New Orleans Saints Safety Chris Reis
Legends Microsoft Teams Video Call with New Orleans Media
Friday July 17, 2020
Can you talk about your transition after football and a pastor in Youngsville, LA, just outside Lafayette?
"I think the transition out of football into what we call a real life was difficult if I was honest, when you play sports your entire life since I was eight years old, for over 20 years, I was playing sports and that was my living. It is what I did. It was my dream. The transition into what we call real life can be a little difficult at times, you're trying to figure out what you're good at and what you're passionate for. Because I was passionate for just cracking heads and going out and playing football, but trying to figure that out was a little rough. So it took me a couple years to try to figure out where I needed to be and what I needed to do because I knew I didn't want just a job. I wanted a calling. And I knew one thing and one thing alone that I wanted to help people. I just didn't know what that looked like or how that was going to be accomplished. And so for me and my wife we moved back to Georgia. And over the next couple years, my father and I, we actually wrote a book together called recovery of a lifetime. And the book is really about his addictions, in that recovery and also my recovery of the onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV. But really how we recovered a relationship between a father and son. And so it was an amazing journey. We wrote a book, and then we went around the country for two years and just was speaking, and finally I knew that was coming to an end. And it moved from Georgia back to Louisiana, Lafayette and I knew kind of God was calling me there and began a church in in Youngsville, Louisiana, and man, we never looked back. And so I'm, I love the fact that I didn't go into ministry and be a pastor for money, that's for sure. I went in because I wanted to help people. I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to utilize the platform that I had been given to help others. And I believe that and I'm hoping that I'm doing that day by day."
You said you were looking for a calling? When did you know It was ministry?
"Oh, man, I think for me, I don't know if I've, you're kind of called into ministry. You are not necessarily, you don't really choose ministry, I do believe it's a choice. But I knew, I didn't know it until I came down to Lafayette, Louisiana and our senior pastor, he took me out to lunch and I just came in to be a guest speaker. And he looked at me and said, there's more in you than what you think. I think we all need that sometimes. We all need someone to look at us and see that there's more inside of us than what we're just doing. And he knew, he said, there's a pastor inside of you and I want to help you with that. And when he said that, something just clicked and we left all our friends, family, (and) everything we knew in Georgia and moved and took that leap of faith to Lafayette. And when I lived in New Orleans with the Saints, I had no idea where Lafayette was. I had no idea where Youngsville was. It was not a place I said I wanted to go raise my family. It just wasn't it just wasn't in the cards, but I just knew it when he said those words, your call to be a pastor. I knew that was what I was supposed to do. That that was my calling. And I knew it right then and there. And I think it was one of those things. I just had to say yes and trust that the rest of it God was going to take care of it. And I'm so glad that I said yes and took that that leap because when I did, it was the best decision for me and for my family moving forward."
How does being a football player in NFL player help, I guess with being a pastor?
"I mean it helps, especially when you're a New Orleans Saint, a Super Bowl champion. And it helps that people just want to come say hi to you. And I get to share with them a greater purpose than just football. And it helps in a lot of respects, it obviously helps with the platform number one, but I would say the second thing is one of the things that I know very well, that translates from football to ministry is teams. I know what great chemistry looks like, I know that team is supposed to look like. I know how to include people and engage people for a higher purpose to think not just of yourself on the team, but think of the greater good. And so there are tons of aspects that transition there from a team and a leadership aspect into even the business world or the ministry world for me, because what I'm doing is very similar. I have a goal that I am trying to accomplish, right where in football, you're trying to win a games. In ministry you are trying to win people to God. And that's the hope of it and that's the cool thing. There's so many parallels and so I'm trying to build a team to help go out and equip them to go and win the game and to help other people and it's just this great, beautiful chemistry between being a leader on the field and then being a leader then again in ministry or in business or whatever that you're doing. There are so many aspects of leadership that transition from the football field and from the NFL onto there and it gave me some skills with dealing with people and everything else that I wouldn't have had anywhere else and so I'm super grateful for my time in the NFL."
Chris the last time last time you played is ten years ago in Drew Brees was the Saints quarterback working on his 10th year in the NFL and now it's 2020 and Drew Brees is still Saints quarterback, was there anything from your time then that makes it obvious why he's still around?
"I think it's a great question. I think Drew (Brees) is such a humble person that I remember at our ten-year Super Bowl anniversary, he got up there and spoke and he said, never did I imagine that ten years after the Super Bowl, I'd still be playing. We all saw it, but I do not think he could see it. And that is just the humility that Drew carries. And that's why he is such a great leader. And it was his work ethic. It was his passion. There was one thing that I knew that Drew would always do and that was just work hard. And that lends itself well to his performance on the field. I would always try to beat him into the facility. That was one of my goals was to beat Drew Brees into the facility. And I'd try to get up earlier than him and be in there and I would come and work out and every time I'd walk past the QB room and I would see him in there watching film and I just go dang, man, like, I couldn't beat him in. He's in there earlier than I am doing more stuff and he was a huge part of me and the way that I (developed) my work ethic. Because when you have a leader that does that, time in and time again, just wants to be the best and wants to boast everybody else up, you knew he was going to be playing 10 years later, even when everybody else wasn't. So it doesn't shock me. It sounds like it shocked him. It doesn't shock me that he's playing this long as one of the greatest ever because of just his work ethic and the way that he loves football and he loves his teammates, and there's a passion there. That who knows it wouldn't be surprised if we see him for another five years. I do not know. It just depends on what he wants to do. But I think he'll play as long as somebody let him play and as long as he wants to play and his body holds up."
You mentioned the 10th anniversary Super Bowl Weekend this year. Can you talk a little bit about that and what that meant to you?
"Yeah, that anniversary was special. I don't think I realized how much I missed those guys and missed the time. Having my wife there and seeing us seeing those guys again and it was just special, we could have been doing nothing. It was great, the Saints organization, absolutely put the best time on for us and did amazing things. But one of the best nights was that last night, we just sat around the table and we are just rehashing old stories and going back over old things and giving hugs and almost like we did not want to let go of the time and it was never about football. It was always about the relationships that we carry. Joe Vitt said it best, you win this game, you'll walk together forever and it is true. We walk together forever. It was like we never left off and just even a small fraction of it is football. A lot of what we deal with is relationships and I know the public and everybody sees mainly the football stuff and they should, but what we cherish is really the relationships and what we went through and so it was so special. Just sitting around a table with a group of guys and just rehashing it and what a special time I will treasure that. I remember looking at my wife afterwards driving home just going I missed those guys. I missed that camraderie. I miss that feel. I do not miss football, I missed that right there. So what a special time to celebrate, what a special time to celebrate with those guys of what we did in 2009 and 2010. The city of New Orleans needed it and it gave hope where after Katrina, it seemed like there was no hope. What I love about New Orleans is it's such a working class city, they're just hard workers and they love their city and they love their state and they're passionate about it. So when we won it was more than football, it gave them hope that New Orleans was back on the map again, that people recognized them, that their hard work had paid off. What a great opportunity to see those guys and to rehash those stories and to laugh and to love again. It was a special time."
In terms of your current vocation, I know a lot of it is dealing with kids and it's also dealing with adult worshipers. What types of life lessons do you maybe in part from your experience with the Saints? Like any football season, even the Super Bowl season, had some highs and lows with it? What do you use maybe to get in the door with certain people to impart a positive message to them from your tenure?
"Yeah, makes sense. As a pastor, I preach almost every week, develop a message and a many of my illustrations to kind of go along with the message have to do with football and my time in football and my discipline as an athlete, and so I'm able to bring a lot from that side of sports into ministry, because there's such a parallel within the game of football and life itself. Ups and downs in a season, there's ups and downs in life, and never would I compare it with somebody's life, but there are some things that you can begin to connect with other people about not only that, it's nice because people love football around here too. So it's easy to talk about, you grab their attention right away, and then you give them something bigger and greater than just a game. And that's what's really cool about it. So I'm able to pull in a lot of what I do, because I tell people football is what I did, but it wasn't who I was or who I am. However, I love talking about it because it was a big part of my journey, even to Lafayette, Louisiana and Youngsville Louisiana, and my calling to ministry had a lot to do with sports and football and how I got there so I can't deny that side of me and what God has given me on that side. So it's really cool to be able to utilize and kind of parallel football to build a bridge to help connect dots for other people and help further their faith and their hope and their joy right where they are, no matter what they're going through. So what a great opportunity that I have in order to connect that dot between sports, NFL, and then ministry and the greater purpose that God has for people."
The Saints as a franchise kind of started to turn things around a little bit before you got there, but I'm just curious, from your perspective being there before the Super Bowl and then after it, just how things changed for the franchise's reputation both here and elsewhere.
"It's amazing to see. I was there and started in 2007. So just shortly after kind of the franchise started to get started with Sean (Payton) coming in and they kind of built a foundation of great character guys that kind of flew under the radar, but they got some some great character guys. My first two years with the Saints, we were average, I say we were average. I think we went to the playoffs once, maybe. We were average. People will always ask like what happened in that 2009 season? I don't know if I know the answer to that. I don't know if any Super Bowl team knows the answer to the formula behind what makes a great team a great team. I think there's this chemistry that happens that is almost supernatural in what takes place. For us, we just knew it, everything was clicking and then afterwards, people look at you differently. When you go through something like that and you win a Super Bowl, when you go 13-0, lose your last three games and then just absolutely run the gamut in the playoffs and then in the Super Bowl takeover that way, people look at you differently. They took New Orleans' franchise for real and they said this is a real contender. It kind of erased the 40 years of past that we have had since 1967, it kind of erased that. Everybody forgot about that kind of and just going, this is super bowl team now and they look at it as such and even now we've come close. In the past 10 years, we've come close, we've almost gotten there. But even still people see us as a contender and it all changed after the 2009 season and what a blessing it is to be a part of a legacy, a legacy for New Orleans, the city and the organization as a whole. To be able to be that legacy and now people look at you differently. They don't just look at you, oh, New Orleans is the easy win, but now we're going to have to fight and claw and do everything we can to beat these guys because they're a contender and it's not just about one player in Drew Brees. It's about an entire team, an entire organization, entire city. People can't stand coming to New Orleans and playing in the Superdome and that's because of the great fans that we have. It's just an all-around different mindset where now when people look at New Orleans and think about the New Orleans Saints, I'm humbled to be a part of that legacy that still continues to this day."
You grew up in the Atlanta suburbs, and then you came to New Orleans to play for the Saints. Now you're in basically Cajun country where people stay there their whole life from birth to death, a lot of it. What has that experience been like as sort of being an outsider now being an insider there?
"When I lived in New Orleans, I didn't know about Cajun culture. New Orleans is such a melting pot of people. It's so eclectic. It's great, it's an amazing city, but when you move out into the Acadian area, in Lafayette, Louisiana and Youngsville, you understand it's true Cajuns out here and I'll say this right now, they're the most hospitable people you will ever meet in your entire life. So being an outsider, it is a culture shock to say the least when you come in to these areas and you're trying to understand the dialect of what they're saying and the culture around you. But it was never a struggle for me and my wife and my family because in all honesty, they are the most hospitable people and they would welcome you into their home, cook you a meal, everything revolves around food. Everything is so rich and decadent and amazing, and they're just amazingly nice people. So we didn't have a problem, especially being a New Orleans Saint, we didn't have a problem with kind of fitting into the culture. Our kids now use some of that Cajun dialect like, come see, I didn't even know what that meant. Come see is just come here. Little things like that where my kids are starting to talk like that. We've had three children that have been born right here in Lafayette. So for that, it's very interesting. Our kids are starting to pick up that Cajun dialect and the culture as a whole. We just feel like they've welcomed us in and now we're a part of the culture and we're here and that's what's so that's so great about it. It's home and we love saying that."