Isreal Houghton & Super Bowl choir (photo: Rick Diamond)

*The New Orleans Saints weren’t the only saints in Miami during Super Bowl Weekend. The saints came marching in to the 11th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, one of the premier events during this most celebrated weekend of the year.

Grammy Award-winning CeCe Winans was joined by NFL leading quarterback Donovan McNabb (Eagles) to host the evening of inspiration and praise.

CeCe Winans

The NFL PLAYERS Choir returned, wowing the audience, which included Emmitt Smith (Cowboys/Retired) and James Brown (host of  CBS’ “The NFL Today”), as they sang Donnie McClurkin’s “I’m Walking in Authority,” followed by Israel’s “Friend of God.”

Donnie McClurkin returned to his role as choir director joined by Israel. The choir members, both active and retired players, included Leonard Weaver, Ovie Mughelli, Michael Gaines, Tommie Harris, Bryan Scott, Stephen Nicholas, George Foster, Montell Owens, Reshard Langford, John St. Clair, Jerome Smith, Stockar McDougle, Ebenezer Ekuban, Henry Lawrence, Walter Stith, Isaiah Robertson, Ray Jackson, Steve Pierce, Grantis Bell, Jemone Smith and Olrick Johnson.

This year’s event showcased the musical talents of a few players. Tommie Harris (Bears) and Michael Gaines (Browns), teamed up and performed a traditional version of “I Need Thee,” and then brought the audience to their feet with a hand-clapping, toe-tapping rendition of “Witness.” Bryan Scott (Bills), an accomplished musician, mesmerized the crowd with his performance of “Speak to My Heart” while playing the piano.

CBS sportscaster & minister, James Brown

“The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration is an opportunity to see a personal side of our players,” said Allison Tucker, VP, Corporate Partnerships and Business Development of NFL PLAYERS, the marketing and licensing subsidiary of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA).  “Everyone is accustomed to seeing the rough and rugged side of these players on the field, but this event allows them to express their spiritual side, which is a big part of their lives, and share it with their fans.” Tucker along with DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA’s newly appointed executive director, participated in the event talking about the organization’s community outreach and involvement in relief efforts for Haiti.

Brad Smith and Leonard Weaver joined the ranks of other marquee players including Kurt Warner, Cris Carter, Deion Sanders, John Elway, the late Reggie White and many more in giving a personal testimony during the event. Don Davis, Chaplin for the New England Patriots, opened the event with a prayer.

The evening also featured performances by Grammy winners and multi-platinum selling artists McClurkin, Israel & New Breed, and Karen Clark Sheard. Canton Jones, named “Players Choice” by NFL players, also performed. CeCe Winans was joined by her brother, BeBe Winans for a reunion performance. McNabb showed off his vocal talent with the duo, belting out a few verses of their hit “Close to You.”

“This was one of the best shows we ever had,” said Melanie Few, president of Results Inc. and producer of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. “We had a great mixture of traditional, hip-hop and R&B sounds, extraordinary testimonies, and words of encouragement for those who were directly affected by the earthquake in Haiti. It truly was a night of uplifting music for the soul, spirit and mind.”

This year, the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration was proud to support the “ONE TEAM 4 Haiti” campaign, a collective effort of the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB Players Associations. Attendees were encouraged to aid the relief efforts for Haiti by texting “TEAM” to 20222 to make a donation to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Also, players Michael Gains and Ovie Mughelli purchased tickets to the event for families in the Miami area directly affected by the earthquake that devastated Haiti last month.

To top off the evening, guests were treated to a surprise appearance from Lance Gross, Calvin on “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” who shared a little teaser of his new movie “Our Family Wedding,” a comedy about an interracial marriage.  Lance shared with the audience how trusting in God plays a vital role in the movie and in his life. The movie is scheduled to hit theaters in March.

The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, produced by Results Inc., is the only NFL sanctioned gospel concert during Super Bowl Weekend.  Since its inception, the event has drawn crowds in the thousands and has     demonstrated growth year-over-year, with recent sell outs of venues in major markets hosting the Super Bowl including Tampa (University of South Florida’s SunDome), Detroit (The Masonic Temple), Jacksonville (Shiloh Church), Houston (Reliant Arena), and Phoenix (Symphony Hall).

Follow the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration on Twitter and Facebook for updates, including information on the 2011 concert in Dallas, TX during Super Bowl Weekend. For more information on the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, visit www.superbowlgospelcelebration.com. (Via press release) Photo credit: Rick Diamond photography.