Superstar Athletes Who Are Even More Awesome off the Field

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2015

Superstar Athletes Who Are Even More Awesome off the Field

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    Richard Drew/Associated Press

    Us sports fans sure are a spoiled bunch, aren't we? In addition to expecting greatness from our favorite players in their sport, we demand that they live a near-perfect life when not playing their sport too.

    That might be unfair and add a heck of a lot of pressure onto an athlete, but, come on, that's why they get paid millions of dollars every year, because they're supposed to be role models.

    While some have let us down, a few stand out as awesome examples of leadership and humility, doing things that aren't asked of them to help others in even the smallest of ways—and these are a few of them, as these are the superstar athletes even nicer off the field.

J.J. Watt

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    Houston Texans defender J.J. Watt is, arguably, the most feared man on a football field anytime he's in a helmet and pads, but, deep down, he's nothing but a big softy.

    The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has shown that numerous times, not only giving fans a glimpse of his work ethic during HBO's Hard Knocks during training camp, but then his devotion to fans by staying into the night to sign autographs for those waiting for him and interacting with them in other cool ways.

    Oh, and he developed a routine of playing catch with random young fans prior to games this season, too, showing that he's giving youngsters an experience that they'll never forget—while also proving to all of us that he's an absolute monster who can heave a football hundreds of feet into the upper deck with ease.

Andrew McCutchen

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Not only a former league MVP, but also an all-around good guy, Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star Andrew McCutchen has shown that he really likes doing things within his community.

    Recently being awarded the Roberto Clemente Award for his off-the-field work, Cutch has mentioned his desire to use the sport of baseball to give back to others who aren't as fortunate as he is, often giving back as much as he can.

    Whether it's spending a day with a kid for Make-A-Wish or providing Halloween costumes for a local children's hospital, McCutchen is always giving back and leaving people with a smile on their faces.

Russell Wilson

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    One of the most soft-spoken players in the NFL, two-time NFC champ and one-time Super Bowl winner Russell Wilson doesn't keep his mouth shut when it comes to things he believes in.

    A fearless leader, DangeRuss has a tradition that he started during his rookie campaign in 2012 that sees him visit Seattle Children's Hospital every Tuesday, becoming a light for those battling cancer.

    Regularly posting photos of his trips on social media, Wilson takes the responsibility of being the face of the franchise seriously, extending his inspiring words onto those who don't wear a football helmet for a living.

P.K. Subban

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    There's no denying that Montreal Canadiens defensemen P.K. Subban plays with a mean streak that gets opposing fans to taunt him whenever he's in a road game. While Subban eats it up and lets it feed him, deep down, he's a great guy.

    P.K. proved that this past summer when he donated $10 million to the Children's Hospital in Montreal, which is believed to be the largest donation by any athlete to an organization.

    He might be fearless on the ice and known for trash-talking other players, but Subban has a heart of gold, understanding that hockey is just a small part of who he actually is and that, when it ends, he has another legacy that he wants to be remembered for.

Draymond Green

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Much like the aforementioned P.K. Subban, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green has the reputation of being a little obnoxious playing his sport, running his mouth and playing with a blue-collar toughness that many fans find a little too much.

    While Green has improved over his first few years in the league, becoming a triple-double threat and an all-around player, what he has done for his alma mater, Michigan State, is even more impressive.

    That's because Green—who signed a massive extension with the Dubs this past offseason—gave a cool $3.1 million to the Spartans, becoming an athlete who doesn't just say he loves his college, but actually shows it.

    Green has said that the university helped turn him from a boy into a man and that he wouldn't be where he is today without that experience, so what better way to reward a school than giving it millions as a thank you?

Ndamukong Suh

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins gave defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh the largest contact in NFL history last offseason, but even before the former No. 2 overall pick had collected a paycheck from that deal, he was still giving back.

    Known for being, questionably, dirty thanks to unfortunate instances in the past, Suh has shown to be a nice guy off the field, actually being named as the most generous athlete for his donations to his alma mater, the University of Nebraska.

    Sure, Ndamukong Suh plays with an intensity that has gotten him in trouble with the league and has made fans develop a negative perception of him, but that doesn't mean that his real personality matches that tough-guy persona.

Daniel Bryan

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    When an athlete gets inducted into a sports Hall of Fame, it's an honor that is, typically, all about them, giving them the chance to recognize their career and talk about themselves.

    That wasn't what WWE superstar Daniel Bryan did, though, as he wanted to take his moment at the podium to pay tribute to one special fan who inspired him—Connor "The Crusher" Michalek.

    Developing a friendship with Connor during WrestleMania in 2014, Bryan admired and talked about Connor in depth—who passed away from cancer at just seven years old—and left the entire audience applauding and wiping tears from their eyes as the wrestler made the recognition about someone other than himself.

Ronda Rousey

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    Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

    Ronda Rousey may have recently lost her UFC women's title belt to Holly Holm, but she's still, arguably, the most feared lady on the planet, capable of taking down anyone she wants to in just seconds.

    Rowdy Ronda might be frightening inside the ring, but outside of it, she has shown to have a soft spot, doing a number of things for good causes that allow her to have some fun and give back—and that once involved losing her championship belt for charity back in August.

    A big-time advocate of mental health awareness, Ronda Rousey is using her popularity as an icon by doing good for causes that she thinks need some attention.

Serena Williams

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Intense, ferocious and successful. Those are just three words someone might use to describe 21-time Grand Slam singles champ Serena Williams, who has had her fair share of on-court tirades.

    While Serena is ultracompetitive in her sport, she has shown to have a heart of gold off of it, working with a variety of causes and even being named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011, with her main charitable focus being the education of youth.

    Serena is a little standoffish at times, but that doesn't mean she's a bad person—and her work in the community shows that.

Marshawn Lynch

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch might have the reputation of being a grinding, hard-nosed runner with the nickname Beast Mode, but that doesn't seem to be his personality off the gridiron.

    While Lynch gets a bad wrap for doing his own thing and refusing to search for the limelight, being standoffish to media and some fans, he has done things that show he's a great guy at his core.

    In addition to hooking me up with tickets a couple of seasons ago to a Monday Night game—a generous act that he didn't have to do—Marshawn has made news for returning a fan's lost wallet to his house, giving a young worker at a McDonald's hundreds of dollars after chatting him up and reaching out to a mother of a slain high school player.

    Marshawn doesn't seek attention, but he has earned a lot of it for being a good guy through both his charity work with kids in his hometown of Oakland and other random acts of kindness.

Roger Federer

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    Tim Ireland/Associated Press

    Some guys just have all the luck, don't they? One of those people would be 17-time Grand Slam singles champ Roger Federer, who, in addition to dominating his competition, also happened to be one of the nicest people on the planet.

    With too many stories from fans to even describe, Fed is more than just the best men's tennis player ever, but an ambassador for both the game and charitable organizations that has proved to help others.

    Like the aforementioned Serena Williams, Roger Federer has also been named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and is constantly doing things that make fans want to cheer for him—which isn't often the case for an athlete as dominant as he is.

John Cena

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    Don Feria/Associated Press

    Easily the most recognizable WWE wrestler on the planet right now, John Cena has made an even bigger name for himself outside of the ring than in it thanks to what he does for the community and fans.

    Cena's biggest impact has come through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where he's the most requested celebrity for kids to want to hang out with—which he has followed up in doing a record 500-plus times!

    Also helping raise a reported $1.5 million for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Cena uses his fame in a way that other athletes rarely do—and it's really cool to see.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

    Real Madrid and Portuguese international soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo might have the perception of someone who just likes to hang with models and drive luxurious sports cars, but he has proved to be pretty darn giving, too, actually being named the most charitable athlete on the planet in 2015.

    Worth an estimated $79.5 million in 2015, CR7 doesn't just keep it all to himself, as he's donated or raised tons of money for a number of different causes and charities.

    Donating more than $83,000 to a 10-year-old fan in need of brain surgery and giving another $165,000 to fund a cancer center in Portugal that treated his mom, Ronaldo has become a global spokesperson for a handful of organizations that are dear to him.

LeBron James

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Whether it's in basketball or in the community, there's just no one who does it bigger and better than LeBron James, who continues to prove that he's one of the most generous athletes on the planet.

    James, who has always played with a childish enthusiasm in hoops, is always quick to remember his past, constantly staying humble and giving back to those who he sees a little bit of himself in.

    With a bunch of side projects and events that give kids something that most of us could only dream of, James acts as an ambassador for both the NBA and the entire state of Ohio, doing what he can to help others.

    And even after LeBron took a ton of heat for the way that he announced The Decision in 2010, he did so with the best intentions in mind, doing so at a Boys & Girls Club that raised millions to the program via ads during the show.

    He's bigger than life, yet LeBron James might be one of the most accessible athletes on the planet, too—which is a rare combination for someone in such an elite class.


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