FARMINGTON — Michael Irvin credits his belief in God with helping him overcome years of drug addiction.

The former Dallas Cowboys star and Pro Football Hall of Fame member will speak on Sunday at Piñon Hills Community Church in Farmington about overcoming struggles and the importance of fatherhood.

"God speaks in a still, calm voice," said Irvin, an analyst for the NFL Network and the host of a Miami, Fla., radio show.

Football fame brought with it women and money, Irvin said during a phone interview last week from an engagement in Los Angeles.

"Sometimes, it is hard to hear God over all the noise," he said.

He said football was a physical gift God gave him, and, through it, he transformed his life.

Irvin was one of 17 children born to a roofer who worked part-time as a minister. The large family lived in a low-income section of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Irvin went on to play football for the University of Miami, leading the team to the championship in 1987 before getting drafted to the Dallas Cowboys, which went on to win three Super Bowls in the 1990s.

But Irvin said he was not ready for the spotlight.

"I didn't get the ghetto out of me," he said. "So all I did was move the ghetto to a better address."

It took Irvin years to escape "the ghetto," he said. But he ultimately did it because of his roots, he said.

"I was rooted because my mom had given me that root," Irvin said.

His mother, a devout Christian, often told her son God had a plan for him, saying, "Baby, God has you on a short leash now. Anything you do, you're going to get in trouble," Irvin recalled.

Irvin has had his share of controversy during this career. The 48-year-old has faced numerous drug charges as he struggled with an addiction to cocaine. He has also received criticism for comments he has made on TV shows over the years.

In his acceptance speech before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, Irvin spoke about his family and his hopes to be a better role model for his children.

Afterward, he said men approached him and spoke about how they wished they would have had a father-figure in their lives. Through that, Irvin said he found his purpose and started speaking about the importance of fathers.

He pointed to one often-quoted statistic, which states 73 percent of African-American births in 2010 were out of wedlock.

"When I see a young African-American, I say, 'Oh God, this kid has 25 percent chance of making it," Irvin said.

Last week, Irvin spent a day talking to children at a camp, many of whom were from fatherless homes. Irvin said he hopes he as able to give them a "root," like his mother gave him.

"When the turbulence hits, you go back to that root," he said.

Irvin believes the best way to reach men is through sports because men feel protected in that arena.

To illustration his point on a husband's duty to his wife, Irvin used the example of Shaquille O'Neal's wife, who left the famous athlete for her male trainer. During his radio show, Irvin asked his audience whether they would "allow their wives to have a male trainer."

He tied that to the biblical story of temptation in the Garden of Eden. Irvin said if Adam had been more vigilant and killed the serpent before it got to Eve, "we would all be in heaven."

Irvin said it's often difficult for men to admit when they fall short in life. And, he believes, they need to build a relationship with God.

"I don't believe it is possible to make it without a relationship with God," he said. "Especially if you have a responsibility of a family," he said.


What: Michael Irvin speech

When: 9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Sunday

Where: Piñon Hills Community Church, 5101 N Dustin Ave., Farmington

More info: 505-325-4541

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.