Written by: Beau Allen

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Bringing Back Memories

October 20, 2014

It’s really cool to see the level of support that the Eagles and the NFL as a whole are showing for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone, from the players to the front office and coaches, are really on board with trying to help spread awareness for this cause.

It’s especially cool for me because it’s something that hits home. My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. She’s a 10-year survivor. So obviously breast cancer is something that has impacted myself and my family’s lives on a very personal level.

She was diagnosed when she was 39 years old and she went through chemo for 6 months. At the time, I was 12 years old, in sixth grade I think. I just remember knowing something was wrong and then my parents sat our family down (me, my older brother and younger sister) and tried to explain the situation as best as they could to three young kids who I don’t think necessarily had the grasp of how serious it was.

When you’re younger, you think of your parents as these invincible, immortal beings. And at that age, you don’t really know what cancer is. You just know that it’s a big, scary thing. From my experience, I think my parents, and my mom especially, really tried to shelter us from how bad it was. They didn’t really want us to be scared or worried. That must have been hard for them, and pretty brave on their part.

I remember being confused. My Mom’s hair fell out, she wasn’t feeling good, the chemo was making her sick. As a kid, it’s just kind of hard and confusing, you don’t really know what’s going on. Those are kind of the emotions that were going through my head at the time.

Another thing that stands out to me is how supportive everyone in our community was. Whether it was coming over to help clean up the house or cook us meals (people sent us soooo much food)…everyone was so nice and supportive and really went out of their way to try to help us. That’s one thing that really stands out to me.

It’s weird looking back on it. On one hand, it really made me think about things I hadn’t really thought about before, like how valuable your time with your family is because you never know the things that could happen. Looking back, it makes me realize how strong my parents were – especially my Mom obviously – to go through that and at the same time take care of the family and shelter us from the things that were going on. It really makes me appreciate my parents. I have a lot of respect for them and what they’ve been through.

So it was really great for me to get involved with Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, especially through the NFL. As players, we have such a wide reach, sometimes we don’t even realize quite how wide.

A few weeks ago, my teammate Mark Sanchez and I helped kick off the team’s BCA campaign. We went over to the Linc and hung out with some families whose lives are being affected by breast cancer. We introduced ourselves, hung out with them and painted some chairs pink; chairs that ended up in the Linc for the game that week against the Rams. It formed a pink ribbon in the stands, which was really cool to look at. I shared my story a little bit. Then we told them that we were giving them tickets to the game.

It was cool for me to hang out with families that were in a bit of a similar situation that I was once in when my Mom had breast cancer. I could definitely relate to some of these kids and their families. Not everybody’s stories are the same, everyone’s has a different situation with the cancer, but it is affecting everybody who was there in different ways. It’s hard and scary, and in that sense, I could relate to them.

I actually didn’t really tell them too much of my story. Looking back, I wish I had done that more, to be honest. At the time, I didn’t really want to make it about me. I wanted to hang out with them and try to have fun and be funny and keep things lighthearted. Looking back, I would have liked to tell them my story a little bit more so I could have said, “I know it’s scary, I know how things are right now, but it worked out okay for me and my family.”

I started growing out my hair about five years ago, and I’ll donate it eventually to an organization. I’m going to use it to help raise awareness for cancer and breast cancer. When I eventually donate it, hopefully I’ll be able to raise awareness and money and make a fun event out of it. I’m not quite ready to part with it, but when I do, I think it will be a fun thing. For now, I have my long hair, and it kind of reminds me of the things my family went through, what my Mom went through, and how strong they were. It’s kind of corny, but it’s true.

As players and a league as a whole, we get a lot of exposure. We have the opportunity to help raise awareness for different things. And in the future, I plan on volunteering a lot more of my time to helping families and sharing my story. I’ll try to do whatever I can to help. 

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Written by: Justin Forsett

My Game For Grandma

October 17, 2014

I got off the plane when we landed in Tampa on Saturday night and Coach Harbaugh let me drive 40 minutes to Lakeland (where I grew up) to see my Grandmother for a little bit.

My goal was for my Grandma to be at our game in Tampa last Sunday. But when I saw her, I understood why that couldn’t happen. When I walked into the house (the house she’s lived in since I was born), she was eating, trying to eat. And I was just watching her struggle to feed herself. That’s a difficult thing to see. She’s on bed rest, laying in one of those hospital beds. She’s lost a lot of weight. My aunt and uncle, who take care of her, say she has trouble falling asleep a lot of nights. Her memory…she’s not really able to recall who we are or some of the times that we had.

My Grandma has Alzheimer’s. And her health has declined a lot since she was diagnosed a little over a year ago. I heard that she wasn’t doing well, but it’s a different thing to see it and be there with her. It adds a whole new perspective.

I’m not sure if she recognized me. When I was talking to her, she was dozing in and out. I showed her a picture of me, my wife and my son at the White House. I was all excited, telling her this is a picture of us at the White House and she was like, “Okay, okay.” She acknowledged that. I asked her if she was going to watch the game the next day and she said yes. I don’t know for sure if she took all of that in, but I think she may have, hopefully at least some of it. I was trying to talk to her, but realizing how far-gone she is now because of this disease, and not getting much from her, wow, it’s tough.

Before this, my Grandma was a healthy woman, always on the go. She was always traveling to come see me play when I was in college. She came to see me when I moved from Florida to Texas in high school. She stayed up late to watch when I was playing on the West Coast. She’d be cheering the loudest from Florida! She’s always been my #1 fan.

And she had a huge impact on my childhood. In my life, she was very present. My parents were very present as well, but they were working a lot, so a lot of times we’d be at my Grandma’s house. Sometimes after school, we’d get off the bus and go straight to her house. She would take us to games and practices and recitals, especially when I was young. She took me on my first airplane ride when I was a kid.

She would always give me words of wisdom. She was heavily involved in the church, working in the church finance department for all of her years. And she would always give me encouraging words. Her favorite verse (Psalm 121:1-2) – and she repeated it all the time – is “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and Earth.”

She would tell me that in high school, college, before every game. Every time she talked to me, every time she called, she would make sure to say it. I’d be like, “Grandma, everything’s going good, I have a girlfriend,” and she’d be like, “Alright now, just make sure you lift your eyes to the hills…”

And when I was in Pop Warner, she would take me to the game, and I’d be talking about the other team saying, “Man, these guys are huge, these guys are too big.” She’d be like, “Don’t worry about it. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” And when I was in college, she’d still say the same thing. ‘Those boys are big out there, but they bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Sitting there looking at my Grandma last Saturday, I was thinking about all of the things she’s done for me throughout the years, especially when it comes to sports. I wanted to give her that game last Sunday. It was in my heart, it was on my mind.

On Sunday, I was still focused on the task at hand. But before the game, thinking about her taking me to games and practices and recitals, all the different things I was involved with, and growing up about 30-40 minutes away from there, it was just a special moment. There was a little more emotion involved in that game. And my aunt and uncle said they had the game on TV for her.

It’s really hard watching her body deteriorate like this. It’s tough because my Grandma was there for everybody. To watch her go down this road with this disease, the family is bracing for the worst-case scenario because we are watching her health continue to decline. It’s been tough.

I won’t be able to get down there until after the season, but I’m definitely planning to go back as soon as I can. It’s so important to appreciate your loved ones while they are around. A lot of people wait until it’s too late to say I love you and I appreciate you. We had the chance to do that last year when we got together as a family (around the time her health was getting bad after the diagnosis) to honor her at a church celebration.

And on Saturday, I at least got a chance to hug her and kiss her…and let her know that I love her. 

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Written by: Chris Maragos

New Town, New Opportunity To Make An Impact

October 16, 2014

The work we do in the community…that’s what’s truly winning in life.

You have kids and people, often in difficult situations, who look up to what we do as NFL players so much. We understand the platform we have and how we can really leverage that to do a lot of great things, like giving people encouragement and hope.

For me, my interest in the community started around age 15 or 16. I was kind of a troubled kid in high school. I was experimenting with drugs. And then during my sophomore year, my faith came into play and things changed. I went from thinking about myself and what’s good for me to what can I do to help other people and shed light on their lives? That’s really when things changed for me.

When you start to understand the things that you have and the position you are in, you just feel so blessed…and you want to give other people that same hope and encouragement that you received yourself.

In college, I helped raised money to put water wells in Africa. We also raised awareness for the AIDS pandemic in Western Africa. I’ve spoken to people in jail, visited children’s hospitals, participated in other people's charity events. Anything I can do…

For me, it’s about, what is the calling? Where is the need? Where can I best invest my time? My family and I are always looking at the best way to help make the biggest impact. We have been talking a little bit about starting a Foundation here.

I’ve always felt that wherever we are living, we are here for a reason and a specific purpose. So where we’re planted is where we want to grow. We really want to invest in the city and the organization and maximize that. But also, with my roots back in Southeastern Wisconsin, doing events and things there is also important. During the summer and offseason, we get back as often as we can.

Moving from Seattle to Philadelphia was definitely a transition, but my wife and I looked at it as an opportunity to keep expanding our horizons, giving back and doing more and more. You have to dive in headfirst. We didn’t know too much about the city, but we were able to get acclimated and adapted quickly.

The Eagles community has been awesome! Everybody out here supports the organization. It’s unbelievable! When you come over from a different team, you’re not quite sure what to expect. But I couldn’t be any happier to be in this city and part of this team.

I hope I can make an impact here. From a football perspective, I want to be accountable every day, work hard, own my role, and be the best teammate I can. In the community, you have to cast stones in a pond and hope that ripple effect goes really wide.

This is a new opportunity to make an impact. 

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Written by: Chase Blackburn

Cancer: And The Major Impact It’s Had On My Family

October 14, 2014

It’s kind of always Breast Cancer Awareness Month for my family. But in October, getting to wear the pink gear – the cleats and the clothes – really means something. Some of the guys like to wear something new so they look sweet or whatever on the field. But for some of the guys, like me and DeAngelo Williams and a few others, we take the pink to another level because it’s impactful on our lives.

My wife’s Mom is a breast cancer survivor and so is her aunt. Since they both had it, my wife Megan was checked for the breast cancer gene. She doesn’t have it (as far as that specific gene goes), but that’s just one gene and there are other causes and factors for the disease. With it running in her family, this made me realize right away that we have to always be aware of it.

We have three boys, and growing up with their Mom is a huge, important factor. My wife is always aware of it and checking and staying up to date on everything…you just never know. It’s a full-time awareness level for all of us. Our boys need their Mom.

Megan and I wanted to do something to help raise awareness for cancer, but we were trying to figure out exactly what we wanted to do and focus on. Then her mom was diagnosed (she’s a five-year survivor now) and her aunt is also a survivor. Also, two kids from our hometown (she and I both grew up in Marysville, Ohio) had Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of cancer. One of the boys (Megan’s best friend’s brother) passed away from it. And I also played with Mark Herzlich in New York, a Ewing’s survivor. We decided, alright, we know what we want to do.

We started Blackburn Chasing The Cure Foundation a couple years ago to raise awareness for breast cancer and childhood cancers, specifically Ewing’s sarcoma. We have a golf tournament and a football camp each year to benefit the Foundation. Last year we just had a golf tournament because the timing for the camp didn’t work out, but we’re going back to having a football camp again this year. We are also talking about maybe having a 5K walk or run or bike as well, all to raise awareness and funds for the Foundation.

We encourage women to get mammograms, so we are trying to work toward offering women free mammograms because the earlier you catch it, the greater the chance of survival and beating the disease.

In the long-term, we are looking to help families who are going through cancer treatments with their hospital bills, gas cards to help offset the cost of driving back and forth to the hospital, different things like that. We want to help them out and make the process a little bit easier than what it is.

My mother in law just hit the five-year mark of being cancer-free. It’s a huge, important step because after five years, the cancer has a lot less of a chance of coming back. And Mark Herzlich just hit his five-year mark on Oct. 3, so those are huge situations. The other boy with Ewing’s that I mentioned just finished up his treatments about three weeks ago and recently learned that he’s cancer-free… but there’s still a long road ahead.

I’ve felt compelled my whole career to use my platform for the good. That’s how I’ve always looked at it. God gave me this platform to use for the good. Whether it is by doing charity events, going to see kids, running a football camp, or raising awareness for cancer, I know I can have an impact in a positive way. It’s amazing to see the impact we make on the lives of kids with the cancer…just being around us, giving them that extra bit of support. It puts a smile on their faces and allows them to get through it a little bit easier.

I read Mark Herzlich’s book “Whatever It Takes” and one of the biggest messages he had in there was to stay positive. Your mindset and the power of your will is the greatest tool you have. He and my mother-in-law said just stay positive. Go into it with a positive attitude and realize that God has a plan greater than the cancer…just try to stay positive throughout it all. 

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Written by: Michael Thomas

Ready For Whatever Comes My Way

October 10, 2014

Being a real part of this team. Aw man, it’s a feeling that I can’t even really explain. I’ve been on the opposite side of this, on the outside looking in, coming from a practice squad, where you’re not necessarily part of the team, but you’re still in a position that many people are fighting to get to. A lot of people look at it from the perspective that it’s better than sitting at home, but I felt like, man, I really want to play because I know I can.

So now be part of an organization, be part of a team where my teammates and coaches are counting on me and putting me in a position to make plays on Sundays, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. I’ve been dreaming about playing this game since I was a kid. And it really is – for me – the greatest feeling in the world.

When I went through the process of going undrafted, getting cut, getting cut again…it was humbling. It made me understand that this was not going to be given to me; I was going to have to work. But now that I’ve been given the opportunity and am taking advantage of the opportunity, it’s given me the perspective that this is the journey that I’ve had to take. So now when I see other guys going through it, practice squad guys who have their head down thinking ‘dang, I didn’t make the team,’ I hope I can inspire them to see that all you have to do is keep working because when you get your opportunity (it might come, it might not) you have to be ready. So don’t take being on the practice squad for granted. Use every day to work and get better. My journey is a reminder to me that this could be taken away from me. I don’t take any of it for granted.

It was cool because I had a chance to go back and talk to the rookies at our Rookie Success Program and share my story with them, let them know the route I took, what I had to go through. I also talked to them about the financial part – how you get all these checks for the first 17 weeks of the season and then the checks just stop coming during the offseason. So budgeting is a key factor, you have to plan accordingly for how you’re going to live. You have to be smart about your budgeting and not try to live a certain lifestyle just because people expect you to. I let them know the good and the bad stories, that I’ve been through this and that, and if you need anything, just let me know.

I know that this game can end at any give moment. Just think of the guys, some even the faces of their teams, who got injured, got too old, whatever. And then all of a sudden they’re out of the league. What do you do? That mentality is making me proactively try to educate myself further by doing things like internships and anything I can do to prepare myself for life after football.

Outside of football, I’ve thought about learning about sales and business or marketing and real estate. So this past offseason I did a job shadow at an offshore marine sales company. I learned about what they did, how they sold their products, how they made the ships run, how they recruit and contract people. That was all very interesting.

I did another job shadow at a luxury real estate company, where I was able to see a bunch of very nice properties in the downtown Miami area. I was trying to see if that’s something I could see myself doing – showing properties to people, making certain pitches, learning the ins and outs of that business. That was interesting for me too.

In college, when other people were doing internships, I didn’t really get the opportunity to dive into that…football was majorly time-consuming during college. So I’m making sure to get it in now. I’m still learning and dabbling, but I figured out that I really like business recruiting. And I am definitely going back to school at some point and will maybe get a master’s in business.

One thing we talk about in our Player Engagement programs is leveraging your NFL identity. If you can get your foot in the door with certain businesses and network now, while you still have the NFL title next to your name, it’s only going to help you out and set you up to have great success in the future once you’re done playing football. 

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Written by: Colt Anderson

October BCA Month Hits Close To Home

October 10, 2014

The month of October is a special month for my family, both my Mom’s and my Dad’s sides of the family. Both of my Grandmas were affected by breast cancer. Unfortunately my Mom’s Mom passed away Oct. 3rd, 41 years ago, and we always are thinking of her. My Dad’s Mom is a survivor, so to this day, we consider her a hero and a strong woman.

One way I recognize them is by wearing pink in October. When I first got to the NFL, I thought the whole pink thing was more – how do I put it? – about fashion, but I started wearing it in honor of my Grandmas. Every year, I still give my Grandma who’s alive a pair of my cleats and gloves to say thanks for being a role model and thanks for being so strong. And when it comes to my Grandma who passed away, we always talk about her and how strong she was. My Mom always talks about the kind of woman she was. It’s definitely a special month for us, and we are always thinking of them both.

Breast cancer definitely has affected our family drastically. The disease took one of my Grandma’s lives and my other Grandma had a double mastectomy. We’ve seen what breast cancer can do. We’ve seen the tragic affects it can have on families. And it doesn’t just affect women; it can affect men. I had a teammate in Philly, Kurt Coleman (he plays with the Chiefs now), whose Dad had breast cancer. That really opened my eyes to the fact that breast cancer doesn’t just affect females. His Dad is thankfully a survivor.

The NFL does a great job bringing awareness to not only breast cancer, but cancer as a whole, during October. I know we wear pink for breast cancer, but cancer in general is a terrible thing. It means a lot to me to be affiliated with a league that places such a high priority on raising awareness of the disease. Especially during the month of October, when all those women are out on the field, some that are fighting it, some that have fought it, the survivors…it makes you realize how special life is. It brings a tear to my eyes to see all the men and women out there in their pink. It kind of makes you realize how fast life can be taken away and makes you appreciate life more.

As far as my family goes, we are always talking about it and making sure we take the precautionary steps. And I try to volunteer as much as I can.

To anyone reading this that may be affected by breast cancer in some way: thank you for being so strong. What we do as NFL players on Sundays is minor to the battle you are fighting. I’d like to say thanks for being such great role models to us players.

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Written by: James Jones

My Homeless Beginnings

October 07, 2014

I grew up homeless for the first 15 years of my life. I was in and out of homeless shelters, in and out of motels. My mother and father were heavy drug users. Actually, a lot of my family members were heavy drug users. It was a rough childhood. Nobody knew how hard my situation was but me.

I moved in with my grandmother when I was going into high school. By moving in with her, I was able to go to the same high school for all four years, able to have the same friends, have the same home to live in, have some stability for the first time in my whole life.

My main inspiration and my main hunger to be successful was my mom. When I was real young, I want to say maybe four or five years old, I told my mom that I was going to make it to the NFL and buy her a home. I had a vision and a belief that no matter what happened, no matter what anybody said, I was going to make it to the NFL. And that was my main drive. I’m not saying I was the perfect kid and I didn’t get in trouble, but there were a lot times when my friends were going to do drugs or going to sell this or that, and my mom’s face would flash in my head. That would remind me to go the other way or go to the gym. I was extremely motivated to change the whole situation.

Like I say all the time, I’ve played with a lot of guys who may have had more talent than me, but weren’t willing to sacrifice the things that I sacrificed to make it. I had a hunger that I was not going to be denied. And any situation that presented itself that was going to take me off of that course, well, then I went the other way. I told my buddies I’m not drinking, I’m not smoking, I’m not going with you all to do this or that. I stood by that and was truly determined to change my situation. And I did go and buy my mom that home after my rookie year in the league.

I truly think that growing up homeless helps you appreciate the little things a lot more, helps you be grateful for so many things because you grew up wanting what everyone else had. Even now, when I walk into the stadium in the mornings and see that we have an all-you-can-eat breakfast every day, I still can’t believe it. And sometimes I hear guys complaining that they serve the same thing all the time, and in my head, I’m like, ‘Man, what in the world?! This is a blessing. I don’t care if I have to eat a waffle everyday, at least I have something to eat.’

Just like with my kids now. They have their own room, their own bed. They are able to do swim class, play sports and do the things they want to do, everything I didn’t have the opportunity to do when I was growing up. I just appreciate those things a lot more because I’m able to see what my kids have. It’s humbling, but I’m very grateful for all the little things. I think that’s one of the main things I took from being homeless; just appreciate the little things and be humble because at any time it all could be taken away from you.

Today, I do so much in the homeless community because I was once one of them. I understand all of the things that they are struggling with, all of the things that they are going through. When I was living in a homeless shelter, there were so many days that I woke up and wanted to quit or woke up and wanted to do something bad. But, when you have a positive influence in your life or can see someone who has been there – been homeless – doing something positive with their life now…I think it helps people.

To me, it’s more important to touch somebody’s life than to catch touchdowns on the football field. When I first got drafted, when I first made it to the National Football League, I told my wife that I wanted to start a foundation to give back because you can throw for as many yards as you want to throw for, catch as many touchdowns as you want to catch, but at the end of the day, I felt that God put me in this position to help and change other people’s lives. And I felt like if I wasn’t doing that, I wasn’t truly using all of the ability God gave me. I felt like he blessed me to make it to the NFL to do such things as help the homeless shelters because that’s the way I grew up. It means a lot more to me to change somebody’s life, to change a little kid’s life, than to go on the football field and win games or catch 1,000 touchdowns. It means more when I see little kids light up and when I’m able to change their lives and inspire them with my story.

Since I’ve been in the NFL, I’ve been giving back to homeless shelters. But the last couple years I really started telling my story and doing more. My Foundation, Love Jones 4 Kids, throws a fundraiser for the local homeless shelter every year called Toast to Success, where we have a live auction and a wine tasting. When I played for the Packers, the event benefitted a couple of the homeless shelters there. And now that I’m out here, back near where I grew up, we are working with the homeless shelters in this area. It’s not the same shelter I was once in (they actually built a new one that’s way nicer than the one I stayed in), but it’s around the same area. We’re also setting up another event now to donate to a homeless shelter in Oakland. My wife (who runs the Foundation) is getting that set up; to raise some money and donate a meal to them. I have another initiative called 89 Wishes, where we grant 89 wishes to kids who write in to our Foundation. You know, 89 is a lucky number because that’s my football number.

Like I told my wife when we first started the Foundation, I never wanted to have one of these organizations where we just dish out money, but don’t have any relationships with the people. So I go to the shelters as much as I can to talk to the people. My family and I donate a meal to the families there whenever we get a chance. I make sure that my family knows that we are truly blessed. My mother and father help too. We were once in this position, so the least we can do is give back and try to change some people’s lives.

When I serve a meal at a shelter, I sit them all down and talk to them, let them know I’ve sat in the same seats they are sitting in. I tell them not to make any excuses and don’t give up because it can’t get worse than this. Keep striving to do better. Any time that I can get out there and share my story, feed the homeless, talk to them, help give them a positive word and some inspiration that ‘yeah, it’s hard right now, but keep on fighting, it’s going to get better’…that’s what I try to do.

And I really like to have a relationship with the kids. That’s why everything I do through the Foundation is free. When I was in Green Bay, I threw football camps and I always host one in California. Everything is free. And I do it that way because when I was little, my mom didn’t have the money to pay for me to participate in any camps or anything like that. I try to reach out to the kids that way.

Sometimes people ask what type of mark I want to leave on the Bay Area homeless community. To be honest with you, if you were to walk into a homeless shelter and ask the people there, ‘What does James mean to you?’, I would want them to say that he loves us, he cares about us. It’s beyond football or money or any of that. It’s about changing their lives. I just want them to know I care.

Long story short, that is my life story.

Going through all of this is what I truly believe made me the man I am today, and I always feel like God put me in that situation because he felt like I could handle it. It’s a touchy subject in my heart, which is why I try to go out there and inspire people who are homeless today to keep fighting and do great things. 

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Written by: Stephen Tulloch

October: Why It Means So Much To Me

October 03, 2014

Obviously I had a season-ending injury a couple weeks ago. My season came to an end very early, but I’m trying to look on the bright side and make the best of it. So, I am now devoting a lot more time to the community. And October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, happens to be a very important month to me.

I’ve been playing football for a long time and through the game have met many people affected by cancer. When I was 17, I had my first situation of knowing someone who had cancer. And then I went to college at NC State and a good friend and teammate of mine’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I spoke to her the day she died. I told her I would do everything I could to make sure people are aware of the disease, try to find a cure for it and be there for her family. Every year since, I try to invite her family to a game in October (or sometime throughout the season) to show my appreciation for their mother and what breast cancer is.

When I first got to Detroit, my work with cancer really took off. I was mentoring a couple kids who died from brain cancer. I was honored to get to know them, and I felt that I brought a sense of enjoyment to their lives being that I’m an athlete. And they brought a sense of enjoyment to my life. That experience made me think, man, I can’t believe that these kids are 8 and 10 years old dying of cancer. I felt like I needed to gear my Foundation a little more toward cancer in general.

Through the Stephen Tulloch Foundation and Operation 55, we do something different every month. September was Child Cancer Awareness Month, when we invite 55 kids from Angels of Hope, which is a family cancer center out here, to home games. We also invite 55 people dealing with breast cancer to games. We get them tickets, T-shirts, they come to the game and are able to get their mind off of cancer for a couple hours.

Last year was the first year I started my ‘Evening of Hope’ event in Detroit. This year’s event is coming up next Friday, Oct. 10 (it was supposed to be today, but we had to move it due to my injury situation). We invite about 100 people who either have dealt with breast cancer or are going through breast cancer, and they can each bring a guest, so we have about 200-250 people. The event gives them a sense of hope and a place where everybody can get together and talk about their own experience, how they overcame it. It’s cool that everybody can come out and just be themselves, no matter what the situation is. Lean on each other, laugh and just enjoy themselves.

This year’s event is pretty unique and a little bit ironic. Our GM Martin Mayhew’s wife is a breast cancer survivor as well. So we teamed up with her Foundation and are doing some things together. We’re making it grow. We have room for improvement, but it’s good to be able to give back.

For me, my commitment to the community goes back to my Mom. She raised three kids and worked crazy hours, but she always found time to give back to people that were less fortunate, even though we didn’t have much. She was a private nurse at a nursing home, working with elderly people for many years. I used to go to the nursing home and help push the wheelchairs and bring them food.

When I got to high school and college, I continued to want to get involved in the community and help people…and the same thing when I got to the NFL. Man, it’s a privilege to play in this league. It’s a blessing to be here, to have this opportunity, to play nine years. I pinch myself every day. I don’t see myself as different from anyone else, but people look at me as an NFL player, and because of that, I have the ability to put a smile on their face. And it’s nothing for me to do that. Just devote some time and energy to help people change their lives and give them a positive influence and the extra motivation they might need. Being in the NFL provides us with a unique opportunity and opens up doors that allow us to reach out and help people.

I don’t do this for the media. I have never been a person who needs the media attention or the hype. I do it because I enjoy it. I don’t do it for glory or recognition or trying to get anyone to say, ‘oh yeah, Stephen’s a great guy’ and this and that. It’s nothing but my time to put some joy on people’s faces.

But it’s all very humbling. Every time I have an event, it’s surreal to me to see how many people come out and support it, how many people buy tickets to be a part of the cause and what we believe in as a Foundation. It’s surreal to think about what we put together, and the vision we had, when we started this eight years ago. It’s so big now, and it’s amazing to me that people are donating their time, donating money through tulloch55.com or at our events. Detroit is like my second home and they really appreciate what I’m trying to do here.

It’s just the beginning of what this Foundation is going to be. We are just scratching the surface. I want to do so much more now and after I’m done playing. But I think we’re headed in the right direction. 

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Written by: Micah Hyde

Giving Back

October 01, 2014

The most important thing to me off the field is being a good mentor to people that need it. Whether it’s helping one of my friends or helping kids in elementary, high school or college, I just want to be a good mentor and try to steer them on the right path. I like to share my experience with them and try to be a positive light for others.

I jump at the opportunity to get involved with our team’s community outreach projects. Just the other day, I helped build a playground at a park (a program through the Packers and Humana). This past offseason, I went down to a Germantown, Wisconsin library and read to some kids as part of a program to get kids to read more.

Another community project I’m working hard on is something that came from an idea I had in college at Iowa. During my last semester, we had to come up with a business plan in one of my business classes. So I actually started a foundation, Imagine For Youth. The idea is that people donate sporting equipment and then we clean it up and give to it the Boys & Girls Club and other charities around Iowa. We also got money from the school and were able to purchase new equipment – footballs, basketballs, baseballs, whatever. It was even on the news in Iowa!

Since college, I’ve been working to try to make the Foundation official. There’s a lot that has to be done to set it up officially, and that’s something that I’m focused on.

People are already getting ahold of me on Facebook and texting me saying they have donations to make. I want to go about this the right way, so am waiting until it’s all official before we get started. But hopefully it will be all set soon. Eventually, I want to make it something huge, but right now, it’s kind of local.

Giving back means a lot to me because when I was younger, I went to all these football and basketball camps, and whenever I saw a pro athlete in a positive light, I wanted to be just like them. It could have been a high school football player in my hometown. I didn’t matter; I cherished hearing from them. If I can steer one kid in the right direction, like the way those pro athletes and college and high school players showed me the light, then I’ll be happy.

I’m from a small town in Ohio (about 13,000 to 14,000 people) and I always try to carry myself in a way that my hometown community would like. Everyone is behind me and shows me the most love and support than I’ve ever had in my life. I know they want to see me do well. They also want to see me do well for the community. So I am trying to do things the right way and be someone they can be proud of. 

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Written by: Torrey Smith

A Day In The Life

September 26, 2014

I’m always excited when football comes back around. The offseason is so long, coming back feels like the first day of school. You can’t wait to get going, can’t wait for the games to start up and get back around your teammates.

Sometimes people wonder what our schedules are like during the season. Between taking care of your body, practicing, preparing for the next opponent and watching game film, football takes up a lot of time. For us, Monday is our off day. Tuesday you come in from about noon to 4pm, but most guys get there at about 9am because you need time to take care of your body. I’m there at 9am. Wednesday and Thursday are the long ones, from about 7am to 5:30pm. Typically, Fridays are fast Fridays, when we get in and out a little quicker. That’s kind of when you get some family time in. I have a wife and a child, so it’s nice to spend the day with them on Fridays.

People only really see the three hours you put it on gameday, but they don’t see all of the preparation and hard work that goes in before each game. That’s why it might be hard to understand how disappointing it is to lose after putting in so much work. Losing a game is like studying hard for a test and then failing it.

On Mondays and/or Tuesday mornings when we have free time, many of us use that time to get out in the community. Most of us players understand that by being in this position, a lot of people look up to you and there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. We love being role models and we love being able to use this platform to help others. There are hundreds of guys around the league that are trying to better our communities.

So for example, on Monday, I started off at a high school. My Foundation, the Torrey Smith Foundation, launched a Reading Room at Benjamin Franklin High School. The room is kind of like a lounge, a comfortable place for the students to read. We decorated the room with Ravens everything and donated about 700 books to the cause. And I spoke to them about the importance of reading and education, and told them my story. Then I headed over to a shelter to hang out for a little bit. The Foundation is checking out what we are going to do for the holidays, so I have been scouting out locations.

The Torrey Smith Foundation (torreysmith.org) is about helping others and providing students with what they need educationally. We also help families because I know exactly what it’s like growing up in a tough situation where you might not have everything that you need. There are a lot of people out there that need help, and I’m glad that we can lend a hand.

Playing at the University of Maryland and then having the opportunity to be here and help out in the same city where a lot of people watched me play in college…it’s something that I love. It’s also awesome to be able to help out a lot of kids that I know can directly relate to me and how I grew up. That’s why I love being a role model for them. I love the responsibility of it.

My long-term goal for the Foundation is to one day have a center, but I will definitely continue to help people, especially around holidays and back to school time. It’s definitely a long-term commitment and something I’m really dedicated to.

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