It’s a well-known and well-reported fact that an NFL athlete makes a pretty penny… billions of them, to be precise. People train their whole lives for a shot at the big time. Sometimes, when they get there, they’re barely 22 years old or younger. Sometimes, they fall hard. But other times, they their sudden fortune into good fortune for those around them.
That’s especially true of sports personalities. Big-ticket players enter a city’s franchise team and become entrenched in the city’s culture, even though they may not hail from that city originally. The people embrace them and, when times get rough, these players turn around and offer assistance and comfort to those in need.
JJ Watt, Houston Texans
JJ Watt, a Wisconsin native who played with the Badgers in his college years, is kind of an intense guy in everything he does. This helps the Texans defensively on the field and it helps Texans in general off the field.
The defensive player raised some million for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts across Texas, a sizable chunk of the cost of rebuilding. The JJ Watt Foundation has raised millions to fund after-school athletics in the state and Watt personally intervenes to take care of burdened Texas families – like those of the Santa Fe High School shooting victims.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Wentz was raised in North Dakota and played football for ND State but the Eagles quarterback can often be found elsewhere. With other Eagles players, he helped raise half a million dollars to build a sports complex in ravaged areas of Haiti and his Audience Of One Foundation operates a food truck that can be seen on the streets of Philadelphia, handing out food to those in need. In true food truck fashion, the truck’s name is “Thy Kingdom Crumb.”
When he’s not building in the developing world or handing out food, he’s running a series of summer camps to give youth in urban areas a true outdoor experience.
Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos
Brandon Marshall, a Las Vegas native who attended UNLV, was one of many NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem protests. But rather than just make a statement for the cameras, Marshall decided to take action off the field as well. After he took his first knee on Sept. 8, 2016, Marshall met with Denver police chief Robert White to facilitate dialogue between urban communities and the Denver police.
Michael Thomas and The First Step, founded by community philanthropist, Scott Van Duzer, a focuses on making genuine, lasting connections between kids and local law enforcement.
Michael Thomas, New York Giants
Whenever a list of the NFL’s most charitable players is written, Giants safety Michael Thomas has to make the list. Though he doesn’t necessarily operate his own foundation, he is a prolific volunteer in the Florida area and beyond (until 2018, he was with the Miami Dolphins).
The Houston native assisted in raising money to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, he helps young kinds interact with community leaders and local law enforcement through a program called “First Step,” he’s an active Big Brother and a volunteer for Food for the Hungry.
“The best thing you can give to these kids in these communities is time,” he told Points of Light, “show that you actually care.”
That’s the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees, an Austin, Texas native who played for Purdue in Indiana and was originally drafted by the San Diego Chargers, has forgotten none of those places. And he certainly hasn’t forgotten about New Orleans… or anywhere else, for that matter. He founded the Dream Brees Foundation in 2003 to support cancer victims, in memory of his wife’s aunt, who died of cancer. Brees and his organization have raised million to support those programs.
He donates millions to hurricane victims, including those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Sandy, and of course, Katrina. He also helps fund the Purdue football team and, through Operation Kids, helped rebuild and restore youth athletic programs, parks, and playgrounds, and neighborhood revitalization programs throughout New Orleans. He even routinely visits deployed US troops on tour with the USO.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
Eli is definitely elite among generous athletes. He was named to Forbes 2012 Most Generous Athletes list for a sizable donation to his alma mater’s, University of Mississippi, sports program, named one of the the top philanthropists under age 40 in 2015, and even funds an operational clinic for children at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Co-Winner also matched donations for Hackensack University Medical Center’s “Tackle Childhood Cancer” initiative, which ended up raising .5 million.
Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers
Sherman, the Stanford-educated cornerback, founded Blanket Coverage – The Richard Sherman Family Foundation, an organization dedicated to channeling its resources to “ensure that as many children as possible are provided with proper school supplies and adequate clothing.”
He doesn’t stop at clothing. He also works with Microsoft to bring surface computer labs to underfunded high schools in places like his native Compton, Calif. and has affected more than 10,000 students in Los Angeles alone.