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Helmet catch was “honest-to-God miracle”, says 2008 Super Bowl star David Tyree

David Tyree
David Tyree recently spoke about his helmet catch in a panel discussion about The Greatest Catch Ever
during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival on April 19, 2015, in New York City.

David Tyree, the helmet-catch hero who helped the Giants to victory at the 2008 NFL Super Bowl, admits he was once a "functional alcoholic" and a marijuana dealer following an 'anything goes' upbringing.

"During college I was getting drunk every weekend and blacking out from too much alcohol, not knowing what happened," says the former NY Giants wide receiver on

As this did not affect his on-field performance David kept on smoking weed even as a Giants rookie, and began dealing to pay a fine for being late to team meetings, until a fateful arrest in March 2004 when he was a Giants rookie.

"After my first season I was pulled over and arrested for possession of marijuana," he says honestly.

“His change was so dramatic—it was immediate ... His whole demeanor was different”Estranged from his girlfriend Leilah and their first child, he sat in his Fort Worth, N.J. cell, knowing he needed to change and that only Jesus could do it.

His mother had told him about Jesus' power to forgive and make lives new, but he was turned off God due to the effects of his parents' divorce when he was one.

"My mother was a Christian but she never pressed it upon us, and I was not interested in hearing about it," he explains.

The pressures on his mother to raise three kids alone led to an unbridled environment, and a foolish decision to supervise her children's alcohol and marijuana use in the house. David began drinking at age 13.

Following that fateful arrest in March 2004, David says, "I cried out to Jesus Christ... and confessed that I needed Him to forgive me and change me."

David Tyree catches the ball
3 February 2008: New York Giants David Tyree catches the ball during Super Bowl XLII. (Photo Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

In a beautiful twist of circumstance, as he was released from jail his girlfriend Leilah texted him on his cellphone that she was pregnant, and the family reunited in New Jersey.

Days later he remembers walking into a Bible-based church to "get my life right" and there noticed a woman who looked remarkably different.

"[She] was so happy, but I didn't know why," David says. "I discovered that she had also been forgiven by Jesus Christ. She had true freedom and peace with God. I wanted that too and gave my life to God."

"His change was so dramatic—it was immediate," Leilah told "I began to see the manifestation take place right before my eyes. He stopped drinking, period. His priorities, like family, were important to him. Just his whole demeanor was different. He seemed mature. Then I knew I had the right one, baby."

David and Leilah ultimately married and raised four children together.

During his 73 games for the Giants, he would receive a game-winning pass onto his helmet in the 2008 Super Bowl and yet he takes no credit for that stunning 17-14 upset over the Patriots.

"I felt like this [winning] play was an honest-to-God miracle from start to finish," Tyree told in 2008.

"Me being a spiritual man and a believer in the Lord, it was my firm conviction that it was God showing Himself strong in my life. He can take a fourth-string wide receiver who no one knows and everybody deems as just a special team player and basically shock the world."

David Tyree celebrates
New York Giants David Tyree (2L) celebrates after scoring the second touchdown against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLII on 3 February 2008. The Giants won 17-14. (Photo Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Injuries led to his release from the Giants, then ten games for the Baltimore Ravens. After his retirement in 2010, he was hired by the National Football League's head office for player development and engagement.

His efforts there lead to an appointment as Director of Player Development at the Giants in May 2014. In this role he assists the education and development of players, including business and networking opportunities, often drawing from the mistakes he made as a young man.

David does not wish that players would fall like he did. As he recalls, "I had fallen victim to the surroundings that our society is engulfed such as money, pleasure, fame; that's what I sought after and football was my pinnacle."

Commenting on David's appointment at the Giants, Coach Tom Coughlin said, "His ability to function on many, many levels is extremely attractive. Anyone who's ever spent time with him or heard him speak publicly knows the quality of his work. We thought he was the best guy for the job."

On David shares, "Now I strive to know God and His attributes so I can show them to others. God continues to 'blow my mind' by giving me an opportunity to know Him."

Now age 35, the Giants sees his life as "a testimony that God still lives today" and one that has "endless possibilities" unlike the lifestyle of his past.

"I can't separate any portion of my life from Christ because He is living in me. God allows me to live a life of freedom, hope and joy," David shares.

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