The New York Giants’ win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 46 signaled the official end of the NFL season, but for the Philadelphia Eagles’ Nnamdi Asomugha and 31 other players in the league, their work is just getting started.
Continuing the NFL and United Way’s long-standing partnership, the two organizations are teaming up for a new program, Team NFL, that aims to make positive gains in local communities — and the national community as a whole.
United Way and 32 NFL players (representing the 32 franchises) are working to recruit new volunteer readers, tutors and mentors as a part of the non-profit organization’s effort to cut the national high school drop-out rate in half by 2018.
Each Team NFL player, is working to sign up 3,000 volunteers by 2014 in his community.
As an Eagles cornerback and a national ambassador for United Way, Asomugha said he hopes the program instills in others the same love that he has for making a difference. And while the goal of gaining thousands of new volunteers is a big one, he said he is confident that the number is well within reach with the help of college volunteers.
“At the ages when students are in high school and [younger], it’s such an impressionable time in their lives,” Asomugha said. “So when you see college students being so active in the community and wanting to help and reach out, it kind of puts that in your spirit.”
United Way has been one of Asomugha’s main charities for years, and he has steadily built up a strong relationship with the organization.
“Any time United Way was doing something with the NFL or with my particular community, I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “They have great ideas and great events.”
After becoming a “regular” at local United Way events in his community, he extended his reach into a broader scope by becoming a national ambassador.
“I love that I was chosen as the ambassador because this is my dream,” he said.
Asomugha has been working with United Way since joining the NFL in 2003 — although his passion for volunteering predates his professional career.
“Growing up, just seeing it done so much in my household by my parents” was inspirational said Asomugha, who was born in Lafayette, La., but raised in Los Angeles. “Their involvement in their community, both in Los Angeles and the communities that they have back in Nigeria where they were born. Just seeing them continuing to help out, it… was able to trickle down to me.”
While attending the University of California, Berkeley, Asomugha began to search out volunteer opportunities on his own. As a part of the school’s football team, he used the game as an opportunity to do some good.
“We would go into the community and have people sign up for a program where for every tackle that I made, they would donate” a specific amount to charities in the Berkeley community, he said.
Going to school made Asomugha realize the importance of higher education, but not only in the traditional sense of the phrase.
Higher education can mean “just another level of education,” he said, “whether it’s seeing a new place or being involved with something that you’re not accustomed to.”
And now, even years after graduation, education remains an important cause for Asomugha, who takes high school students on college campus tours through the Asomugha College Tour for Scholars (ACTS) program, a part of his namesake foundation.
“With the amount of fun [I had] and the things that I learned [at Berkeley], just opening up a new world of possibilities, I just thought that it’d be a great thing for other high school students to be a part of,” he said.
When he’s approached by people who have an interest in philanthropy — which happens “all the time” — Asomugha said he’s always happy to point toward United Way.
“A lot of the time, people are looking for ways to help, whether it’s in the community or just in general, and they don’t know what to do,” he said. “When people are green like that, those are the best people because you can just explain to them what United Way is doing and how helpful they’ve been in different communities and how helpful they’ve been in their own communities.”
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