Knights Light Up the Field – BC Catholic
Within Catholic church communities, most people know what contributions members of the Knights of Columbus make within the parish and in communities around the world.
These men and their supportive families come from all walks of life and careers. It’s no surprise, then, that many Knights over the years have been top athletes who not only impacted the sports they play, but spread and lived the message of the gospel.
Some very important sports stars of the last century who served as Knights include the larger-than-life Babe Ruth of Major League Baseball (a home run leader for many years) and the legendary National Football League coach, Vince Lombardi (after whom the championship trophy is named).
Over the past few years, many Knights have made an impact on North American sports, both on and off the field of play.
For many years during the 1950s and 1960s, Floyd Patterson was the greatest heavyweight boxer in the world. He had grown up poor and illiterate, but eventually built a career that saw him win 55 fights and an Olympic gold medal.
At the age of 21, he became the youngest heavyweight champion of all time and is inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In retirement, he trained his son Tracy to world champion status, making him the only father and son to accomplish this feat.
There are many other dimensions to this amazing man that even boxing fans don’t know about. He was considered a very athletic boxer, often helping his opponents off the mat. At the age of 22, he converted to Catholicism and his faith eventually became a driving force in his life.
When Patterson was asked about being a Catholic in a violent sport, he replied, “If the Church banned boxing, I would quit boxing” (Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History).
Shortly after his conversion, he joined the Knights of Columbus and helped bring the Eucharist to homes for the aged. He marched with Martin Luther King in his march for civil rights and as a result was once faced with an angry mob on his way to a game. He is helped by a Catholic priest who brings him back to his presbytery. Patterson was a leader in getting racially integrated boxing venues.
Jackie Robinson was Major League Baseball’s first black player. Although his career has been a painful journey at times due to the abuse he has endured, he has had a few Knights of Columbus teammates and friends who have stood by and supported him.
Eddie Stanky and Gil Hodges, two well-known players at the time, helped Robinson through some tough times, especially Hodges, who became a bit of a mentor. Hodges was considered the best first baseman of the 1950s and remains “one of the most beloved and admired players in Dodger team history” (New York Daily News). “He was a great player but even a bigger man” (Duke Snider). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was also a Knight of Columbus.
There are two retired NFL football players who are Knights and have similar backgrounds. Matt Birk was a star offensive tackle who played 15 years in the NFL. He won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013. He won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. He is a devout Catholic and a member of Knights Council 4184. He and his wife Adrianna have eight children and are very active in the pro-life movement. Birk spoke several times during the American march for life. He is also involved with several other charities, including pregnancy centers in Minnesota, the After the Impact concussion care program, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s immersive theater production. A game for life.
Chris Godfrey also had a very successful career as an offensive lineman with the New York Giants, where he won a Super Bowl in 1987. He was a member of the Knights, with whose help he made a pro video -life. Shortly after retiring, he founded Life Athlete, a group of professional athletes who were dedicated to pro-life. He and the other members make speeches. Godfrey himself visited many schools promoting the Catholic faith and family values.
There have been members of the Knights of Columbus who have impacted all walks of life, and the sports world has certainly been one of the greatest beneficiaries of their faith, love and charity.