Six-foot-three, 300lb lineman Gino Gradkowski is tough. You have to be, playing one of the most heavy-hitting roles on an NFL team. However, he has a soft spot about which he feels strongly and draws a great deal of inspiration from in terms of his own performance in the NFL, and that is the Special Olympics & its participants.
Ever since he was in college at the University of Delaware, Gradkowski has been a huge supporter of the organization and has been active in Special Olympics events. “It’s just fun to get to get to know the athletes, to interact with them, and just to watch them compete and help,” Gradkowski said, when asked about his interest in the cause. “It’s very inspiring for me.”
He feels a deep respect for the athletes of the Special Olympics, both from a motivational perspective but also in terms of staying humble and grounded in his own success. He says it helps with perspective and how he views his own life. He goes on to say,
“Our problems are peanuts compared what they have to deal with day in and day out. And for them to have the passion that they do and the work ethic – it makes you think that there’s nothing that you need to complain about, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give 100 percent.”
After graduating from College, Gradkowski was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, and continued with his involvement in the special olympics. Later, when he joined the Denver Broncos, he immediately got back involved with the Special Olympics of Colorado and was a volunteer at the 2015 games. One event that he worked with specifically and really enjoyed was the powerlifting event- he was a spotter for the athletes. One of the athletes specifically requested Gino’s help, which was a really proud moment for both Gino and the athlete.
“The energy in the gym was unbelievable and it was a lot of fun to get in there and actually be involved,” Gradkowski said. To read more about his special olympics events, check out this article.