TAMPA (FBW)–While fans gear up for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIII
in Tampa, Ken Elder is already planning for Super Bowl XLIV in
Miami for next year.
Although the economy is in the ditch, Elder told Baptist Press
he was able to raise the $7 million towards Tampa’s hosting of
the big game — with God’s help, that is. He is corporate
marketing director of this year’s Super Bowl and will serve as
the vice president of the 2010 South Florida Super Bowl Host
BP Photo by Bob Carey
Ken Elder, who played a significant role behind the scenes in raising funds for Tampa to host the Super Bowl, says the big game provides a prime opportunity for athletes to share their faith.
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"The good news is that we have achieved what we have
needed to even in a tough economic time, so the Lord has always
been very generous with that and this has been probably the
toughest," Elder said in an interview at Raymond James
Stadium, site of the 2009 Super Bowl.
Baptized at Carrollwood Baptist Church in Tampa when he and
his wife and two sons moved to Tampa for him to prepare for the
2001 Super Bowl, Elder also served the Super Bowl host committee
as corporate marketing director in 2001 and 2007.
Straddling Super Bowls and major cities, Elder has offices in
stadiums in Tampa and Miami. "I just have to remember which
one I’m in," he joked.
The Super Bowl is no joking matter to Elder, however. He takes
his job seriously, and when people question whether or not God
cares who wins the Super Bowl, the avid sports fan and committed
Christian says it’s just one more way to reach people with the
"I truly believe that it is a platform for those who play
the game to show, ‘Hey, there’s a lot more to me than this; there’s
a lot more to life than this,’ Elder said. "That’s the great
thing about it and it just gives them the platform to do it."
Elder said it’s common for people to assume ballplayers who
earn millions are happy just as they are.
"We have got to realize the Bible is very clear about
that; there’s a God-shaped hole and we’ve got to be there to
share the message of what can fill that," Elder said.
Citing the widespread publicity University of Florida
quarterback Tim Tebow has received for his Christian message as
an example of an increased interest in faith in sports, Elder
said he has but one thing to say, "Thank you, Lord."
A graduate of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton who
grew up just an hour from Pittsburgh, Pa., Elder went on to get
his graduate degree in sports management in the late 1980s from
St. Thomas University in Miami. At 27 and at Georgia State, his
then-girlfriend, Trisha, made a comment during an argument that
started him thinking.
"’Sometimes I don’t think you’re right,’" Elder
recalled his future wife telling him, "And I said, ‘What do
you mean, I’m not right, of course I’m right,’ and she says, ‘No,
right with God,’ and for some reason, just those words at that
period of time, the Lord used them to affect me in a way they
never had before."
Elder was introduced to someone in the Baptist Student Union
on campus who shared the Gospel with him and he turned his life
over to Christ.
"I accepted the Lord and then my life has certainly
changed since then," Elder said.
About the same time, Elder, whose parents were divorced but
remained friends, said he was both challenged and blessed by a
blossoming relationship with the father he saw only two to three
times a year.
"My dad wasn’t a believer even though my grandmother was,"
Elder recalled quietly, eyes filling with tears. "For years
I’d shared with him and shared with him. He’d had some struggles
and things that kind of made it a little tough for him."
The two men spent time together in Florida soon after the
family relocated there to work on Super Bowl 2001, Elder said,
and for the first time in 20 years, he remembers having some
In 2006, despite the fact his father’s health began to
deteriorate, Elder said he was able to take him to Super Bowl XL
to see his hometown team, "his beloved Steelers,"
become the world champions. It was a time Elder will never forget,
and he treasures a photo of him, his father and his brother, in
Months later, as he prepared his family for what he knew would
probably be a final visit, Elder received a phone call from his
father. "’He said, I got a job for you when you come here,’
Elder said from memory. "I said, ‘What dad?’ He said, ‘I
want you to baptize me.’"
As his father’s health had continued to deteriorate, Elder
said he had struggled with the idea of standing at his funeral
and knowing there was "no hope" of ever seeing him
again if he was not a believer. Feeling sorry for himself, he
asked for a miracle.
"Sure enough God took care of that in the last month of
his life," Elder said, and even though his father shared his
regret that he hadn’t made a decision earlier in his life, the
younger man said the older man, at 69, still leaves behind a
legacy that involves grace, forgiveness and redemption — the
He remembers telling his father, the guy his sons will always
remember as "Pap," "You’ve always been a big
sports fan, so you definitely waited until overtime."
The lesson? Don’t give up, Elder said. "There’s hope. As
believers when we share our faith, we want the results to be in
our hand, and they’re not. You don’t know what’s happening inside
Elder credits Tom Rives, pastor of Carrollwood Baptist Church, where the family worshipped for five years until they moved to Miami in 2004, with inspiring him to continue to grow and develop as a believer.
Likewise, Rives speaks highly of Elder and his contribution to the church and community.
“I am thrilled to have somebody who has very strong godly beliefs to be in and behind some of the workings of the Super Bowl,” Rives told Baptist Press.