EDITORS’ NOTE: This story concludes sportswriter Art Stricklin’s reports from Detroit the spiritual side of the Super Bowl.
DETROIT (BP)–While Super Bowl XL’s heroes were decided on the turf at Detroit’s Ford Field Sunday, one of this year’s NFL heroes was watching the festivities with his church men’s group in Brooklyn, N.Y.
David Tyree of the New York Giants will move into the spotlight this week in Hawaii, having earned his first Pro Bowl honor for his special teams play.
The third-year wide receiver from Syracuse -– whose football career almost came to an end two years ago — also is a self-described “uncharacteristic miracle of a working God. I’m just a reflection of His righteousness, a testimony to God’s grace and goodness.”
Tyree spent much of Super Bowl week in Detroit enjoying the friendship and fellowship of fellow Christian players. But he said his experience with drugs, alcohol and jail reminds him, “I have seen the worst of life from jail and seen the best of life in football. I know people go through every circumstance in their life [and] I know there is hope in Jesus … [that] you can overcome every problem.”
Drafted in the sixth round out of Syracuse in 2003, Tyree overcame long odds to be named Special Teams Rookie of the Year in his first season.
But Tyree said what the team and others didn’t know were the problems he was hiding in his life.
“I was a 100 percent functioning alcoholic. I was in trouble,” he said, citing the Bible’s warning that the love of money is the root of evil. “… When you have money and you make wrong choices, you will find trouble.”
His personal issues came out in the open on March 4, 2004, when he and some friends were pulled over by the New Jersey State Police for speeding. A search of the car found marijuana and a check of the Bergen County computer system found Tyree had unpaid traffic tickets. He was handcuffed and taken to jail, with his once-promising career very much in doubt.
“That was the true low point for me,” Tyree said. “I had grown up in New Jersey, had played football in New Jersey and now I was in jail in the very place where I lived. You can’t get much lower.”
While not growing up in a Christian home, Tyree had a deep-seated idea what was missing in his life.
“I cried out to God in jail to help me like [the Apostle] Paul did and He allowed my shackles to fall off. I became broken before Him and He came into my life and saved me.”
Thanks to some fellow believers on the Giants, Tyree was able to get into a Bible-based church in his hometown after his release from jail as a first-time offender. He said God took away the enjoyment of drugs and alcohol.
At the time, the Giants were undergoing a head coaching change and the incoming leader, Tom Coughlin, decided to give Tyree another chance.
“God blessed me and I wasn’t fired. He let me keep my job and keep playing football. The power of God in my life is that He took away the unhealthy desires of my life.”
Tyree became active in the church and is being discipled by his pastor.
“I’m living in a different side now. After my first year when I got in trouble, we switched over coaches and changed a lot of players, so a lot of people didn’t know me when I wasn’t a Christian.
“Some of my old friends are still not believers, but they see a difference in me and I’m praying they come around.”
Tyree had gotten married a few months before his arrest and credits his new wife, Leihah, for helping to keep him straight in his new life.
This week was his first Super Bowl trip as a believer and a chance to see his new life in a different context.
“I pray that my life can be shared, living for Jesus, that people will see the Savior and glorify the Savior in my life,” Tyree said.
“I may want to become a pastor or a teacher in the future, but now I’m a believer and learner and a trophy of God’s grace.”