Succumbing to peer pressure is how a young David Tyree dealt with pain caused by divorce and rejection. He was a long way from “The Catch” that would make his name famous. Tyree’s journey from his early teen years into manhood would be difficult and dangerous, but it would ultimately lead him to become the man of God he is today.
David Tyree was 14 years old when he started consuming alcohol. At 15, marijuana and women entered the picture. His habits followed him to Syracuse University, where he excelled at wide receiver and special teams. There, he fell in love with football. Even though he was a successful athlete, blackouts began to be a part of his life as a result of alcohol consumption.
“There were times I woke up and didn’t know what had happened the night before. As much as you laugh those things away, you wake up feeling inadequate, stirred up and scared,” Tyree remembered. It was clear to him that his life was going in the wrong direction.
Even though Tyree didn’t grow up going to church, he gave credit to the “grace of God” for being drafted by the Giants in the sixth round. “I felt like there had to be a God looking out for me. Who gets drafted for running down on kick offs? Let’s be real, right?” Tyree smiles.
After entering the NFL, Tyree says he was curious about Christ, and God began to draw him. He made a confession of faith and even prayed, but his heart was not connecting with his decision. During that first year he walked through life looking “squeaky-clean” on the outside, but in March of 2004 his true character was exposed. The hometown hero was arrested on marijuana possession.
Ten days later, Tyree walked into a church, with the desire to start over. His experience became physically symbolic of a new birth as he found himself weeping in the back of the church in a fetal position for over 20 minutes. Then a miracle happened. Within 10 days of him crying out to God, he was delivered from his addiction to alcohol. Every woman in his path was removed. David Tyree discovered that the same “grace of God” that got him drafted for “running down on kick offs” would also give him the strength he needed to change the course of his life. He made a180-degree turn.
Didn’t Do it Alone
Tyree did not come to the place of freedom, in solitude. Along the way, God used others in Tyree’s life to bring about this positive change. His wife (then girlfriend) Leilah was one of them. Another was the Giants team chaplain, George McGovern, who also helped him through those difficult years. He describes McGovern as a “…meek and humble man who displays the character and conduct of Christ.” Tyree credits McGovern with knowing the best way to work with professional athletes and understanding the tenderness involved. McGovern’s sincere desire to walk step-by-step with Tyree contributed greatly to his being able to overcome the demons that plagued his life.
As he shared about McGovern’s involvement and encouragement beyond the locker room, Tyree explained, “I had such a radical conversion experience and a lot of spiritual warfare…George was one of those constants in my life.”
Tyree understood the wisdom in seeking the support of others when experiencing difficult times. In the wise words of King Solomon, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Tyree had no idea the next four years of his spiritual growth would prepare him to handle every athlete’s dream—success.
Four years later, Tyree’s helmet catch in the 17-14 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII instantaneously catapulted him from hometown hero to national hero, for making what many describe as the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. Although he’s taking advantage of his “status” by using it to positively impact the lives of others, Tyree doesn’t feel a sense of entitlement. In fact, he hesitates to speak of his platform because of the tendency people have to worship those in such a position.
With no desire to place himself on a pedestal, Tyree says, “I look at myself as a broken man in need of the grace and mercy of a Savior. I know where I was going apart from that.” It is with this attitude and a wholehearted desire to honor his God, that David Tyree conducts his life, career and influence.
Who is David Tyree?
The man behind “The Catch” is many things: humble, self-controlled, a strong father, a loving husband, passionate about people, and fully devoted to his God. He’s a wonderful example of how the power of God can overcome our disastrous choices when we are completely surrendered to Him. Behind “The Catch” is a man who is living proof of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
David Tyree’s passion for people has led him to serve with the International Children’s Support Foundation (ICF) and alongside his wife Leilah on the board of Children of the City, which has successfully served the children and families of Southwest Brooklyn by changing the culture of poverty, through education & outreach. You can learn about Tyree’s current efforts on www.DavidTyree85.com and read more about his story in his book, More Than Just The Catch.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Is there a particular pro athlete you’d like me to interview about his faith? How has this story impacted you? To submit suggestions and comments, please contact me through www.KimAnthony.net or follow me on Twitter @RealKimAnthony. I’d love to hear from you!