Brandon Jacobs and the Best Good Guys in the NFL
Far too often headlines surrounding the National Football League are dominated by salacious stories of bounties being offered for injuring opposing players, players driving drunk and going so far as to actually kill someone in the process, and other tales of ignorance and stupidity that leave fans shaking their heads.
However, as San Francisco 49ers running back Brandon Jacobs recently demonstrated the NFL is also filled with genuinely decent human beings who use the opportunity that their fame and fortune has offered them to better the lives of others.
Those are the players that the media should focus their attention on, and it is those types of players that we will feature here.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Brandon Jacobs may have worn out his welcome with the New York Giants, but at least one young fan did everything in his power to convince the running back to remain in the Big Apple.
That child's gesture did not go unnoticed by Jacobs.
Six-year-old Joseph Armento sent Jacobs the entire contents of his piggy bank—all of $3.36—in an effort to try to sway Jacobs to remain with Big Blue.
Jacobs inked a free-agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers, but he did not forget his young fan in New York.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported that while in New Jersey to prepare his family for the move to California Jacobs paid young Mr. Armento a visit.
In addition to giving the youngster an autographed $5 bill (according to Jacobs "He had some interest in there just for being a good kid") the 29-year-old back took his son, Armento, and Armento's younger brother to an area "bounce house", where the NFL star played with the kids for a few hours.
It was just us in the whole place, and we were just going room to room—just bouncing and flipping all over the place, hitting each other with balls, sweating, our shirts filthy. We were just dirty, stinky boys, you know?
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson has yet to take a snap in the National Football League, but the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft has already demonstrated that he is a class act off the field.
Earlier this year, according to a report by ESPN's Shelley Smith, Richardson received a text from Agnew Hall, an Alabama restaurant owner who had once employed Richardson's mother.
The text read "Girl with leukemia can't get a date to the prom. Will you help?"
Almost immediately the young running back, who was in the midst of preparations for one of the biggest moments of his life and whose mother is battling cancer herself, responded "Yes I will".
And just like that, on an April Alabama evening, 17-year-old Courtney Alvis found herself being escorted to dinner and the prom by one of her favorite players, and Richardson made sure that the young lady knew that the night was all about her.
Then, this from Trent as they left dinner and headed for the dance: "We're going to have a lot of fun tonight. I'm not going to sign nothing, not taking no pictures. Ain't got to tonight; it's all about you. Whatever you want me to do."
"Thank you," she said again.
Thank you indeed Trent.
Tim Tebow, QB, New York Jets
Quarterback Tim Tebow is an incredibly popular player, but for all his legions of fans his "aw shucks" attitude and public displays of faith have also rubbed some people the wrong way.
The family of four-year-old Preston Winslow will not be having any of that.
The North Carolina youngster, who tragically lost his battle with leukemia and passed away on May 19, 2012, was all smiles at least for a short time in March after getting to meet and play a little catch with his idol.
Shortly after friends of the family reached out to Tebow's agent Winslow's mother received a surprising phone call according to a report at the time by WTVD-TV via The Huffington Post.
I answer it and I'm like, 'Hello?', and the person on the other end was like, 'Hi Celeste, this is Tim Tebow,' and in shock, I was like 'No way'.
Tebow invited Winslow and his family to his training facility in Tampa, Florida, where the third-year pro spent the day visiting with Preston and tossing around the football as Celeste Winslow relayed to WPTV.
"It amazes me at how much energy he had out there playing and running around. He didn't even want to stop," said Winslow.
As Preston passed the football back and forth with Tebow. The Bronco's quarterback high fived Preston and said, "That was so good buddy. Good job!"
Say what you will about Tebow as a player, but giving a child whose short life was filled with far too much pain and sorrow a day of happiness is an act that is simply unimpeachable.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, topping 5,000 passing yards.
The fourth-year pro's exploits extend off the gridiron as well.
Not only did Stafford donate tickets to an October game between the Lions and Chicago Bears to the recent Griese-Hutchinson-Woodson fundraiser gala for the new University of Michigan children's hospital, but Stafford then bid $15,000 for the tickets and gave them to the family of an ailing young girl.
Stafford spent the evening with the family of young Faith Falzone, who was preparing to undergo surgery. As The Detroit News reported not only did Stafford spend much of the night visiting with the Falzones but once he won the auction he gave Faith's brother Will a gift he won't soon forget.
"Matt asked Will to look at the auction items and tell him what thing he would pick if he could pick one," Will's mother Mary Ann Bell wrote in a blog post. "He set out to make a difference for Will, someone who suffers so much loss from (Faith's) illness. Someone who is so often overlooked in this mess."
"As he won the package he turned to Will and said, there you go buddy, you go to Chicago, and take your family," Bell wrote. "The look on my son's face, I will never forget. His chin began to quiver, he was about to cry. He quickly jumped up and gave Matt a hug, and thanked him over and over again."
Faith is still bravely battling the illness that has caused the removal of much of her colon and ravaged her immune system, but for one evening this fall her family will hopefully be able to put that all aside for at least a few hours thanks to Stafford's kindness.
As heartwarming as all these stories are, it is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as past and present players across the NFL continue to give back to their communities.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has a reputation for charitable acts as long as his name, including helping children in both the Oakland area and his native Nigeria.
Former Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Warrick Dunn's Home for the Holidays foundation has donated over 100 homes and furnishings to single-parent families.
Former Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman famously walked away from football altogether, eschewing his athletic career to fight for his country before losing his life in Afghanistan.
These are the stories that need telling.
Got one? Share it in the comments below, and let's celebrate the good in the National Football League for once.