“Football Had Become My God”: Frank Reich, From Pastor to Indianapolis Colts Head Coach

frank reich

This fall, former pastor, seminary president, and NFL star Frank Reich started his first season as the head coach for the Indianapolis Colts.

Along with fans, Reich is just as surprised by the unexpected trajectory of his career.

“I could never have predicted this path,” Reich told The Washington Post. “It’s crazy. It’s fun.”

Though it’s certainly not the first time the former Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) president’s path has taken an unexpected turn.

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Reich first got his start at the University of Maryland on a football scholarship where he finally had his chance to start in 1984, following the graduation of All-American quarterback Boomer Esiason.

Only a month in, he suffered a severe shoulder injury that put him on the bench. Unfortunately, Reich’s replacement played so well that the coach informed him three weeks later he would not be getting his spot back.

Dumbstruck and defeated, Reich recalls staring at his apartment ceiling for a straight week thinkingGod, I thought you and I were goodWhy are you doing this to me?”

It was then that he came to a striking realization:

“Football had become my God… When that was taken away from me, I realized I had to reprioritize my life.”

So he diligently worked on restructuring his priorities and putting God as the first love of his life.

And if anybody knows about comebacks, it’s Frank Reich, who’s been affectionately coined ‘The Comeback Kid.’

Just a few weeks later, he was pulled from the bench at halftime against the Miami Hurricanes, with the Terrapins down 31-0. He led his team to a 42-40 victory over the next two quarters. For 22 years, it remained the greatest comeback victory in the history of college football.

Reich was a third-round pick by the Buffalo Bills the following year, and as he made his way into the NFL, his faith in Jesus followed.

“It was just a life-changing moment for me when I realized that I needed to make that the top priority in my life and to understand that I can still excel at football,” Reich told Sports Spectrum. “I can still excel at whatever it was that I wanted to do. But also understand how it integrates to every point of your life.”

He continued to play in the NFL for 14 seasons, with his most memorable moment being orchestrating the greatest comeback in postseason history when the Bills came back 32 points to beat the Houston Oilers 41-38.

After his days of football were over, Reich decided to go to seminary school, and in 2006, he took on the role as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and he became president of the RTS.

Reich’s days in seminary taught him a lot about the ways that faith “really keeps you grounded and centered.”

“It gives you perspective,” he continued. “We don’t always understand the ups and downs of life, but we try to stay steady, loving and serving people and being committed to the process of doing things the right way and making an impact that way.”

Along with his friend Peyton Manning, he’s also quite certain that God doesn’t have a favorite football team nor a vested interest in who wins.

“I have two little kids, and when I see my children playing a game together I don’t care who wins that game,” says Reich. “I’m their father. What’s important to me is that there’s character being built and they’re learning the lessons that come along with that activity. I think God looks at us the same way. I think the football game is insignificant to him. But what is significant is that we learn what he wants us to learn out of that game, win or lose.”

“When I was playing, I always thought I was going to be a coach,” Reich told The Gospel Coalition. “When I went into full-time ministry, that was for all the right motives—a real, sincere, heartfelt love for God. I was trying to do the right thing.”

But he soon found out, his time in the NFL wasn’t finished just yet. It seemed pastoring wasn’t his lifelong calling.

“I came to recognize more and more this false dichotomy between sacred and secular work,” said Reich, referring to the “the priesthood of all believers — that every Christian is called to live out their faith in their sphere of influence.”

And it turns out, his “sphere of influence” was football.

Reich took his first job as an NFL coach with the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, and he coached Peyton Manning as quarterback. He then became the Arizona Cardinal’s wide receivers coach in 2012 and moved on to the San Diego Chargers in 2013. After transferring to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 and leading them to their first Super Bowl championship, Reich made his rounds back to his coaching roots in landing the Colts head coaching job in 2018.

Backed by 26 years of NFL experience and an unshakable faith in Christ, the Colts couldn’t be more excited to have Reich leading them into the playoffs against the Texans this Saturday.

“We are excited to have Frank Reich as our new head coach,” said Colts manager Chris Ballard. “Frank is a leader of men who will demand excellence from our players on and off the field. I look forward to working with Frank to deliver a championship-caliber team to the city of Indianapolis.”

Kelsey Straeter
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Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.