There was a time when he first learned that he was being traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers that wide receiver Ryan Switzer was dreading what the future would hold last summer. A 2017 fourth-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, he was sparsely used on offense as a rookie and already got traded once, to the Oakland Raiders, in April of 2018. In the weeks leading up to his trade, he felt distant from his teammates and coaches. He was considering whether football was really in the cards for him.
Now he is loving life in Pittsburgh, and it has become important for him to give back, as well. He recently revealed that he has been paying weekly visits to the UPMC Children’s Hospital in the offseason, and he talked about that, why he does it, and what he gets out of it.
“The ultimate goal is to just have fun. It’s why I do it. It’s why I go back every Friday”, he said. “Every kid is different. Some are shy. What I have gotten good at it opening that child up. I don’t do a lot of talking. I do a lot of listening. I just like to get different perspectives on life. They are going through things I can’t even fathom. To hear their journey is inspiring. It’s good for them too to open up”.
Many of the children with whom he will be interacting could be at the lowest points of their lives, as he said, going through something from a health standpoint that those who have never been through it, or have watched a close relative experience it, can only begin to understand.
He and Steelers fourth-year offensive lineman B.J. Finney were both at the UPMC Children’s Hospital recently to participate in the annual prom, to which the wide receiver also brought his wife along, and he helped lift the spirits of those there.
He called the decision to participate a “no-brainer”, saying that “it’s a unique opportunity to meet new people. To open up and allow people to see me in a new setting. Also to interact with patients, those who don’t get the opportunity to go to prom and enjoy the experience. It’s a lot of fun”.
I have tried to be more conscious this offseason of promoting the good work that players do in the community as a contrast to the nonsense that draws the headlines to show that there is a lot more to these men’s lives than high school drama. Switzer has been among the most outgoing with his time, it seems, along with Alejandro Villanueva, whom I’ve also discussed today.
While football is and always will be job number one for NFL players, their charitable work is something that many of them take very seriously and are passionate about, often contributing to causes that are close to their heart, but these activities have a much more difficult time to make it to the headlines in contrast to their making a game-winning play or a controversial remark. Let this serve as a reminder of that.