In these days when professional athletes seem to have egos larger than the stadiums they play in, there are still a few who show humility. When renowned coaches are headed to jail and when $22 million per year is not enough money for one player’s salary, there are still a few athletes who remember what life is really about.
I have mentioned from time to time on this site that we are a sports-loving household. We follow all sports, all the time, all year-round. Our boys know their teams, players, lineups, records and stats. In fact, my son, who just turned eight, spends much of his making up football plays. He is currently ranked in the top fourth percentile in the country in the Yahoo Citizens Sports fantasy football league. Seriously.
This week, when he got to meet one of his idols and watch him pay it forward, it meant the world to us; to my son because he got to meet one of his idols and to me because it showed my son that you do not have to become arrogant or egomaniacal when you have reached a certain level of success in life.
Here’s how it happened. Each year in Philadelphia, the Eagles Youth Partnership (@EYP) and the local sports radio station, Sports Radio WIP (@SportsRadioWIP), host a weekend long radio charity telethon. Through the years the Philadelphia Eagles’ have earned international acclaim for their incredibly strong commitment to the community. The Eagles Youth Partnership helps over 50,000 low income children in the region each year, focusing on health and education programming. Each year the EYP and players from the Eagles surprise a local school by building a playground with murals, mosaics, landscaping and even a mini Eagles practice field.
Getting back to the story, enter my father-in-law, the man who does not smoke, drink, overeat, gamble or play golf – but whose vice is this auction. The combination of professional sports, charity and the opportunity to do something special for your only grandkids is the thrill of the year for him.
This year’s big win was the chance to have Eagles’ running back Ronnie Brown head to my son’s elementary school. In the most humble, appreciative tone you would ever imagine from a professional athlete, Ronnie delivered a powerful message to students about the importance of teamwork, being kind to your peers and working hard in school. He never once mentioned that he was the second overall NFL draft pick, that in college he was named MVP of the Capital One Bowl or that he is such a great athlete he had also been drafted by the Seattle Mariners to play baseball. Instead, he spoke about his strong bond with his own childhood friends and the pride he has in his education.
Soft-spoken and kind, Ronnie was also incredibly patient with the kids’ questions, especially those who are not football aficionados. He did not miss a beat when a child asked him how much money he makes, responding with a laugh, “Enough to pay the bills.”
As you’ll see in the photos below, my son hung on his every word and had a sore neck that evening to prove it. Thank you so much to the Eagles Youth Partnership, SportsRadio WIP, my father-in-law and especially to Ronnie Brown for giving my son and his classmates a thrill they will remember for years to come.