Matt Lepsis was living the good life last season, making millions in the NFL and finally fitting in when he locked himself in a closet and screamed for help: Please, God, help me kick this drug habit.
The Denver Broncos left tackle, who called it quits after last season, admits now he was high on drugs for the first six games of his final season.
By Pat Graham
But in that closet in his house, struggling to kick a habit that intensified after knee surgery following the 2006 season, Lepsis begged for help. He believes he was heard — and rescued.
The drug habit now gone, Lepsis is taking classes at Dallas Theological Seminary, learning Greek and taking an introduction to theology course.
The offensive lineman had nearly $9 million US left on his contract. But he walked away.
“People hear this story and think, ‘He was at rock bottom and had nowhere to go and was trying to find answers to all these problems. So naturally he looked to God,”‘ said Lepsis.
“That’s not what happened. I can’t stress this enough: I was loving life.”
The drugs had transformed him from a “wallflower” into a “social butterfly,” he said. After struggling with social anxiety issues, he was suddenly more outgoing and personable.
The week before the Broncos were to play Jacksonville in September 2007, Lepsis was outside playing with his kids when his phone rang.
No one there, just music.
Not just music, though, but the Dave Matthews Band, his favourite group.
Not just any song, either, but a song he knew well — #41 — and Matthews was singing the lyrics, “The difficulty is coming.”
A few days later, Lepsis put on his head phones at his locker — same song, same lyrics. His initial reaction was he was going to perish in a plane crash.
A friend reassured him.
“She said, ‘There’s nothing for you to worry about. God’s in control,”‘ Lepsis recounted.
“If it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. For the first time in my life, I was like, ‘What?’ I had never entertained that thought.”
On a plane the following week, Lepsis asked kicker Jason Elam if he could sit next to him. Elam, a devout Christian who now plays for Atlanta, was willing to listen.
“I really didn’t have any pearls of wisdom, just tried to steer him the right way,” Elam recalls.
Lepsis went to chapel before the next game. The sermon topic was fear.
“I was blown away,” he says. “I’m hanging on every word.”
He sought out Elam again and told him the entire story about his drug addiction.
“Can I become a Christian and a believer and still continue to do this?” he asked Elam.
“Jason said, ‘No, you can’t.”’
So into the closet Lepsis went. He asked for help, didn’t get high that day and had a horrible practice.
“I went into work sober for the first time in a long time and I had a miserable day . . . I’m angry for believing that God was going to supernaturally help me.”
His wife, Shana, convinced him to try again. The next day at practice he was sharing his story with teammates when it hit him: Here he was, someone who used drugs as a crutch to make himself more sociable, opening up to teammates.
“I get what I got through the drugs, but I get it through sharing my testimony for what God has done in my life,” Lepsis says.
In 2007, Lepsis was showering in a hotel room, thinking about religion and how his eyes had been opened. The bathroom mirror steamed up, but when the air began to clear, he saw the word “Jesus” there.
Probably just a born-again Christian who stayed in the room before him, perhaps a maid.
Whatever the case, it was another sign.
“This was a big decision. I didn’t make it lightly,” Lepsis says.
“What are the odds that two weeks after this decision, this is written on the mirror? . . . This was confirmation.”