by Rob Joyce
The NFL is undergoing maybe the roughest 10 days in the league’s 95-year history. The video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé (now wife) started a landslide that Roger Goodell and company have not been able to control. Rice, Greg Hardy of the Panthers, Ray McDonald of the 49ers, and now Adrian Peterson, some of the league’s most recognizable names are under the eye of the law. Now sponsors are starting to respond, which could cause another domino effect. But with nearly 1,700 players on 32 active rosters, these four (believe it or not) do not represent the whole league. To give the NFL a smile, here are seven players who are quintessential “good guys.”
1) Charles Tillman: Tillman had his own bad news this week, with his second consecutive season-ending triceps injury. But that does not take away from the fact that for over a decade the Bears’ cornerback has been a role model. He won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award last season, in large part because of his charitable work. His Cornerstone Foundation was founded in 2005 after his three-month old daughter was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. The foundation aims to improve the lives of critically and chronically ill children in the Chicago area.
2) Jason Witten: Domestic violence is all the talk in the NFL these days. Although you don’t hear about it, the Cowboys’ tight end is one player who understands the severity. Witten created the SCORE Foundation that supports families and individuals affected by domestic violence. The 2012 Man of the Year winner also holds an annual football camp in Tennessee, where more than 1000 children each year attend for free.
3) Drew Brees: Few athletes are as tied to the city in which they play as the Saints’ quarterback. Brees started a foundation with his wife in 2003 to support cancer patients. Then when Hurricane Katrina barraged down on New Orleans in 2005, he was among those who assisted in countless rebuilding projects. This is in addition to multiple USO tours, being the co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. A former Man of the Year and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, Brees is one of the most highly-visible players in the league today.
4) Troy Polamalu: The longtime Steelers’ safety created the Troy and Theodora Polamalu Foundation. The goal of the organization is to help as many causes as possible, depending on an immediate need. Currently the foundation is providing humanitarian aid to American Samoa, the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital and the VA Hospital in Pittsburgh.
5) Peyton Manning: Manning is perhaps the face of the NFL, and rightfully so. Aside from his prowess on the field, Manning has done plenty of work off the field, too. The Peyback Foundation aims to help disadvantaged kids in Louisiana (where he’s from), Tennessee (where he went to college), Indianapolis and Denver (the two cities in which he has played). When Hurricane Katrina struck, Peyton and brother Eli helped deliver 30,000 lbs. of water, diapers, baby formula and pillows to New Orleans’ citizens. A pretty good track record to go along with many major NFL achievements.
6) LaMarr Woodley: The Raiders’ linebacker is from Saginaw City, Michigan, and has given back plenty, especially to the schools. In 2012, the school district faced budget cuts, forcing each student to pay a $75 fee to participate in sports. This caused involvement to drop because many could not afford the fee. In stepped Woodley, who donated $60,000. The money covered the fees for every athlete at his former high school, as well as another high school, a junior high and middle schools.
7) Steve Weatherford: The Giants’ punter is recognized nationwide for his philanthropic efforts. Last year he received the Wellington Mara Award, given out by the organization for outstanding community service. Among Weatherford’s charitable work includes several charities in his native Indiana, including Rush the Punter (a 5K run to raise money for early childhood education) and Kicks for Kids (providing shoes to underprivileged kids). Weatherford is also the spokesperson for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Steve Weatherford Charity for Ghana.