The Next Generation of You: Chris Godfrey
Jul. 28, 2016 Professional Athletes Foundation
The Jets released Godfrey during the following year’s training camp and he signed with Green Bay, where he spent the 1981 season on injured reserve. Cut by the Packers just prior to the 1982 season, he returned home to Detroit and was convinced to sign a guaranteed contract with the upstart USFL’s Michigan Panthers and report to their training camp.
“All the helmets were different colors and we were sharing helmets during practices,” Godfrey said. “It was pretty humble. And it was there when (assistant coach George Dickson) came up to me and said, ‘Chris, we don’t have any offensive linemen. You’ve got good balance and that’s really important in pro football because passing is such a big part of our game. Having offensive linemen who can move his feet makes him a better pass protector. Would you mind giving it a try?’
“I said, ‘I wasn’t making a living playing defense before this, so what do I have to lose. Sure, I’ll give it a try.’ So they put me at left tackle. It took me a while to get used to it.”
But he did. Godfrey helped himself by switching to the offensive line as well as the Panthers, who won the 1983 USFL championship.
“That next year, we flew out to play the New Jersey Generals,” Godfrey said, “and my agent had a car pick me up and take me over to Giants Stadium where I met with (Giants general manager) George Young. I signed a contract with them for the next season, which was like only a month after the USFL season ended. So I played two seasons that first year, which was kind of fun.”
The fun was just beginning. In 1986, Godfrey was New York’s starting right guard when the Giants won Super Bowl XXI. Following the 1988 campaign, his fifth with the Giants and eighth in professional football, Godfrey decided to retire. And …
“I remember going on a retreat with that on my mind, and the retreat master said, ‘Why don’t you go over and meet Mother Teresa, who was in town visiting one of her convents in the South Bronx, New York,” Godfrey said. “So (Giants tight end) Mark Bavaro and I went and got a chance to meet her. And that’s really all we did. I didn’t say, ‘Mother Teresa, what should I do with the rest of my life?’ It was nothing like that.
“Mark got into a conversation with a couple of the priests and they were all talking law. Mark’s wife was at Harvard Law and the priest himself was taking his bar exam. I had gone to that meeting with the prayer that perhaps I would gain some sort of insight as to what my next step would be and out of the blue in the midst of this conversation, Mark and the two priests looked at me and said, ‘You know, you should go to law school.’ And that was the light that turned on.”
Graduating from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1993, Godfrey has stayed in South Bend, Indiana, where he practices financial law.
“I concentrated on that because I almost got into that industry from the life insurance end of things,” Godfrey said. “I had some friends who were successful life insurance agents, but within the little niche of estate planning. And another reason I chose that was because it would allow me to control my schedule better. I had started a non-profit organization, Life Athletes, while I was playing and I wanted to be able to maintain that. So that’s why I started with estate planning and I’ve stayed with it ever since.
“I enjoy working with families who want to leave a smooth transition for their loved ones and want to provide for them and use what they have to build relationships between the generations. I have a unique process that I share with some other attorneys around the country. I started off as a traditional estate planning attorney where you create documents and part ways by saying, ‘If you ever need anything, give me a call.’ Well, people don’t really give you a call for another 20 years or so. But a lot has changed not only in the law but their families and everybody’s respective expertise’s.
“So we have a three step strategy where we not only help them create great plans and then settle them later on, but also work with them in maintaining it and educating and training those whom they will be counting on to play a role in executing that plan going forward.
“(The transition from football) went really well. I can’t say it was easy, but I can’t say it was insurmountable either. It was just a matter of applying myself. I kind of joked about how I played professional football and got myself beat up physically and then I went to law school and got myself beat up mentally. But coming out of that, both of them created a nice synergy between the two.”