Former Saint and Super Bowl great discusses new book, the big game, father's struggles and God
Chris Reis, right, and his father Mike share a story of redemption in their new book.
February 1st, 2013
11:59 AM ET

Former Saint and Super Bowl great discusses new book, the big game, father's struggles and God

By Jordan Hultine, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - As the 49ers and Ravens take the field in New Orleans’ Super Dome for Super Bowl XLVII, a man very familiar with that field, Chris Reis, will be watching the game with his family.

It was only three years ago that Reis was playing in the big game for the New Orleans Saints. He burst into the national spotlight with one unusual, but game-changing play, an onside kick recovery that surprised the opposition and many say paved the path for the Saints’ 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

It was an unlikely position for a kid who grew up in a broken family, with a father who was in and out of his life and addicted to sex and alcohol. Reis broke through the obstacles to succeed, he says, in part by finding God in high school. He went on to play for Georgia Tech where he served as president of the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was briefly signed as a free agent by the Atlanta Falcons, but the team cut him loose before he even saw field time. The Saints then signed him as a free agent, but sent him to play in the NFL Europe league. Later that year the team called him back to New Orleans where he played the next four years with the Saints.

His father, Mike Reis, finally broke the cycle of addiction after watching his son make that critical Super Bowl play – and realizing how much he’d overcome to get there. The pair is now closer than ever and recently co-wrote a book about their journey, “Recovery of a Lifetime.” They also share their stories, touring around the country as inspirational speakers.

Chris Reis sat down with CNN to talk about the book and his life experiences. Here are excerpts from that interview:

CNN: What was it like walking onto the field at the Super Bowl?

Reis: You never think you’re going to play in the Super Bowl, so walking onto the field, it just felt so surreal to me. I actually didn’t know if I was going to play the night before. I was the special teams guy, back up safety. So some games I would be up, some days I would be down – active, inactive. When they told me, “You’re up, you’re dressing,” little did I know … the onside kick would play a huge role in it.

CNN: How did it feel when people called you a hero of the game?

Reis: I don’t think I consider myself a hero. … I just felt more thankful that I could be a part of something so great. To me I was just doing my job. For people to call me a hero, of course that makes me feel good, it makes me feel like I’ve helped them and that’s what I wanted to do. But hero is such a strong word. 9/11 firefighters and policemen are heroes; I just covered up a ball. I helped win a game.

In a play his team called the "ambush," Chris Reis recovered an onside kick and steered the Saints to a Super Bowl victory.

CNN: You write in the book you were expecting a big change after the Super Bowl, but what happened?

Reis: I think in today’s culture, everything is wrapped up in what we do, and I call it, “the next thing dilemma.” If I can just get that promotion, if I can just get on TV, if I can just win a Super Bowl, if I can just make more money. We’re always battling and hoping that next thing is going to satisfy us.

I think I had bought into society’s lie and built it up in my mind. I guess I expected a little more out of it, and now it’s like: What do I do? What is God calling me to do in my life? I really struggled for that off-season just finding purpose.

My purpose wasn’t really to win a Super Bowl. My purpose was my relationships within that season and what it really meant to us, but it took me a while to really understand that. And when people are harping at you that you’re a hero and that you won the Super Bowl and you have this ring, you kind of get this pride built up. And I’m like, well if that’s all this life is about, then it’s kind of sad.

I realize now that God has given me this gift of this onside kick and this semi-fame to be able to leverage it for his kingdom. To me, I can’t think of a better way to help people, to help people to understand our identity is not wrapped up in what we do, but (in) who we are and whose we are.

CNN: Your dad shares some incredible stories in the book. What was it like to learn so much about his sex and alcohol addiction?

Reis: No kid should know that much about their parents, and it was really hard writing this book because of that. There (were) a lot of emotional times. I knew a lot of what my dad did - didn’t know the extent of it - but it was really tough for us. It was tough for my dad to put that stuff in there. It doesn’t make him look good at all, let’s be realistic. But I think it shows the redemption, the recovery part of it. That’s the true recovery. We don’t ever try to tell people this is a sports book, because that’s not what it is. It’s a father-son book that just tells a story of redemption and how God’s love can fill any void in your life and can help restore relationships and redeem them. He did that through us.

CNN: Was the Super Bowl play the catalyst for your dad to quit drinking?

Reis: It wasn’t necessarily that play that inspired him, but it was more the significance of that play. It was really a recovery of “Wow, look how far Chris has come, and I claim to be a Christian, and I act this way.”

I think it helped inspire him. He’s an addiction coach now, helping people with substance abuse, and it’s amazing to see that.  Everyone has their own catalyst. Everyone has their own, “I need to look back in my life and see what I need to change.” My dad’s was my life and this play. It helped put things in perspective. I think it was (God saying), “It’s time to surrender everything, not just portions of your life but everything in your life. Let me take care of it.” He’s been sober for almost three years now.

CNN: When did you become a Christian?

Reis: Throughout middle school and high school I had kind of been searching. … It twisted my thinking, it caused me to turn everything upside down and wonder, who is God? Sure, I believed in a God and I thought I understood it, but what does it mean to have a personal relationship? It was more of a process.

It was August of 2001. I’m coming home from a football practice in high school. I don’t know what it was at the time, but for some reason I had a bad practice and that sounds silly but that’s the walk I was going through and everything had sort of compounded.

This image of perfection that I was trying to keep up with was just weighing on me, and I needed someone to cry out to and I didn’t feel like I could cry out to anyone. I was in my car and I remember it was truly my first time talking to God and saying I can’t do this. It was the most authentic prayer that I prayed just saying, “I don’t want to do this life alone anymore. It’s just not fun.” For me it was that point of salvation that I really started to say, “This is who I want to be. This is how I want to be loved. This is the man I want to become.” … I made the decision that I was going to follow Christ with all that I have after that.

CNN: How did your faith play a role in your football career? Would you have been the same person without it?

Reis: No, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be the person I am without my faith. To me it’s who I am; it’s built the character. I want to look for ways to live out my faith in every opportunity.

Getting cut by the Falcons in 2006, my dream was over, crushed. I was about to get married, I felt like a bum. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I hadn’t graduated (from college) yet. So it’s like, “What are you doing with me, God?”

It was a lot of searching and praying that he has a plan for my life. Little did I know I would get shipped over (by the Saints) to NFL Europe. It was amazing to have the perspective that I’m not really over there for football – (and) to see the things that we saw: the people we were close with, the relationships that we built and to see the people who came to Christ and really started walking with him. I had an amazing season but that was secondary to what God was doing.

Then going into the NFL, people always ask about the Super Bowl: “How was it?” I always tell them the Super Bowl was great, onside kick was awesome. what I truly remember about that year, and it sounds cliché, … was the relationships that we built. We were so close as a team. We would hold Bible studies, and I saw marriages come together.

CNN: What do you hope to accomplish with the book? What do you want the take away to be?

Reis: What we want people to take away is just to be inspired. That it’s never too late to turn your life around, and this is not just from an addiction standpoint. When I go out and talk it’s always live for more – and it’s living for more than this world has to offer. If we’re just living for the next thing, hoping it will make us happy, it never does. We want to inspire people to be better husbands, better fathers, better mothers. We want to help people not make the same mistakes we did, and we want to give them a purpose to live for something greater than themselves.

Not everything is going to be perfect, but it can be better. We want to show the depths of how far my dad was - and not only that, but how he’s changed and that’s through the redeeming love of God. We can portray that love for other people and demonstrate how a heavenly father loves us and we can portray that that’s a God that wants to love you and have a personal relationship with you so it’s really important to us.

People want to feel like they’re not alone, and you’re not alone. Even a Super Bowl champion has problems in his family. It’s inspiring to us and we hope it inspires others.

CNN: Super Bowl prediction?

Reis: I’m going to say the 49ers, and I think with two great defenses, I don’t think it’s going to be a high scoring game. I’m thinking 21-17.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Books • Christianity • Faith • God • Journeys • Sports

soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. Women Clothed with the Sun

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    Enjoy my song
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    Momo MA

    January 11, 2014 at 8:42 am |
  2. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    Gravity is not up for debate !

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    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet..............................E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas.

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before


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    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.


    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young


    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

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    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

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    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.


    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

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    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

    Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.


    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute


    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

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    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN


    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

    Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

    Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
    bears his name as the “God particle.”


    Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
    Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \



    Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
    By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...


    April 7th, 2012

    08:32 PM ET

    The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth


    Make sure to read comments

    April 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |

    Breaking News

    NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.


    NASA: Mars could have supported life

    Star Dust we are


    Holy Hallucinations 35


    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life


    Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.

    Human Evolution


    BBC. Planet of the Apemen. Battle for Earth 1. Ho-mo Erectus


    BACKFILL on E =mc2.....

    Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

    By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

    Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist – Albert Einstein – was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”


    May 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420


    All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.



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  6. Free Nuts

    For creationist

    February 3, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  7. Prophet Maximization

    The True God requires and helps those needing recovery to go the "way" that has the greatest "truth" and greatest value to "life" – the intent and purpose of the law.

    The False God wants games, contests, conflict, and war which leads to the way of "Leviticus 26", "Mathew 24", "7 Seals", and "The Book of Enoch" where the one who imitates God will have his angels melt. This is evident in the lack of planning to avoid the economic crisis that will cause the problems listed in "Leviticus 26".

    February 2, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • End Religion

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      February 2, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  8. Ozamataz Buckshank

    More creepy religious people.

    February 2, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  9. Age of Reason


    Father Tom Brodie, a Dominican priest, in his soon forthcoming book "In Search of the Historical Jesus" states that Jesus was a copy from the ancient pagan religions. ( Irish Sun 21 January 2013)

    February 2, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Father O'blivion

      ...and though they grieved and rent their clothes, it was in the pub the followers gathered for darts and dark ale which they hoisted in sadness and drank with great sorrow. Many libations they consumed and they called it the blood of the son of God.

      February 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • ¿¿lol

      And he would not be the first by a long shot. Even some early Christian apologists had come up with the excuse that Satan made a pre-emptive strike to fool people when it became apparent that the gospels were strikingly familiar to older pagan lore.

      February 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • Akira

      I've been in pubs like that before, Father O'Blivion...they know how to party.

      February 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • Father O'Blivion

      I Lassy, a bit nasty sometimes when the boys feel loik fighten'....

      February 2, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Akira

      That's usually when I exit stage left, Father. I dinna want no part of that.

      February 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • jarhead333

      No atheist has EVER claimed that God existed EVER. It's funny when people point stuff like that out. As if it was proof of anything other than an individuals belief.

      February 3, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • ¿¿lol

      "No atheist has EVER claimed that God existed EVER."

      You're an idiot for making that kind of claim.

      February 3, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • sam stone

      "No atheist has EVER claimed that God existed EVER."

      Sort of what makes them atheist, Jarhead.

      "It's funny when people point stuff like that out. As if it was proof of anything other than an individuals belief."

      As opposed to religious claims?

      February 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.