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View Diary: One Football Player Resolves to Make a Difference in Lives, Families, and Communities (23 comments)

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  •  Thanks, Grizzard. Heartwarming, but not surprising (16+ / 0-)

    ...because this fine young man spent time working for the Rooney family in Pittsburgh.

    It started with the Chief, Arthur J. Rooney Sr., who was a legend in our town for his charitable works - and for being totally color-blind in a world that still views things through the prism (or prison) of race.

    Mr Rooney was exceptionally kind to his players - visiting them in the hospital with fresh OJ and muffins freshly baked by his wife, even paying law school tuition for one player (A/A) who had been seriously injured and was unable to walk.

    He and his son Dan expected the players to understand their role in the community and to give back. The Steelers have an office of community engagement, which helps players find and choose appropriate community activities. Some can stop you in your tracks.

    Defense Back William Gay - as a child - saw his mother shot and killed as a victim of domestic violence. Gay visits women's shelters, telling his story, letting women and children know they are not alone,
    spreading hope and compassion, sometimes spending holidays at those shelters, treating families to a special dinner.

    Former linebacker Robin Cole lost his dad and brother to prostate cancer. He had it himself. Though retired, he continues his campaign for prostate cancer awareness and checkups through the team.

    Current linebacker Lamarr Woodley just donated a six figure sum to the financially- troubled school system in his home town of Saginaw, Michigan, so that kids won't have to pay an activities fee for extra-curricular sports. "They should have the same opportunities that I did," he said. Woodley and teammates and friends have driven up to Saginaw the night before Thanksgiving in recent years with a truckload of turkeys and all the fixins, because he still feels he can make a contribution in his home town.

    Defensive Lineman Aaron Smith kept secret his four-year old son's battle with leukemia during the Super Bowl season, but finally went public with the story the week before the Steelers' annual Christmas blood drive. Blood donations slow during the holidays, and the team holds a blood drive to help the local blood banks. When Smith told how Elijah's life was saved by four blood transfusions and asked Pittsburghers to donate, they dried their tears and rolled up their sleeves. They gave enough blood to save 2,000 lives.

    The list is seemingly endless.

    There are great rewards to the players, as well. They gain the satisfaction of knowing they are of help, and making peoples' lives better. "We are very lucky," one Hall of Fame player told me, "that we can sometimes brighten someone's life just by showing up."

    Nick Eason has a Super Bowl ring that he earned as part of a fraternity that stresses giving back as part of its mission. It really does start with management - the Rooney family.

    Every Steeler player is expected to work with front office and choose a charity or personal project. And every one of them hears the words of a man who will forever be beloved by Pittsburghers...

    "Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth."

    Roberto Clemente lost his life in a plane crash while delivering relief supplies after the Managua earthquake, and that was not only what he said, but how he lived, and - tragically - how he died.

    A message for all of us, but especially those sports heroes like Nick Eason. We are fortunate that he has chosen that path, and I thank you for telling his story.

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