Most NFL players don’t stick to sports — and that’s often a good thing. During their free time, which is limited during the season, many work tirelessly to benefit their communities.
NFL coverage has been focused over the past week on protests during the national anthem. Some of the reaction to that has been negative, but lost in the discussion is the positive impact players make away from the football field. So SB Nation’s team sites decided to highlight different ways teams and players give their time, money, and platform to benefit those who welcome their help.
Just this week, we saw Deshaun Watson donating his first game check to three Houstonians who work in the Texans’ cafeteria. These people lost everything to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, and Watson stepped up selflessly.
A gesture that seems as small as Washington’s Rob Kelley and Keith Marshall buying a child an Xbox leaves a lasting impression, too — not just on that kid, but on the fans who find out about this random act of kindness. There’s so much NFL players do that they don’t seek credit for, but means the world to the people on the receiving end.
Some of our team sites chose to feature the contributions of just one player, or a specific event. Here’s just a small sampling of the good things NFL players are doing off the field
Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson is one of the NFL’s most generous players
Some of the highlights of what Peterson does around the Arizona community and beyond provided by the Arizona Cardinals:
Peterson created the “Foundation for Success” which aims to provide low-income and inner city youth with opportunities and resources to reach their full potential. The foundation hopes to implement an excellent balance for community development.
Peterson along with his wife, Antonique, visited Haiti as guests of Mission of Hope.
In January of 2015, Peterson unveiled the first “Patrick’s Corner” of his foundation for students and families at Nevitt Elementary School in Phoenix.
Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley aims to fight childhood cancer with the Rally Foundation
The Rally Foundation is a non-profit based in Atlanta that works to raise money for research toward a cure, new and innovative treatments, and to help support families as they battle childhood cancer. It’s not limited to any type of cancer. Any childhood cancer is a challenge Rally, and Beasley, are ready to take on.
Baltimore Ravens: Anthony Levine Sr. is using a rivalry to raise money for students
Not only are the Baltimore Ravens going head-to-head against the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend, but a player from both teams are competing to raise money for their respective charities! Anthony Levine Sr. and Martavis Bryant are going against one another in an attempt to raise more money for charity.
Buffalo Bills: Bills players support a variety of charities
Buffalo Rumblings put together a running list of the causes the players donate their time and money to. Here’s one of many:
LeSean McCoy is a community leader through his foundation Shades of Greatness, Inc. He assists people and families suffering from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He’s held four annual charity softball games, the most recent two at Frontier Field in Rochester, NY.
Carolina Panthers: Charles Johnson gives back to Georgia hometown and to Charlotte
One of Johnson’s biggest areas of service has been providing college scholarships to high school students at his alma mater, Hawkinsville High School. Johnson’s charitable actions don’t just apply to the Hawkinsville, GA area, either. He’s also done some good work in the Charlotte community. He’s currently in the process of a $3.3 million project to convert an old firehouse in Charlotte to a restaurant.
He’s also built affordable housing units for seniors in both Columbia and Rock Hill, SC and has plans to build more of them in the future.
Chicago Bears: The team’s charitable arm highlights the players’ good deeds
Jordan Howard is involved with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.
Former Bear great, Charles Tillman, has his Cornerstone Foundation.
Sam Acho and his family does missionary work in Nigeria.
Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton helps bring prom to people with disabilities
From Carlos Dunlap’s unbelievable literacy campaign, to the Marvin Lewis Community Fund’s “Learning is Cool” initiative, to Michael Johnson and Dunlap’s Back to School fair, to dozens of other charitable endeavors Bengals players take part in around the community, rarely a week goes by without some form of community involvement from members of the Bengals’ organization.
Last week was no different as Andy Dalton and his wife, Jordan Dalton, were special guests at The Royal Prom. The Daltons welcomed guests and took part in the evening’s activities.
Cleveland Browns: Players surprise local kids on youth flag football teams
On Tuesday, three members of the Browns — wide receivers Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins and safety Ibraheim Campbell — joined local members of the Cleveland Police and Fire Departments to surprise kids at their youth flag football practice outside Michael Zone Recreation Center.
Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys participate in charitable work year round
Blogging the Boys wanted to highlight a number of players on the team who are trying to make a difference. The Cowboys quarterback is one:
Dak Prescott is doing work for finding a cure for cancer. It’s a personal issue for him.
“Losing my mom, only a sophomore in college, 20 years old,” Prescott said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “Everything I do in life is to try to honor my mom.”
“It takes a community to fight cancer,” says the Ready Raise Rise website. “Ready. Raise. Rise. is spreading the word about Immuno-Oncology research and bringing together everyone impacted by the disease to support the community.”
Denver Broncos: Brandon Marshall is creating positive change in the community
After he first kneeled for the anthem on Sept. 8, 2016, Marshall met with Denver police chief Robert White in what began an ongoing dialogue between urban communities around Denver and the local police. He also pledged to donate $300 for every tackle last season to local organizations committed to addressing “critical social issues.”
And for the past two years, Marshall has organized an Attendance Challenge at local elementary schools, encouraging kids to go to school, learn and use their education.
Detroit Lions: Glover Quin’s activism and humanitarian efforts are impressive
Now in his ninth year in the NFL, Quin has fought for a laundry list of causes throughout his career. He’s held benefits for domestic violence victims, he rallied other Lions players to help donate over 36,000 bottles of water to Flint, and he even helped raise money for his old high school, which was in need for funds to support a basketball team.
Green Bay Packers: The Packers Foundation does good work around the state
The Packers organization itself is an integral part of the Brown County community and is active throughout the state of Wisconsin through the Packers Foundation. Details on the foundation can be found on the team’s website. In a nutshell, non-profit organizations around the state who fall into the team’s rotating focus areas can request funding to help further their goals in the community. In 2016 alone, the foundation donated over $800,000 to various charitable organizations.
Although the team itself is active in the community, there are plenty of individual players who have special causes and efforts that they support.
Houston Texans: J.J. Watt raises $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief
What Watt was able to accomplish, in large part due to the kindness of strangers, presumably the vast majority of whom aren’t Texans fans, was astounding.
The final tally: $37,098,248.00 from more than 209,000 donations.
Indianapolis Colts: The team participates in Community Tuesdays
While most NFL players have their own individual charitable foundations or focus on providing their support a specific charity, they also often participate as a team to give back to the community. In Indianapolis, the Colts get together on Tuesdays to find numerous ways to make a difference.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Former Jaguar Sen’Derrick Marks took cancer patient to prom
The Jacksonville Jaguars put a focus on community outreach and charitable contributions and there’s always a shelter getting help, hospitals getting visits, and more.
But when thinking about all that Jaguars players have done around the city in recent years, one night stands out: Sen’Derrick Marks taking Khameyea Jennings to prom — and doing it in style.
Kansas City Chiefs: Tyreek Hill surprises a local high school football team
Imagine getting ready for high school football practice and you see the NFL’s fastest man showing up to surprise you. The Chiefs and Tyreek Hill did just that this week.
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon drops by to help high school football team
Los Angeles Chargers star running back Melvin Gordon joined with the Southern California Helpful Honda Dealers to surprise a local southern California high school football team and specifically their placekicker, the only girl on the team, Jennifer.
Los Angeles Rams: The Rams are doing charitable work, but they need an ambassador
This is a franchise trying to rebuild, or build from scratch, a home fan base to fill the seats in the Coliseum and ultimately the seats in their new home when it opens in 2020. The focus on building the on-field product is certainly justified. But for the Los Angeles Rams to really, truly be home, they need someone who can really represent the ethos of the team and live the brand in an authentic and personal way outside the safe space of the Rams’ meeting space or playing fields.
Miami Dolphins: Michael Thomas has done a little bit of everything off the field
Thomas was clearly the leader in trying to organize efforts to collect donations to send to his native Houston for Hurricane Harvey relief. He has been involved with the First Step Program, a program designed to link local area kids with community leaders. He has worked with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a ride along and work on the relationship between the police and the community. He has worked with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Miami. He has worked with Food for the Hungry.
Minnesota Vikings: The team is committed to helping children
And we certainly couldn’t talk about all the good the Vikings have done in the community without mentioning the Vikings Children’s Fund, which is now the Minnesota Vikings Foundation. The Vikings Children’s Fund enhanced the lives of numerous children in the Twin Cities over the years, and the Minnesota Vikings Foundation looks ready to continue that legacy by concentrating on getting children up and active in our increasingly sedentary society.
New England Patriots: Players help build a new playground
Rookies Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise teamed up with Geneo Grissom and veteran David Harris to help carry woodchips, assemble playground equipment, and paint decorations for the park. This is the eighth consecutive year the Patriots have helped with this program.
New Orleans Saints: Players regularly pitch in around the New Orleans area
Here’s a look at just some of the things the Saints have done and are doing in the month of September to make an impact.
A Community STEM Fest is set for Sept. 30, which is set to feature over 2,000 students and teachers throughout the region to promote the education day.
On Sept. 19, Cam Jordan visited Smothers Academy in Jefferson, La. to help promote reading.
On Sept. 20, Landon Turner visited Faith Lutheran School in Harahan, La. for the play football experience and to promote NFL Play 60. That same day, Brandon Coleman visited Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center in New Orleans to celebrate National Healthy Lunch Day with the American Diabetes Association.
New York Giants: The team helps families fighting childhood cancer
One of the primary things the Giants do is support the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund. The Landon Collins Charity Softball Game was held in the summer for that purpose, and Giants players still attend the annual Jay Fund dinner in New York City.
New York Jets: The Jets are trying to stop bullying
There are a number of specific areas where the team has been active. One such area is promoting anti-bullying. The Jets have taken on a number of initiatives and will present a $100,000 check this Sunday to the STOMP Out Bullying Organization. The team has also holds symposiums for educators to deal with bullying.
Oakland Raiders: Players call attention to social issues and give back to the community
Bruce Irvin sat with arms interlocked during the anthem Sunday night in Washington along with his defensive line teammates in response to Donald Trump’s recent comments on the NFL player protests.
The following day he and those same teammates pictured above volunteered at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland.
Philadelphia Eagles: Chris Long is helping fund scholarships in Charlottesville
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long is donating his first six game checks of the 2017 NFL season to fund scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Long is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia and St. Anne’s Belfield School to provide two seven-year scholarships to Virginia middle school students.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Alejandro Villanueva will donate money from jersey sales to USO
Villanueva is donating all money from his jersey sales to the USO and other military non-profit organizations, something he has reportedly always done. However, with his new-found popularity, Villanueva’s donation might be much larger than it normally is.
San Francisco 49ers: Pierre Garçon continues to raise funds for Haiti relief
Garçon is of Haitian descent, and he has used his platform to help Haiti in its continued efforts to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake. It’s been seven years, but the country still has a lot of work to do. Garçon has used his foundation to, “bring enduring education, health and community programs to the people of Haiti; to provide long-term sustainable initiatives that will continue to positively influence the lives of Haitians.”
Seattle Seahawks: Tyler Lockett wants to help kids enjoy their childhood
Lockett made an appearance at White Center Heights Elementary in Seattle, unveiling a new playground for their Head Start program, thanks to a $15,000 grant from UnitedHealthcare to Lockett’s Dreambuilders Foundation. Dreambuilders is described as: “a nonprofit organization that works with pro athletes across the country to help financially, physically and mentally-challenged kids receive the items, opportunities and equipment they need to reach their dreams.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bucs lend a hand with hurricane relief
One of those Bucs is Jameis Winston, who’s always done a lot of community work, and he helped distribute food and donated gift cards to over 400 families affected by the hurricane. Each family received a whopping 35 pounds of food as part of the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program.
Tennessee Titans: Players support National Baby Safety Month
Several Titans players took time earlier this week to visit St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital to promote safe sleep with infants.
“Here at Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, infant safety is our top focus,” said Angelique Dooley, RNC, nurse manager. “We make it a priority to educate new moms and dads from the time they arrive at the hospital until they are discharged home, including a birthday party in which we actively discuss safe sleep practices, as well as other safety concerns. We are so excited to partner with the Tennessee Titans to bring awareness to our community on safe sleep practices.”
Washington: Vernon Davis is involved in numerous ways to help his hometown of D.C.
Vernon’s Closet, a recent event designed to raise awareness and support for the homeless, provided an opportunity for the player to talk a little bit about his sometimes turbulent upbringing and his goals for his city.
“It is my desire to use Vernon’s Closet as a way to raise more awareness to homelessness; especially among D.C. area youth and hopefully encourage others to get involved as well,” Davis said.