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The Wagners
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Former New Orleans Saints safety

Graduate, Georgia Tech

Wife: Michelle; Daughter: Piper


Author/Speaker Master-certified Addiction Recovery Coach

Georgia State University: B.A. Liberal Arts & Business

Wife: Celia 6 adult children 2 grandchildren


A Saints' Recovery of A Lifetime

It was February 7, 2010 and Super Bowl XLIV.  The Indianpolis Colts were leading the Saints 10 to 6 at halftime.   Saints’ coach Sean Payton called for a gusty play to open the second half of the ball game: an onside kick --  also called an ambush.  Normally a team would perform an onside kick at the end of the game if they were behind by a touchdown or less and can’t stop the clock.  “The decision to start the second half with an onside kick was either a stroke of genius or would go down as one of the dumbest coaching decisions ever in a Super Bowl,” says Chris.  At practice before the big game, the Saints kicker would make it look like he was making a regular kickoff but at the last second, he would stop in his tracks and squib the ball to his left.  The bouncing ball would stay low to the ground for ten yards and roll into a part of the field that had been vacated by the other team.  Chris’ job was to act as back up in case the ball popped out of his teammate’s hands.

During the game, things didn’t go quite as planned.  Saints’ kicker, Thomas Morestead, kicked the football and after it bounced off an opposing Colts player, Chris lunged for it.  He landed on the ball and for 63 seconds, Chris was on the bottom of the pile as players launched themselves on top of him.  The ball was lodged between his legs but Chris was determined to get both arms around the ball.  After the refs pulled players off the dog pile, Chris stood up with the ball in his hand.  The Saints pulled off one of the “Top 10 Greatest Super Bowl Plays of the Decade.” His recovery changed the momentum of the game. The Saints won, 31-17 – the first Super Bowl win for the franchise, and the actual ball resides in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Mike, Chris’s dad, was proudly watching the Super Bowl in the stands.  Two weeks later, Mike was driving while intoxicated in Georgia and arrested.  “I felt so humiliated being booked for a DUI,” says Mike. While in jail, he thought of his son.  Mike was so inspired by Chris’s success on the football field and as a Christian role model that he decided to address his destructive behaviors. “There are many aspects of my life of which I am not proud,” says Mike.  “My son had just made the most famous recovery in Super Bowl history.  Now I needed my own recovery.”

Mike was the son of an alcoholic father and a teenage mother.  When he was 5, Mike was sexually abused by his grandmother.  Toward the end of his sophomore year in high school, Mike started having sex and drinking.  In 1977, he met and married Chris’ mom, Stephanie.  In 1985, Mike left Stephanie for another woman, Donna, whom he married in 1986. Their marriage was filled with drinking and sexual escapades until October 2005 when Chris invited his dad to a FCA event.  Mike started going to church but still struggled with his addictions.  In 2006, Mike and Donna were divorced.  In 2008, Mike met Celia at a recovery program and they were married in March of that year.  After his arrest in 2010, Mike started attending AA meetings.  Today Mike shares his story of redemption.

Chris played basketball and football in middle and high school. At Georgia Tech, he played football and was also president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for 4 years.  In February 2007, Chris married Michelle.  During the NFL draft, Chris was signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons but was cut after the 3rd game in the preseason.  A few months later, he signed with the NFL Europe then got picked up by the Saints practice squad.  He was pulled up to the active roster for the rest of 2007 and continued with the team until 2011.

In 2001 Chris, then a senior in high school, and his mom were invited to church where they both heard the Gospel.  Stephanie gave her heart to the Lord and later that summer on the way home from a preseason training camp in August, Chris pulled his car over and asked the Lord into his life.  He says he was looking for perfection in his life but that God said, “Just surrender.”  Chris also learned there is something greater than sports.  “We didn’t come from a perfect background,” says Chris.  But here is how God worked it out in our lives.  His word is so vibrant and living.”  After he was let go from the Saints, Chris says he had peace.  “I didn’t have any bitterness,” says Chris.  “I felt like God was taking me out of the role of football player and putting me into a far more important role, which was being a father.” 

After he was cut from the Saints, for the rest of the 2011 season Chris never got a call from another team.  “I didn’t know what God was calling me to do,” he says.  Then his dad approached him about writing a book together.  Mike says they didn’t write Recovery of a Lifetime as a sports book or how to book.  “Everybody thinks they have guilt or shame,” says Mike.  “We are putting our story out there because we want to inspire others.  Our story shows the depth of God’s grace.”

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