As part of their weekend Father's Day celebration, The Life Christian Church, located at 106 Harrison Avenue, hosted former NFL athletes and sports commentators Ray Lucas and Roman Oben. The football stars, who are also friends, shared their life experiences during the church's Saturday evening and Sunday morning services.
Seated at the center of the stage, Oben interviewed Lucas about his successes in the National Football League, his depression, addiction to pain medication, recovery, and more.
"I realized that this isn't just about me," Lucas said, when talking about why he went public with his addiction. "It's also about the other guys who are going through it too. I want them to know that they are not alone."
According to a recent poll conducted by ESPN, one in four former athletes abuse prescription pain killers.
Born in Harrison, Lucas was a popular quarterback for the New York Jets, the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Dolphins. He now works as an on-air analyst for the show Jets Nation on the SportsNet New York network, 1050 ESPN New York, WEPN Radio, and Rutgers Football Radio Network. He recently won an Emmy for Best Sports Analyst in New York and writes a weekly blog about his experiences with addiction.
During Sunday's interview, Lucas also discussed his battle with thoughts of suicide. "If it hadn't been for the love of my wife and my kids, I would have ended things," he said. "But I realized that there was a lot to live for."
After six seasons of playing with the four teams, Lucas suffered with back spasms, sciatica, intense headaches, and depression. As a result, he began taking and became addicted to pain medication. About a year ago, he got involved with PAST (Pain Alternatives Solutions and Treatments), a New Jersey medical group that does probono surgeries for uninsured former athletes. They performed neck surgery on Lucas last September and have also been helping him with his drug recovery.
"I'm proud to say that we're not just both former football players," Oben said to Lucas. "But we're also friends and I'm proud of what you've accomplished."
Oben is a Superbowl champ who has previously played with the New York Giants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns. He established The Roman Oben Foundation in 2003. The goal of the foundation is to improve the quality of life of youngsters through literacy, football, and various outreach projects.
To promote his message of recovery and faith, Lucas said he has done more than 163 interviews to get the word out about his recent life experiences. "I got saved a year ago," he said of his membership at The Life Christian Church. "It's amazing how better my life has gotten by being a father, a husband, and fellowshipping here at this church."
Life Christian's pastor Terry A. Smith later addressed the congregation. The author of the book TEN: How Would You Rate Your Life, the message of his sermon was "TEN The Series: 7 Weeks to More and Better Life" and the importance of leadership.