As Citizen editor Larry Platt said this week, Sunday’s Super Bowl is about more than just Eagles vs. Patriots. It’s a cultural referendum for our time. “For there is no team more aligned with Donald Trump than the New England Patriots, both personally, and in terms of values represented,” he wrote.”And there is no team in professional sports as socially conscious as our Eagles.”
Leading up to the big game (Fly, Eagles, Fly!) we’ll profile two players a day whose commitment to social causes rivals their hustle and determination on the field. These are players who are using their time, money and platform to make the city and world a better place. In our eyes, that makes them winners no matter what.
Nick Foles, Quarterback
According to the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, a non-profit organization that promotes healing and justice for victims of child sex abuse, 1 in 10 children in the United States will be sexually assaulted before turning 18. In the Philadelphia area alone, the PCA works with more than 3,000 children.
To Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, these statistics are staggering. “It sort of blew my mind,” Foles said in a video last year for the PCA. “It’s our duty as people in this community to help others.”
That’s why Foles partnered with teammates Jordan Hicks and Trey Burton to donate $50,000 last year to the PCA, a donation that they are now hoping the public will match through the hashtag #Give5ToPCA.
Foles’ support for those in need began as a student at The University of Arizona, where he became a mentor to four brothers from an underprivileged home in Tucson. Each weekend, Foles would spend time with the brothers, whose names were Aaron, Jose, Chris, and Anthony, and still reaches out to help them in any way he can.
Carson Wentz, Quarterback (injured)
Quarterback Carson Wentz, a dog lover, first witnessed the way service dogs can change the lives of those with physical disabilities after visiting Canine Partners for Life in Chester County. Through his foundation, AO1, Wentz last year donated $120,000 to the organization, to provide companionship dogs for its clients. AO1, which stands for Audience of One, also helps provide service dogs to youth in Philadelphia, and gives hunting and outdoor opportunities to individuals with physical needs in North Dakota, where Wentz grew up.
Last May, Wentz traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with Mission of Hope, a Christian organization that supports families on the island. On the trip, Wentz helped paint houses and filmed a short video to raise awareness of the need and beauty of the people he encountered.
For his continued dedication to the community, Wentz was named the Week 3 NFL Players Association Community MVP this season.
Lane Johnson, Tackle
First, Lane Johnson announced he’d be donating $165—his jersey number—for every Eagles touchdown this year, to St. Jude’s Research Hospital. Then, in October, he launched a clothing line, LJ65, with all proceeds going to the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, a nonprofit that raises money for the city’s schools.
“Education plays a vital role in success, whether students are aspiring to become a professional athlete or the president of the United States, education is mandatory,” Johnson says on his website.
But he didn’t stop there. As the Eagles headed into the playoffs, Johnson and teammate Chris Long put out a limited edition “underdog” t-shirt, which is said to have raised $100,000 for the schools before selling out. He also worked with oldies.com to sell dog masks to benefit the schools; those sold out quickly, too. As a final act—until the field—Lane and Long convinced the NFL to donate proceeds from its underdog t-shirt sales to Philly schools, too.
Torrey Smith, Wide Receiver
Each year, Torrey Smith stands in front of a group of boys from inner city Baltimore, telling them about his father’s addiction to drugs and alcohol and how he overcame those challenges to achieve his goal of attending college.
This speech kicks off the three-day L.E.V.E.L Teen Summit, an annual program dedicated to high school boys who face the same sort of challenges as Smith did. L.E.V.E.L Teen Summit is hosted by the Torrey Smith Family Fund, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide youth with the tools they need to identify, unleash and reach their full potential.
In addition to L.E.V.E.L Teen Summit, the organization also has a Back to School Fun Fest, which donates school supplies to young students; a Reading Oasis, which created several reading rooms in Baltimore school; a Holiday Cheer program to prepare meals and purchase gifts for families in need and the L.E.V.E.L STEM and Sports Camps. In memory of Smith’s late brother, a $5,000 scholarship is also available through his organization.
In 2016, Smith traveled to Flint, Michigan to help deliver 34,560 bottles of water, $30,00 worth of adult cleaning wipes, and $5,000 worth of baby cleaning wipes. For his efforts in communities throughout the nation, Smith has been nominated as his team’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year three times.
Trey Burton, Tight End
As a child of a single mother, Trey Burton turned to his late grandfather, John McClintock, and his two high school coaches, John Peacock and Larry Shannon as father figures. As an NFL athlete, Burton now gets involved with charities that help children overcome the struggles he faced without a father in his life.
Burton, along with teammates Jordan Hicks and Nick Foles, donated $50,000 to the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, a non-profit organization that promotes healing and justice for victims of child sex abuse in Philadelphia, serving more than 3,000 children each year. They are now campaigning for the public to match that donation with the hashtag #Give5ToPCA.
“I think it is extremely important for kids to know about the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, just to know…that they have someone in their corner,” Burton said in a video on the PCA’s Give 5 To PCA website.
Check out the full video here.
Vinny Curry, Defensive End
The Rush2Victory Twitter page shows a picture of a pile of thank you cards from students at Alain Locke Elementary School, after Vinny Curry came to meet his young fans and speak with them about achieving academic excellence, as part of his Rush2Lead program.
Curry founded Rush2Victory with a mission to provide economically-challenged students with a voice of motivation, empowerment and encouragement. The Foundation also has a Rush2Learn program that provides books and technology tools to students in need.
Last season, Curry gave back to his community again by donating 200 Thanksgiving meals to families in need through his second annual Thanksgiving Rush program. After receiving a $10,000 donation from the NFL Players Association for his recognition as the Week 11 Community MVP, Curry repeated the effort by donating another 200 meals during the December holidays.
Brandon Graham, Defensive End
As he grew up in Detroit, Brandon Graham used football and his supportive parents to escape difficult circumstances he faced. Now, he and his wife, Carlyn, are dedicated to helping kids escape those same environments. The couple founded Team Graham, an organization that supports underserved youth facing hardships as they strive to become better people. Team Graham hosts the Select 100 Camp, which gives five boys and five girls from each of Detroit’s 20 public schools the opportunity to participate in a football camp that focuses on team building, healthy eating and other valuable skills. The organization also hosts a celebrity bowling fundraiser to support non-profit organizations in Detroit.
This year, Graham is also giving a fan the opportunity to watch the Eagles at the Super Bowl. Those who donate $10 to Team Graham will be entered in a chance to win two lower-level Super Bowl tickets as well as up to $4,000 in travel expenses. Those who wish to donate have until midnight on Feb. 2 to do so.
Zach Ertz, Tight End
As the holidays approach each year, volunteers gather at the Bringing Hope Home’s office in Malvern, Pennsylvania to wrap hundreds of donated gifts. Videos on the organization’s website show families, some of whom are clad with Eagles jerseys, smiling as they package the gifts and deliver them to the homes of families struggling with a cancer diagnosis.
Since its founding in 2008, Bring Hope Home has supported over 4,000 local families and raised over $4.7 million in assistance through their Adopt-A-Family program, a program that Zach Ertz partners with each year. After doing all of a family’s holiday shopping, Ertz hosts the family at a home game, where he gives a tour of the locker room and hands out presents.
Malcolm Jenkins, Safety
As a positive force in more than one community throughout the nation, Jenkins founded The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation in 2010, a non-profit organization with the a mission to provide resources, experiences and opportunities to underserved youth. The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hosts a youth-development programs called Next Level Youth Football Camp, and Get Ready Fest, a program that supporters families in need of food.
The foundation’s Malcolm Jenkins Scholars program has also raised more than $100,000 in scholarship for first generation college students who have completed the Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S program. Last February, Jenkins was awarded the Byron “Whizzer” White Award for his outstanding charitable efforts off the field. Jenkins, having won this award, was given $100,000 to donate to the charity of his choice. With a presence in New Jersey, Columbus, Ohio, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation has helped thousands in need. He also wrapped up his column for The Citizen where he covered criminal justice and talked about his journey to becoming a more engaged citizen.
Chris Long, Defensive End
This season, Long donated all 10 of his NFL game checks to support education equity and opportunity in Charlottesville—where he grew up, and where he donated his salary from the first six games—Philadelphia, St. Louis and Boston. As part of his Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign, Long challenged fans in the four cities where he has played ball to join him in supporting education, promising another $50,000 to the city that raised the highest amount. Philadelphia by far was the leader, collecting over $414,000 to support the city’s Summer Search chapter. In total, Long and fans raised more than $1.3 million.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate,” Long said when he announced the Pledge. “I want to use my platform to affect change.”
Long was named the Week 2 NFL Players Association Community MVP during the 2017 season for his charitable initiatives.
As the Eagles headed into the playoffs, Long also worked with teammate Lane Johnson to raise another $100,000 for the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia through “underdog” t-shirts, and also got the NFL to donate proceeds from their underdog shirts to the schools as well.