Ten years ago, long before he found himself at the center of one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history, Chris Reis helped coach at the Week of Champions.
A decade later, he was the keynote speaker at the event's annual banquet, held on Hilton Head Island Wednesday night. Reis, who retired in 2011 after four years as a safety and special teams player, spoke about his dedication to his faith, his road to becoming a Super Bowl hero, and how important the camp is in shaping the lives of its young participants.
"It's a pleasure to be here," Reis said, adding that he felt he has come full circle.
Reflecting on his momentous onside kick recovery in the Saints' upset of Peyton Manning's Colts, Reis said he wasn't even sure he would be in the game before kickoff. When the ball kicked loose, Reis said he held on with all the strength he could muster, and, as he told the crowd, he felt God gave him a hand.
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"He takes a nobody like me, puts me on a platform and says, 'what are you going to do with it?' " Reis said.
Week of Champions, now run by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, is in its 36th year, and is growing with each new session. This year, young athletes were trained by professionals and former professionals in a variety of sports, everything from football and baseball to volleyball and cheerleading.
In between drills, volunteers teach participants about the important role faith has played in their lives and careers. Reis said the chance to speak before the large crowd of donors and volunteers, as well as camp participants, was humbling.
Reis' own journey, growing up in a single-parent household and putting massive pressure on himself to succeed in school and in athletics, was detailed throughout his address.
He spoke about discovering Christian faith and how it helped him define himself and ultimately, his father, as men, and the role it continues to play. Reis believes all of the participants in this week's festivities will feel the impact of mentorship and coaching for years to come.
"You guys plant so many seeds," Reis said. "You don't even know it yet. These kids that you're serving, they may not get it now, but that light bulb will go off someday."