One of the ventures that the NFLPA puts a lot of its time in is fighting back against the notion that its players are simply static, two-dimensional individuals, who only know football. So many players do so much more in their lives, most of which we never heard about, and often, for many of us, we don’t want to hear about, but they are fully fleshed-out individuals like all the rest of us.
This was the idea behind the #AthleteAnd hashtag that they use on Twitter, promoting stories about players doing things off the field. Just a somewhat random example would be Joshua Dobbs’ participating in an externship with NASA, after studying rocket science in college.
But sometimes the biggest thing that athletes do off the field is give back, and we don’t hear these stories enough. Here is one from Zach Banner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who through his B3 Foundation is sponsoring a young man in Los Angeles through his high school journey at a prep school in the area, ensuring that he has no financial worries and can focus on his studies and athletics.
Now he can turn his focus to getting into college, playing the sport he loves, and further developing into a leader. Me and my @b3foundation are honored to know and celebrate this young man. Ready to watch you shine @verbumdeihs young champ! ✊🏾❤️
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) June 14, 2020
“This young man reminds me of myself. Raised by a single mom, hard worker, big dreams ahead of him”, Banner said of the young man, named Da’Marion. “Thanks to the @WattsRams I heard Da’Marion’s story and wanted to make sure his HS expenses were taken care of”.
“Now he can turn his focus to getting into college, playing the sport he loves, and further developing into a leader”, he added. “Me and my @b3foundation are honored to know and celebrate this young man. Ready to watch you shine @verbumdeihs young champ!”.
Through his foundation’s page, we read that his new sponsored care was raised by a single parent. His father passed away when he was young due to gun violence, but he has continued to excel both in the classroom and on the field.
Sometimes the only thing somebody needs to succeed, to ‘make it’, is an opportunity, a break, something to take the pressure off—usually pressure that perhaps some of his or her more well-off peers have never had to face. Socioeconomic status has often been such an impediment.
And so many of these athletes have grown up out of these environments. These are the ones who ‘made it’, so to speak, so that is why so many of them go out of their way to give back to those in whom they can see themselves at a young age. They see the crossroads they once found themselves at, and the direction their life could have gone had things not gone, even if not perfectly, as well as they had.
This is a true feelgood story and I hope to hear many more like it through the B3 Foundation over the years. The more money Banner makes, the more he can pass on to future generations, as so many other players—Mel Blount, to name just one—have done before him, and will continue to do in the future.