Super Bowl champ Godfrey tells men to spend time with God who makes us happiest

“Who am I? Where am I going?” These questions formed the framework of a presentation Super Bowl champion Chris Godfrey gave recently at a Saturday morning men’s retreat at St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township. (Photo courtesy of Godfrey Law Offices)

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — “Who am I? Where am I going? Those are questions wise men have always asked themselves.”

Super Bowl champion Chris Godfrey posed those questions as the framework of a presentation he gave recently at a Saturday morning men’s retreat at St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township.

“Three things last forever: faith, hope, love,” he said in his opening remarks. “And love tells me about my relationships. Who’s at the very top of our list? God. He’s eternal. Where we came from and where we’re going. He makes us the happiest, and it makes sense to spend time with the person who makes us the happiest. And the consequence in not doing so is becoming sad.

“That’s what was going on with me. I never really said ‘no’ to God. I thought we had a good relationship, but He sort of drifted off my radar screen. My heart was someplace else,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey's heart’s desire was to play football. He did at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (1976 grad) and on three Rose Bowl teams at the University of Michigan.

He was cut in tryouts for three NFL teams. He described his frustration:

"I fell to my knees and said, 'Lord, I give up. Whatever you want me to do, wherever you want me to go, you’re the boss now,'" Godfrey said. "I never prayed like that before. Whenever I had a decision to make, my way or God’s way, I usually found other ways to justify doing it my way. And I really meant that prayer. I was going to do things God’s way first ...

"I started to pray. I also read the Bible for the first time. There was one passage that really jumped out at me. It was Matthew 6:33: 'Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.' What that told me was it was an agreement, a contract that God offers us. You do something for me and I’ll do something for you, sort of a thing. So I decided to hold God to it. I’d try to do things His way as best as I could, not that I was perfect, but I was trying my best to do things right."

He gave football another shot, and he made it, an eight-year career in the NFL, four with the New York Giants, including as the starting right guard in the Giants’ 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos in the 1987 Super Bowl XXI.

Godfrey retired at 30 years old. “It was time to start thinking of life after football,” he said.

He had married Daria, a cheerleader whom he met at the University of Michigan, after he joined the Giants. They have six children and nine grandchildren.

Godfrey had helped form a group called “Life Athletes” that grew to around 300 professional and Olympic athletes visiting high schools, sports camps and presentations such as the one he did at St. Kieran promoting Christianity and pro-marriage family values.

“I prayed: Lord, show me where you want me to live, in New York or come back to Detroit,” he said. “And it was answered in an unexpected way. I had a dream.

"It was like being drawn up. As I broke through the clouds, even though I couldn’t see anything, I could hear people having a good time. I was in heaven. The most striking thing about it was feeling Our Lord’s presence, that He was happy to be with me. When I woke up, I was crying. That’s where I want to live. I wanted to be in heaven," he said.

He wound up in South Bend, Ind., where he enrolled in Notre Dame’s Law School and, subsequently, opened a practice dedicated to estate planning and elder law.

Super Bowl champion Chris Godfrey speaks during a Saturday morning men's conference at St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township. (Don Horkey | Special to Detroit Catholic)
Super Bowl champion Chris Godfrey speaks during a Saturday morning men's conference at St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township. (Don Horkey | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Godfrey closed his talk with four principles based on the “Gospel of Life” encyclical by Pope St. John Paul II to help make good decisions involving another human being:

"First, we’re made in the image of God. All human beings have an intellect — we can think — and a will — we can choose — and we can love. This puts us in a different category than animals. We can love even when it hurts. Sacrifice. Staying up all night with a sick kid. It makes us distinctly human," Godfrey said.

"Second, human life is sacred. We belong to God. We can’t belong to one another. That’s why slavery is wrong. We can’t use other people to further our own ends. That’s not just a Christian idea that abortion, euthanasia, suicide are wrong. Plato, the Greek philosopher who lived many years before Christ, was asked why he wouldn’t take his life. He replied, 'I can’t take my life because I didn’t give it to myself.' Purely rational, right? It’s an example of natural law, something we can reason to without pulling out the Bible, so to speak," he continued.

"Third, human life is valuable. What sets our value? Look at the crucifix to remind us that each one of us is so valuable that God Himself suffered and died for us. That sets our value. That’s constant.

"Fourth, God has a plan for our lives. God knows each one of us. He’s got work for us to do. It’s not like a written plan. It’s more like you taking the next right step. You don’t know what tomorrow brings. What is my next right step? It’s not by chance," he concluded.

Godfrey cited St. John Henry Newman, canonized in 2019, who was adamant that we don’t need to go beyond our natural course of duties in our life to achieve perfection. He wrote:

“I say, first, do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.”

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].


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