Super Bowl, then-Steelers offensive lineman Jeremy Parquet had so many responsibilities he could only enjoy a small part of the gospel music celebration. Now playing in the Canadian Football League, he was back again in Dallas for the full celebration and to join the players choir.
"This is a lot bigger than it was in Tampa ," Parquet said. It's a great experience because it shows more people need to get serious about God. Quit messing around and show you love Him."
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent.
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