NEW YORK (WABC) -- A former NFL athlete is taking a page out of his playbook to inspire inmates with a second chance.
Pastor Tim Johnson, a former NFL defensive lineman, is doing this through a program at Rikers Island, where he works to rehabilitate incarcerated men - offering them an opportunity at a second chance.
As founder of the program, called Fatherless No More, Johnson says the goal is to give participants the chance to become law abiding citizens.
"I'm not here to talk about where you've been," said Johnson. "I'm actually here to talk about where you can go."
The objective of the program is simple: Invest in humanity. Believe in them. Give them a reason to hope. Give them faith.
The incentive to work together is obvious, as participants get to be on a basketball court as opposed to inside a cell.
But those interested can't just volunteer to join the program, they must be chosen by a correction officer.
As far as the selection process goes, they're looking for young men out of options, who are ready to receive the message and just need one last push to get their lives back in order.
"When you invest in young people, young people will thrive," said Louis Molina, Dept. of Correction Commissioner. "And that's what we're trying to do here every day."
"We've been able to create another family," said Jay Are, who was formerly incarcerated. "So, it doesn't feel like any abandonment, trauma, things that we've gone through, we've been able to overcome because we've been able to connect with one another."
Michael Bonilla was also formerly incarcerated on Rikers.
He now works for a non-profit focusing on criminal justice reform, and about to head to college.
Bonilla credits Fatherless No More.
"First time I met Father Tim, he told me he loved me," said Bonilla. "I never had a dad growing up. I never had a grown man do that."
"That's what every single human being wants," said Johnson. "And they got that from the creator himself."
Thus, they are fatherless no more.