Charitable NFL Athletes Doing Their Part off the Field


Being given such a huge platform is not commonly taken for granted by successful players in the National Football League. With such tremendous salaries and popularity, professional athletes often understand the impact they have on their communities, and do their part in helping others.

While the media and fans have been focusing on national anthem protests this past year, players all over the league have been helping their communities and donating their time and money to causes they are passionate about; something that has been, unfortunately, overshadowed by more political issues.

One of the first charitable acts we saw this season was that of Deshaun Watson donating his first ever NFL game check to victims of Hurricane Harvey. This was an incredibly selfless decision considering the fact that Watson is in his first ever season as an NFL quarterback, yet still understood the impact he could make by simply helping out people within his community. This is something that many NFL veterans have done as well, with the following being just a few of many.

Patrick Peterson

The shutdown cornerback of the Arizona Cardinals may be well known for his success on the field, but many fans may not know that he started the Foundation for Success, which aims to provide lower-income and inner city youths various resources in order to help them succeed in life.

Charles Johnson

The Carolina Panthers defensive end has been offering college scholarships to high school students attending his alma mater, Hawkinsville High School in Hawkinsville, Georgia. As if that wasn’t charitable enough, Johnson is active in the real estate market as well, having built affordable housing for seniors in Columbia and Rock Hill, South Carolina. He is also currently assisting with the convergence of an old Charlotte firehouse to a new restaurant; a $3.3 million project.

Chris Long

Following the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Chris Long of the Philadelphia Eagles pledged to donate every single one of his game checks to high school scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, while also raising awareness for the atrocious acts that took place there. In addition to this, Long is working alongside the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia to help with scholarships for local middle school students, thereby promoting well-being and education among children.

J.J. Watt

Many people were made aware of J.J. Watt’s incredible fundraising attempts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, but few knew just how much he would raise. The Houston Texans defensive end raised an astonishing $37 million for victims of the hurricane, much of which came from fans around the country.

Inspiration from Special Olympics Athletes

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.