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When you hear the name Steve Weatherford, what image pops into your mind?
An image of him running around like a man possessed after the Giants won the 2011 NFC Championship game? An image of him punting a football? Or maybe just a plain old image of him in the gym, ripped as always?
Regardless of whether you are a die-hard Giants fan or a fitness enthusiast, your perception of Weatherford is probably centered around one of two categories: football and fitness. This view might not seem limiting, but for a man with as much drive and passion as Weatherford, it would be nothing short of a crime to let two classifiers define his overall character.
Throughout his career, Weatherford has been much more than an athlete. He is a husband, a father of four and the founder of three charities. Though football and fitness helped make him into what he is today, he is doing everything he can not to let it define him.
“I don’t want people to remember me as a football player,” Weatherford said. “I want people to remember me for the impact I had on people. People will forget [your football talents] if your impact is larger off of the field than it was when you were on. So, really for me, it’s more about creating a legacy that I can be truly proud of—something that transcends the sport that I played for ten years.”
Over his time in the NFL, Weatherford personally impacted hundreds of lives and set the framework to positively affect thousands more. He has volunteered with countless organizations along with creating his own foundation,The Steve Weatherford World Champion Foundation. The foundation is involved with myriad of different projects. Two of the foundation’s largest scale ventures are The Steve Weatherford Charity for Ghana, which, among other things, helps provide Ghanaians with clean water and Project Prom, an effort that enables students to have a High School Prom they will never forget.
Weatherford was inspired to create Project Prom in 2012 after he delivered lunches to some of the people whose houses were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. On the visit, he observed that the Red Cross had set out to buy these individuals new tangible goods that they may have lost such as xBoxs, shoes and televisions. But, Weatherford realized that there was no way the Red Cross could replace some of the personal experiences that these people had the potential of missing out on. In his eyes, since the prom is something that all High Schoolers shared, no one should be subject to miss it because of personal circumstances.
For this project, Weatherford worked exclusively with two schools in the Tri-State area. He spoke with the superintendent in each school to help him figure out which twenty students were deserving to go to the prom and could not afford it. Then, through the foundation, Weatherford took care of everything the student needed — corsages, tuxedos, nails, transportation, dinner. Everything. However, Weatherford didn’t stop there. He actually went to the prom and made sure to spend time with each of the kids.
“It’s more than providing tuxedos or dresses, or shoes to kids that can’t afford it, or water to African families that don’t have any,” Weatherford remarked. “It’s about actually spending time with them and letting them know that someone cares about them.”
After spending upwards of five hours at the prom, Weatherford surely was able to demonstrate his care for the students that he set out to help.
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Weatherford’s recurring commitment to people and organizations sets him apart from some other athletes. He’s not doing the project so he can get good publicity and be on the front page of a newspaper; he partakes in these type of projects because he genuinely wants to make a difference.
In addition to the work he does for his foundation, Weatherford also has partnered with other organizations. He collaborated with the United Way to establish the “Rush the Punter” 5k run, which helps fund early childhood programs in his hometown Terre Haute, IN, he makes frequent visits to the Hospital of Special Surgery (sometimes going dressed up as Superman), gives turkeys away on Thanksgiving, volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club and has taken underprivileged children shoe shopping. In each case, he has consistently returned to the projects, while embracing his role model status to connect with people on greater levels.
“To me, that’s what philanthropy is,” he said. “It’s not about giving them tangible things, it’s about giving them a life lesson and the tools they need to find their own success. It’s kind of like the Christian parable of, ‘You can give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, or you can teach a man to fish and he can eat for a lifetime.’ That’s what I hope to accomplish when I do these different philanthropic initiatives that I’ve created.”
Now that Weatherford is not currently on an NFL team, he has more time to dedicate to his family, his foundation and other charitable efforts. In fact, he just partnered with The Boot Campaign, an organization devoted to raising awareness for military veterans. Their current initiative is called “Pushups for Charity,” which challenges you to do as many pushups in 90 seconds as you can, while pledging a certain amount for one pushup. The Campaign has raised $150,000 out of their $1,000,000 goal.
Even though Weatherford is currently involved with a bevy of projects, for him, joining Pushups for Charity was a no-brainer.
Weatherford recalled, “[Once I heard about the foundation’s mission], I’m pretty much at that point already going to say yes. But, then they described to me that there’s kind of a physical fitness component to it and then I was like, this makes too much sense. It’s almost like somebody created this initiative just for me. It’s like my two favorite things in the world: military veterans and pushups.”
Since Weatherford has not played a full season of football for over a year, you might have expected that you’d seen the last of him. However, that’s far from the case. He has 230,000 Instagram followers, 161,000 twitter followers, and a new show on Spike TV. With a burgeoning following and a strong moral character, Weatherford has put himself in great position to achieve what he set out to: not to be remembered as a football player. Instead, he has the potential to make far more of an impact.