So. The Philadelphia Eagles‘ season did not end like any self-respecting American (OK, maybe just Philadelphia) football fan expected or wanted it to. Even though Philly got 100 percent behind our Birds, lighting our homes, businesses and skyscrapers green, chalking our kids’ hair the same shade, turning our Christmas wreaths into player shrines, riding SEPTA buses with marquees blinking, “E-A-G-L-E-S!!!,” swapping out “Go Birds” for greetings and goodbyes, delaying schools, greasing poles … This time, it wasn’t enough to turn our NFC champs into NFL champs. Next year.
Know what, though? The Birds didn’t just pull off their third-winningest season on record, they got behind us just like we got behind them. Here, we salute (and profess our love) for the Eagles for the work they have done and are doing off the field to support local communities.
There’s star QB Jalen Hurts, who in addition to being one of the first two Black quarterbacks to play in a Super Bowl (alongside the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes), intentionally employs an all-female management team, has donated a significant portion of his $1 million salary to charity, and put aside $70,000 for his sister’s education.
There’s another reason to love our Eagles: the work they are doing off the field to support local communities.
There’s Brandon Graham, the Eagles’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, nominated for his personal work back home in Detroit and his commitment to the Eagles Autism Foundation. There is the slew of players who took part in the My Cause My Cleats program, allowing them to spotlight a cause on their cleats during Week 13’s game against the Titans.
Then, there’s the organization’s massive — so far, they’ve awarded over $16 million — commitment to including and assisting people, both spectators, local orgs and, now international research, on the autism spectrum, as spearheaded by owner Jeffrey Lurie, who grew up with a brother with autism.
(Super Bowl impact fact: This week, the Eagles built a sensory room at State Farm Arena that will stick around long after the NFL Championship ends. The organization is also creating sensory bags containing noise-canceling headphones, fidgets, and Swoop stuffies — wearing tiny headphones! — to give fans before and during the game.)
Here, more about the social impact work players are doing off the field:
Jalen Hurts, Quarterback
“One thing that I like to do is be encouraging at all times and uplift those around me. I just wanted to make an impact in the city of Philadelphia, in this area,” said Hurts said in an interview with People.
In 2021, the 24-year-old Houston native donated $30,000 to a family with a 7-year-old son, Erick, who’d been diagnosed with cancer, helping the family move out of their two-bedroom trailer into a larger home. Hurts connected with the family, who lives in Nottingham, Pennsylvania — 55 miles west of Philly — by reaching out to Bala Cynwyd-based Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars for pediatric cancer research and support. During the December 6 game against the Packers, Hurts sported one specially designed Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation cleat (the other repped the Eagles Autism Foundation) to showcase his support for the organization.
Hurts also supports our schools. In 2021, he donated $10,000 to West Philly’s Boys Latin Charter School, in addition to gifting bucket hats to their football team and chatting with students digitally. Hurts visited Philly schools as part of his “Day of Care,” stopping at Nebinger Elementary and Walter B. Saul High School to surprise young fans and answer their questions about his career.
Jason Kelce, Center
In addition to writing a column in The Citizen all about education, Jason Kelce has made a name for himself when it comes to doing good.
Kelce founded the (Be)Philly Foundation in October 2022 with a mission to support youth in the city of Philadelphia. The foundation partners with two organizations: Heights Philadelphia, which helps to support Black, Brown and first-generation students with connections to college and careers, and Coded by Kids, which works to provide kids ages 8-18 from underrepresented groups with access to software development, computer science, and other tech-based entrepreneurship programs.
Kelce also assembled a team of artists and launched Underdog Apparel. Offering hoodies, t-shirts, hat’s and more, proceeds from the sale of merch will go towards supporting Kelce’s foundation.
To top it off, Kelce joined forces with Lane Johnson and superstar vocalist Jordan Mailatta to record a Christmas record benefitting a range of local Philadelphia nonprofits. So far, A Philly Special Christmas has raised more than one million dollars.
Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle
Like many Eagles, Lane Johnson’s philanthropy centers around youth. In front of students from South Philly’s F. Amadee Bregy School, the league’s leading OT announced that he would donate 100 percent of the proceeds from his clothing line, LJ65, to the Fund for the Philadelphia School District, hoping to improve the school district year after year.
The 32-year-old offensive tackle also donated $500,000 to Kilgore College, the junior college where he got his break before transferring to University of Oklahoma, to found an athletic center. This donation was used to build a workout center for the school’s athletes, which staff at the college said was much needed.
Johnson has also supported the Troops First Foundation, an organization that provides assistance to veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he’s been particularly outspoken about his mental health, helping to reduce the stigma around the fact that we all face challenges, that help is out there, and that you’re never alone.
Miles Sanders, Running Back
“I’m watching how the world is, the country is, just trying to help in my way … trying to create change,” Sanders told NBC in an interview earlier this year. It’s this mentality, paired with Sanders’ experience growing up in Pittsburgh and attending camps put on by the Steelers, that motivates Sanders to host football camps for youth.
This past July, back home in Pittsburgh, Sanders hosted the inaugural Miles Sanders Youth Football Camp, which brought together 250 youth ages 6–13 for a day filled with all things football, with an emphasis on team-building and character development. Best of all, the event was completely free for all who attended. (This recalls the free, one-day football camp former Bird Vinny Curry long hosted near his summer house in Ocean City, NJ … great minds.)
Sanders knows the importance of working with the younger generation to ignite change, and the benefit of being exposed to positive role models. “[I’m] Just trying to give these kids a bigger picture when they see guys like me or anybody else because I remember being one of those kids when I was young.” Sanders said in the same interview.
Sanders and his mom, who helped him run the camp, plan to return to Pittsburgh for the second-annual camp this summer.
A. J. Brown, Wide Receiver
In the competitive world of professional sports, athletes often turn to good luck charms and superstitions to help them perform their best during games. For wide receiver AJ Brown, this means carrying 100 dollar bills under his shoulder pads, and slapping on one more with Scotch tape for every 100 yards he exceeds. Brown says that this serves as great motivation, and he strives to reach $1,000 — a goal he has met in two of three of his previous NFL seasons. At the end of the season, Brown donates this money to charity.
This on-field record setter’s philanthropy doesn’t stop there. Brown returned to his Mississippi hometown, Starkville, to run a 7-on-7 summer camp with students from his alma mater, Starkville High School. During the camp’s lunch break, Brown surprised the coach and the students with a check made out for $25,000 to finance the school’s football program.
Throughout his career, Brown has also worked with the Sentencing Project, an organization that fights for criminal justice reform for youth and adults, as well as Charity: Water, a nonprofit that provides clean water to people in developing nations (and that also harkens to another Birds Super Bowl star, Chris Long, Walter Peyton winner for the work his organization, the Waterboys, does digging wells in Africa.)
Haason Reddick, Linebacker
Camden, NJ, native Haason Reddick started helping out the greater Philadelphia community even before he was an Eagle. “The community of Camden helped me become the man I am today,” Reddick said about the toy distribution.
While Reddick was on the Carolina Panthers, he never forgot about his hometown, making a $15,000 donation for toys for students in the Camden Public School District. The toys were distributed at a Christmas bash featuring Santa, food, and toys for everyone.
Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle
Veteran DT Fletcher Cox remains connected to his Mississippi roots: The Super Bowl champion donated $10,000 to provide books to students in his home state, a donation later matched by aforementioned former defensive end Long, for a combined total of 5,000 books.
Additionally, #91 donated $100,000 to the Philadelphia Police Foundation, leading the nonprofit to name him co-chair of the annual “Night for Blue” event. This event honored one of the organization’s founders, Patrick J. O’Connor, and advanced the program’s goal of meeting the police equipment needs not covered by the city.
Brandon Graham, Defensive End
Brandon Graham is this year’s nominee for the 2022 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award — dedicated to an NFL player for their community service contributions and on-the-field play — for good reason. Graham is the President of the Team Graham Foundation.
Based in Graham’s hometown of Detroit, the Foundation offers a variety of programming to support local youth, including Select100, a summer camp for boys and girls with an aim to develop community; Carla’s Circle, which teaches girls about the importance of fitness and mental empowerment through a mentorship program; and an annual backpack supply drive.
Closer to home, Graham partnered with Collegeville Italian Bakery in Montgomery Country to launch a ‘Detroit 55’ Pizza with toppings handpicked by the Eagle himself. $2 from each pizza sold gets donated to the Eagles Autism Challenge, which supports autism research and care.
Darius Slay, Cornerback
Big Play Slay rounds out our list of civically-minded Eagles.
Slay, a native of Georgia, donated 175 meals during the pandemic to frontline workers from Southeast Georgia Health System. The meal donation was a team effort, prepared by two local restaurants, then delivered by a youth nonprofit group.
Each meal came with a handwritten note from Slay: “During this global crisis, we as Americans have turned to [the Health System] and have spoken the words ‘Save Us’. Your years of training have prepared you to care for those who are affected by this horrible virus. You give us and our families comfort during this most uncertain time. I want you to take a few minutes to sit and enjoy a meal.”
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