By Matthew Davis
MANKATO, Minn. (CNS) — Each morning, Pat Shurmur pulls out a laminated card with his priorities for the day.
“We as coaches laminate everything. You never know when you’re going to get caught in the rain,” said Shurmur, 52, the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.
The card has prayers and reminders of how he wants to live out his Catholic faith. His card includes petitions to St. Patrick and St. Joseph, a coach’s prayer and one his father, Joe, used during a terminal illness. The card also lists his family members’ birthdays and includes a “be list,” characteristics he wants to live by.
“It’s just a reminder to be a good husband, a good father and good son, good friend (and a) good teacher,” said Shurmur, a father of four who has been married to his wife, Jennifer, for 27 years.
Shurmur takes those reminders into his work with the Vikings as he begins his 16th season coaching in the NFL.
“My Catholic faith influences really every facet of my life,” Shurmur told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “I’ve always believed it’s a terrific guideline for living and certainly has carried over to coaching.”
Coaching is something in which he’s seen his share of success. He’s coached in Philadelphia twice, St. Louis, Cleveland and now Minnesota. He developed longtime Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and helped other quarterbacks such as Nick Foles, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford produce career-best seasons. Shurmur came to the Vikings as the tight ends coach in 2016 and later became offensive coordinator when Norv Turner departed in November.
Shurmur’s success and rise to offensive coordinator with the Vikings doesn’t surprise the team’s Catholic chaplain, Father Michael Van Sloun. He said Shurmur has earned the trust of fellow coaches in the organization.
“I think that his faith helps guide his leadership and inspires his leadership,” said Father Van Sloun, pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata.
When Shurmur came to Minnesota, he got in contact with Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda about finding a parish and a school for his youngest daughter, Claire. Shurmur also attended the archbishop’s installation Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul in 2016.
Shurmur and Archbishop Hebda became friends through a mutual friend, then-Msgr. James F. Checchio, who was the Philadelphia Eagles’ Catholic chaplain in 2002-2003, then left to serve as vice rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Now-Bishop Checchio heads the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.
Bishop Checchio said Shurmur is a “man who appreciates the church and the Eucharist.”
Shurmur visited Bishop Checchio in Rome, where he met Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, who at that time was archbishop of the U.S. Archdiocese of the Military Services. He is now grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher. The prelate gave Shurmur a prayer booklet for soldiers, where he keeps his laminated prayer card.
Shurmur’s family makes Sunday Mass a top priority each week. He also attends Masses that Father Van Sloun celebrates for the team on Saturday evenings before games.
Shurmur prioritizes passing on the faith to his children, too. He noted that his adult children have kept the faith while excelling athletically. His son, Kyle, plays quarterback for Vanderbilt University, and his daughters, Allyson and Erica, swam at Boston College and Michigan State, respectively.
“Fortunately, they make good choices,” Shurmur said. “Going to Mass and being involved in the sacraments, trying to live a good life and make the world a better place — those are all things that we tried to live as parents.”
His last daughter at home, Claire, will swim at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights this fall as a ninth-grader. She attended Our Lady of Grace School in Edina for middle school last year.
Shurmur takes time to share his faith beyond his family, particularly through Catholic Athletes for Christ, a nationwide ministry that encourages Catholic athletes. He also spoke at a retreat for 110 men at Our Lady of Grace in Edina, his parish, in January.
“It was funny, insightful and encouraging,” said Dan Moran, a parishioner of Our Lady of Grace who attended the retreat. “He inspired us to live out our Catholic faith in the workplace and at home.”
Shurmur said he sees a parallel between stepping away for a retreat to grow spiritually and football players going to training camp to develop their skills.
“I think it’s important as we get busy — and sometimes too busy — that we step back and reflect on how things are going,” Shurmur said of the retreat.
“That’s a little bit of what happens when you go away to training camp,” he added. “You have a chance as a team to build.”
This year’s Vikings training camp marked the final one in Mankato after 52 years. It will be held in Eagan next year.
For now, Shurmur and fellow offensive position coaches will look to get the Vikings’ offense back on track this year. Last season, the Vikings ranked 28th out of 32 teams in total offensive yards, and mustered 20.4 points per game, 23rd in the league.
Among the position coaches, quarterback coach Kevin Stefanski, also a Catholic, has a similar vision to Shurmur. Stefanski also attends Our Lady of Grace and has children at the parish’s school.
Shurmur said it takes sticking to “core beliefs” and not worrying about external circumstances to navigate the challenges of life in the NFL. That can include working with players who have off-field issues.
Wide receiver Michael Floyd, a 2008 graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, signed with the Vikings May 10. He had a DUI conviction last year, but Shurmur hopes to help him succeed on and off the field.
Shurmur will call plays on a laminated card to set his team up to do that on Sundays, hours after using his laminated prayer card to set his day up in service of Christ.
“I think you’ve got to pray every day, so I try to find time in the morning to pray,” he said.
Matthew Davis is from The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
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