David Pollack, 41, has been a prominent figure in football for the past two decades. A three-time All-American at the University of Georgia, he was a first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005. After a neck injury in 2006 ended his playing career, he became an analyst and commentator, working at ESPN for 14 years—12 of those on College Gameday—before his job was eliminated in a June layoff. David and his wife, Lindsey, have a son, Nicholas, and a daughter, Leah. In 2016, the family created the Pollack Family Foundation, which helps strengthen families through faith and Biblical values. David was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2020.
Q. How have you adjusted to being let go from ESPN after being part of College Gameday for 12 years?
A. It’s definitely put a lot of things into perspective. When you have hard times, I think it refines what’s really important. I think the biggest thing it’s forced me to do is to recalibrate. It’s forced me to say, “OK, what do I really want my life to look like, especially from a spiritual perspective?” I loved my time at ESPN. God took me to some amazing places. My family got to experience some incredible things, but this has been a great time to reexamine my life.
Q. How has it impacted your family?
A. I’ve had an unbelievably blessed life. My son just turned 15. My daughter’s 13. They’ve never seen me struggle professionally. They look at me as somebody who doesn’t fail. They look at me as somebody who has been ultra successful. Now, I have no clue what’s coming, but I do know that God’s got me. He has never failed me yet, and He is not gonna fail me now. So I now have the opportunity to walk in obedience when things are hard.
This is such a wonderful opportunity to teach my kids that this is how life actually works. After the success we had, how are we going to respond when all that is taken away? It’s been so good for me, too, because I have been about working hard and pushing through adversity, and now I have the opportunity to practice what I preach.
I say to myself: “Are you going to be the man of God that you say you are?”
But this is why I am more excited about the future than I ever have been. It has caused me to implement what I call holy habits now, something I had failed at before. I was a commentator on a high stage for a dozen years. Now I am praying every day and asking God where He wants me, what His will and purpose are. I’m reading more than I ever have; watching less TV than I ever have. And I’m at home with my kids more, which is so cool.
Q. Has God given you some new opportunities to share your faith?
A. Two things that happened recently have rocked my world. I got to speak at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event in Alabama. There were 800-1,000 kids. After sharing my story and my faith in God, 102 kids came forward and accepted Christ. I sent a text to my wife afterward, and told her that anything I had ever done on camera paled in comparison to that. Wow!
I had another guy—his name is Garrett, and I am going to try and tell this without crying. He’s from Chicago, and he reached out to our Family Goals podcast that I do with the pastor at Graystone Church here in Georgia. Garrett is from New Jersey, and he has a little girl named Lila and a young boy named Braden.
And he was a fan of mine from Georgia football. He loved watching me on Gameday. He told us his story, how he grew up Catholic and kind of went to church on Christmas and Easter, but the family never got into it. And in his words, “You guys changed that.”
He said, “I got a small group, and I’m learning about Jesus.” I was in tears as I read this to my family, as he shared how his wife and family immediately saw the change in him. In fact, his whole family now attends church, and his kids love it.
The best part is that Garrett flew to Georgia, and I had the privilege of baptizing him at Graystone Church.
These are just two stories of how my plans are not God’s plans, and His are far better than mine.
When I heard the news that I had been laid off at ESPN, I knew that God is for me and not against me. That’s true going forward, every step of the way.
Q. What is it like to have time off during football season?
A. I justified my job, just like a lot of people do. I had a good schedule from the National Championship game to August. But then I was gone from home three days a week for 16 straight weeks during football season, and whether I liked it or not, I was absolutely sacrificing being with my family. Now I take my bride as much as I can as I speak across the country.
I’ve got five years left with my kids at home, and I definitely want to make the most of it. That’s why I coach Leah in basketball and Nicholas in football.
Q. When did you come to faith in Christ?
A. I was a senior in high school in Snellville, Georgia, and there were a couple of huge events the Lord used to draw me to faith in Christ.
I didn’t grow up going to church. It wasn’t something that I even knew much about. I’d never really heard much about the Bible.
In high school I had a teacher for physics and science, Mark Watson, who had a Jesus sticker on his computer. He listened to worship music before class. He carried himself with a different approach, a different feel. It was authentic, and it was really, really cool.
And then, for an outside reading assignment in English class for my senior year, I chose to read the Bible. I had never picked it up a day in my life.
Mark taught me what the Gospels were, and I started to read the Bible. I was like, Wait a minute; are you kidding me? Like, all these things that shouldn’t have happened. You look in history books and you have a blip of these great leaders and emperors, and you’ve got a day worker from Nazareth that the entire Bible was written about. How the heck does this happen?
He rose from the dead. I’m just soaking it up, and it just rocked me to the core—it absolutely shook the foundation of my life and completely changed me. My life has never been the same!
Q. During your second season with the Cincinnatti Bengals, you had a scary moment when you broke your neck and they had to cart you off the field. I’ve heard you say that it was one of the best days of your life.
A. The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” That was always exceptionally hard for me. I’m an energy guy, all over the place. Hard to focus. If I had extra time, I wanted to go run a mile. I liked busy-ness. I like noise. When I came in the house from a long day, I turned the TV on to hear more noise, you know? Now I had this long period of time being in a halo, being in a neck brace.
With nobody around, away from my family, I got to be still, and I got to hear from God. It changed the whole complexion of my personality. It allowed me to slow down and listen to God more. Wow. And here I am many years later, I’m getting it again, which is awesome.
Q: I recall you asking for prayer for Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills player who went into cardiac arrest during a game in Cincinnati last year.
A. All of a sudden people were saying: “Pray! Stop what you’re doing right now and pray.” And people did. That was a powerful moment on so many fronts.
The Bible says, “Every knee will bow.” I just thought it was so powerful when you’re watching the biggest gladiators in the world, the best of the best, the big, strong, bad dudes. They were so rocked to the core that there was only one place they could turn, and that was to the Lord.
They couldn’t fix it, they knew it, and it was horrifying. And every single one of ’em, man, they’re getting down on their knees. I just thought it was such an unbelievable illustration. We instinctively know when things get really tough—really, really hard—there’s only one place we can go. And there’s only one voice that we want to hear.
Q. But there was more to that story for you personally.
A. Every year, my wife takes my son to an NFL football game. She had not been back to Cincinnati to watch a game since I broke my neck there. Last year, my wife took my son to that game. So it was like whoa! You talk about things like PTSD for her, and all the memories come back. It was very powerful. I pray that Damar’s faith is still solid in the Lord. It sure sounds like it is, and he gives God the glory wherever he goes. ©2023 BGEA