While many NFL players never make it to a single Super Bowl, tight end Luke Willson is in his second league championship in as many years with the Seattle Seahawks. The unusual nature of this situation is not lost on the Windsor, Canada, native, who is used to asking important questions and pondering possible answers in depth.
Willson, who was a philosophy major at Rice University, sees the many blessings he has had in his short NFL career, and he wants to make the most of them. After being taken in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, at 6 foot 5 inches tall, the 252-pounder has been part of a Seahawks squad that has posted 30 victories and seven losses and is trying for a second straight Super Bowl victory on Sunday.
In order to achieve this, they will have to defeat the New England Patriots, who are no strangers to the NFL’s big stage. The Patriots, who have consistently been among the top teams in the league for the past 14 seasons, have won three Super Bowls of their own.
Super Bowls aside, Luke Willson knows he has been blessed in many ways. He recently spoke about some of his God-given blessings with Register correspondent Trent Beattie.
Many NFL players never make the Super Bowl once in their careers, but this is your second one in two years. How does it feel to be so successful so early on?
I was talking with someone else recently about that whole thing: Some guys wait years to get to the Super Bowl, and others never get there, but here I am, two for two. It’s just surreal, and I’m extremely fortunate and blessed to be on a team that has achieved so much in so short a time. We’re a very close group of guys who band together and get amazing things done.
For three quarters against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, it looked like you weren’t going back to the Super Bowl. Then there was a dramatic turnaround, which included a two-point conversion by you. How did things change so fast?
It’s tough to describe in words, but, for too long into the game, we played badly, and the Packers played well. It was surprising to be down so far in a game in Seattle, but, later on, at the most crucial moments, everything just clicked. We all came alive and played how we’re capable of playing, and, astonishingly enough, here we are in our second Super Bowl in two years.
Some analysts think the Patriots’ offense and the Seahawks’ defense will neutralize each other, making it a contest between the Seahawks’ offense and Patriots’ defense. Is this how you see it?
The Patriots do have a great offense, and we have a great defense. At the same time, though, we aren’t taking their defense or special teams for granted. They have the all-around game, so if we’re going to come out on top, we can’t overlook any aspect of their team, and we have to play on all cylinders ourselves.
Something I learned from last year’s Super Bowl experience is how to navigate off-the-field experiences, especially with the media. When you first get a lot of attention like that, you tend to take it really seriously, but, after awhile, you realize that most of it actually isn’t a big deal, and nine times out of 10, I don’t even read what’s printed or aired about me.
People are just trying to get information to create their stories, and, now, everyone is talking about the deflated footballs. It’s a funny situation because, while so much time is being given to the story, it’s not going to affect how we approach the game at all. We take each game on its own, and even each play on its own, and just play football.
Apart from the games and official media activity, have you found it difficult to do everyday life things without being hassled?
Being 6-foot-5 and 252 pounds kind of attracts attention to begin with, but, yes, I’m getting recognized on the street more this year. I understand why people want to be a part of what the Seahawks are doing, especially with the “12th Man” concept. I’m happily part of the team, so, of course, I see why anyone else would want to be part of it.
It can be humbling, though, because people tend to think there’s something special about you, but you know that you’re just like everyone else. The more they praise you, the more you realize how little credit you deserve and how thankful you should be to God for what you have.
Last time we talked, you mentioned that you were reading a book from Peter Kreeft. What are you reading now?
Right now, I’m not reading any Catholic books, but, after the season, I plan on getting to some I have stacked up. One of them is called Spiritual Conferences by Father Frederick Faber. I’m told that he’s very devout and sharp and that he has a good sense of humor, so I’m looking forward to reading it. If the beautiful cover is any indication of what’s on the inside, it will be great.
I’m also going to look into Father James Mallon’s EWTN show called Cross Training. It’s about the total functioning of mind, body and soul. This is a topic I’ve been interested in for years, and the fact that Father Mallon lives in eastern Canada is interesting, too.
Are you planning on getting married or maybe even following the footsteps of Grant Desme, who left professional baseball to become a priest?
I’m definitely more likely to get married than become a priest, but, right now, I have absolutely zero specific plans for marriage. The sacrament is far too important to just jump into for the sake of saying, “Look at me; I’ve got a wife now.” It’s better to take things slowly, look further into exactly what marriage is, etc. I’m used to thinking about things in depth, so a lifetime commitment is not going to be any exception.
Even when talking about dating, the general idea is similar: You shouldn’t date someone just to say you have a girlfriend. There has to be more maturity there and a real possibility of marriage.
In the meantime, I’m very happy now being single. I’m kind of in my own little world, obviously with plenty to do during the season, but also in the off-season. One of the benefits of being single is that you’re freer to do little things here and there that, if you were married, would take away time from your family. One of those things is Catholic Athletes for Christ’s involvement in a flag-football game for special-needs children this week in Arizona.
In your own games, you have your own prayer routine, right?
Yes, I pray in the end zone before the game, and also at halftime. I thank God for where I’m at and ask for protection and guidance for me and the team. I also say a guardian angel prayer (the one that starts out, “Angel of God, my guardian dear …”), an Our Father, a Hail Mary, a prayer of praise and also one to St. Sebastian, a patron of athletes.
Prayer helps to calm me down and get the right perspective on life. It’s a reminder that the most important things are not seen and that, long after this life, heavenly friendships endure. It’s also a very basic way of being supplied with the grace to live a Christian life. Being a Christian is not just a matter of study; it’s about living in Christ. We can’t do that unless we’re praying daily.
One of the biggest things you get from prayer is recognition of the many blessings God has given us. You see that God is the first source of any blessing and that he is only concerned about our good. You think in terms of God’s ways instead of your own, which sets you free to glorify him.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.