Genuine Role Models: 16 Current NFL Coaches and Players Our Kids Can Look Up To

Genuine Role Models: 16 Current NFL Players and Coaches Our Kids Can Look Up To (via Babble)When it comes to role models in the NFL, the names are many. Some are legendary, some are simply hard-working guys that give back. But many of the names that have become synonymous with charity–Kurt Warner, Doug Flutie, Rodney Peete, Steve Young–aren’t on the field any more.

And unfortunately, all too often the stories that make the news are about players who have done something stupid/illegal/offensive/violent/whatever.

When San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver made a discriminatory statement earlier this week, it was disappointing, to say the least.

“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver said in a radio interview. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.” Culliver also said that he thought if any players were gay, they should wait and “come out 10 years later after [retirement].”

Pretty stupid comment to make when your fan base is San Francisco, possibly the most LGBT-friendly city on the planet. The 49ers, who will play in tomorrow’s Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens, wasted no time rejecting Culliver’s statement, and it was apparent that Culliver got a stern talking-to from Head Coach Jim Harbaugh.

At least Culliver has apologized and wants to make up for his ugly comments. His publicist announced today that Culliver will undergo sensitivity training and work with The Trevor Project,  an organization that provides crisis and suicide intervention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

The ruckus created by Chris Culliver inspired me to do some research to find out about current NFL players and coaches who really are the kind of men our kids can look up to. And while of course I want my kids to find role models among our friends and family, and in their community, the reality is that they’re also going to admire celebrities like professional athletes. Why not point them in the direction of athletes who are genuinely admirable?

My readers offered me tons of suggestions for players they admire, and truly, there are dozens of players who have active commitments to charities. I pulled together a list of some players whose work you’ve probably heard of, and some you may not know about. I know I haven’t listed all of the good, stand-up guys in the NFL, so leave your favorites in the comments!

  • Genuine Role Models 1 of 17
    Genuine Role Models
    Check out these fifteen current NFL players and coaches that our kids can look up to. To scroll through, click the arrows.
  • Nnamdi Asomugha, Cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles 2 of 17
    Nnamdi Asomugha, Cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles
    Why does Nnamdi Asomugha make this list of players our kids can look up to? Let me count the ways. He had it written into his Nike endorsement contract that the football and baseball teams at Los Angeles' Narbonne High School, which he attended, would be outfitted each year with shoes. He also distributes backpacks each year to the school's incoming freshmen.

    His foundation, the Asomugha Foundation, supports two primary endeavors: aiding orphans and widows in Nigeria, and mentoring at-risk high school students from low-income families. One of the foundation's programs involves mentoring students for 18 months, and taking them on college tours across the nation.

    He has also been an invited guest and participant in the Clinton Gobal Initiative, an organization that focuses on the importance of global service and student activism, every year since 2009.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans 3 of 17
    J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans
    J.J. founded the Justin J. Watt Foundation, which provides after-school athletics opportunities in his home state of Wisconsin and now also in the Houston area. The foundation provides financial support to communities that have limited or no after-school sports.In general, J.J. is just an all-around great guy. A self-admitted "sucker" for Girl Scout cookies, he also enjoys spending his money on giving out awesome treats on Halloween.

    "That's one of the perks of the NFL. I can spend 250 dollars on Halloween candy and I'd much rather spend 250 dollars on Halloween candy than a watch for myself or jewelry for myself," he told The Houston Chronicle.

    J.J.'s status as one of the nicest guys in the NFL also got bumped up this week when word broke that he had made a little girl's day by asking her (on bended knee, no less) to be his pretend wife for a day.

    After several of his fans tweeted him a YouTube video of 6-year-old Breanna crying because she isn't old enough to marry J.J., he tracked her down and made. her. day. Adorbz.

    (Photo Credit: JJ Watt/Facebook)
  • Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos 4 of 17
    Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
    Peyton Manning's Peyback Foundation provides leadership and growth opportunities for children at risk through grant funding, scholarships, and hosting events throughout the year. Peyton and his wife Ashley also gave an undisclosed amount of money to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. It must have been quite a sum: the children's hospital there is now named the "Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent."

    After Hurricane Katrina, Peyton and his brother Eli mobilized a planeload of supplies for those affected. At the time, CNN reported that the brothers, who grew up in Louisiana, distributed 30,000 pounds of water, infant formula, Gatorade, diapers, and pillows to those affected by the hurricane. The brothers personally helped load and unload the plane, and distribute the supplies.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, San Francisco 49ers 5 of 17
    Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, San Francisco 49ers
    49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has been involved in charity work for a long time: he's an active supporter of the Riley Hospital for Children in Indiana and the Children's Miracle Network.

    But he also makes this list for being a stand-up guy. As a rookie quarterback with the Chicago Bears in 1987, he spoke up for sports reporter Cheryl Raye-Stout to get her admitted to the locker room to interview players.

    He also publicly rejected a discriminatory statement by his own player, Chris Culliver, who had said that openly gay players would not be welcome in the 49ers locker room (a decidedly stupid move in a city as notably LGBT-friendly as San Francisco.)

    The 49ers' statement read, in part, "The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made [Tuesday], and have addressed the matter with Chris. There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community."

    Coach Harbaugh also gave Chris Culliver a talking-to, apparently. "Jim Harbaugh said Thursday morning -- in the most angry parent kind of way he possibly could've -- that he spoke with Culliver about the issue," CBS Sports reported.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Madieu Williams, Safety, Washington Redskins 6 of 17
    Madieu Williams, Safety, Washington Redskins
    Through his foundation, Madieu supports at-risk kids here in the U.S. and in war-torn Sierra Leone, where he was born. Madieu's foundation continues to provide nutritional food, school supplies, life skills training, and leadership training to the elementary school he built in Calabatown, Sierra Leone.

    The Madieu Williams foundation also supports the school district in Maryland that Madieu began attending when he moved to the U.S. at age nine. The foundation works with a local YMCA to provide physical activity, life skills, and academic support (including a summer reading program) to kids in third to sixth grade.

    His efforts don't stop there, either. In 2009In 2009, Williams donated $2 million to his alma mater, the University of Maryland to help create the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health Initiatives. Madieu has said that all the charity work he does is to honor his mother, Abigail Butscher, who "told him over and over that if he was ever in a position to make a difference, he should do it," says The Washington Post. Ms. Butscher, a single mom and a nurse, passed away in 2009.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots 7 of 17
    Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots
    Tom Brady is a major supporter of Best Buddies International, a charity dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also supports and works with The Active Force Foundation, a nonprofit that designs and engineers sports equipment for people with disabilities.

    He also works with the Children's Starlight Foundation of New England and DATA, an organization that fights extreme poverty in Africa.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints 8 of 17
    Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
    The foundation run by Drew and his wife Brittany, The Brees Dream Foundation, has done amazing work for the children of New Orleans. In partnership with international children's charity Operation Kids, the foundation continues to help rebuild and restore academic and athletic facilities, parks and playgrounds, after-school programs, mentoring programs for the intellectually disabled, neighborhood revitalization projects and child care facilities in New Orleans.

    I also love Drew for opening up about being bullied as a kid and participating in the "It Gets Better" campaign.

    "Making fun of someone because they're different from you? That's not being tough, it's being ignorant," he said in the video.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Brendon Ayanbadejo, Linebacker/Special Teams, Baltimore Ravens 9 of 17
    Brendon Ayanbadejo, Linebacker/Special Teams, Baltimore Ravens
    Brendon has advocated for federal legislation that would require school districts to report on students' physical activity and to give youngsters health and nutritional information, known as the FIT Kids Act.

    He has also publicly supported marriage equality for years, even writing an op-ed piece for the Huffington Post in 2009. His stance on the subject became even more famous last September, when Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns asked Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti "inhibit such expressions from your employee."

    The ensuing uproar prompted Minnesota Vikings Punter Chris Kluwe to write the most epic defense of gay marriage in the whole history of ever. (See next slide for more on that.)

    (Photo Credit: Keith Allison)
  • Chris Kluwe, Punter, Minnesota Vikings 10 of 17
    Chris Kluwe, Punter, Minnesota Vikings
    Chris Kluwe isn't one to back down when he believes in something. Disgusted that Ray Guy, arguably the best punter in the history of the league, still hasn't been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, he wore a "Vote Ray Guy" sign on his uniform in a game in December. When he was fined over $5,000 for the uniform violation, he tweeted, "I knew the consequences going in. Don't cry for me Argentina."

    More famously, Chris made national news when he slammed (and I mean slammed) Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns for asking Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to get Ravens Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo to stop publicly promoting his support of marriage equality.

    Chris' response, which can only be described as the most epic defense of gay marriage in the whole history of ever, was originally published on the sports blog Deadspin. The letter began with "Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words)."

    The letter was then so chock-full of well-spun expletives that he also later posted a "clean" version on his personal blog. His use of phrases like "BEAUTIFULLY UNIQUE SPARKLEPONY" and "DISAPPOINTED LEMUR FACE WITH SOLITARY TEAR TRICKLING DOWN TO CHIN" to replace his original cussing was beyond brilliant.

    (Photo Credit: Minnesota Vikings)
  • Cortland Finnegan, Cornerback, St. Louis Rams 11 of 17
    Cortland Finnegan, Cornerback, St. Louis Rams
    While on the field, Cortland Finnegan may be known as one of the most aggressive players in the NFL (Bleacher Report called him one of the "20 Dirtiest Players in the NFL"), off the field he's all heart.

    Cortland's foundation, the ARK31, helps children with special needs and disabilities. Cortland, whose sister, who had Down Syndrome, passed away at the age of seven due to complications of her disorder, is also active with the Special Olympics.

    Cortland is also a long-time supporter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and was a candidate for the LLS Man of the Year in 2008 for his work with children with leukemia and lymphoma.

    Not enough? In 2009 he became friends with a high school student Kelsey Towns, who had a rare form of cancer. When Kelsey couldn't run in the annual Boulevard Bolt on Thanksgiving Day as she had every year since kindergarten, Cortland pushed her in a large stroller. Kelsey is now thankfully cancer-free, but she had such an impact on Cortland and his wife Lacey named their first daughter Kelsey.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Charles Woodson, Strong Safety/Cornerback, Green Bay Packers 12 of 17
    Charles Woodson, Strong Safety/Cornerback, Green Bay Packers
    Charles Woodson's charitable foundation raises funds for research on breast cancer and children's illnesses. In 2009, Charles donated $2 million to create the Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Women's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The hospital is affiliated with the University of Michigan, Charles' alma mater. His foundation has also helped bring new technology to the hospital and assisted in new construction.

    In addition, his foundation runs two scholarship programs: one for an incoming freshman in need who is studying Kinesiology, and one that honors his mother by helping students who have single moms.

    (photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks 13 of 17
    Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
    Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson is a busy guy, leading hte Seahawks to the playoffs in his first season. So what does he like to do in his down time? Visit kids at Seattle Children's Hospital. I'm not talking about one visit. He's there every. single. week. He also visits soldiers at Ft. Lewis.

    Not much of a hard partyer, Russell said that when he found out that he'd won the starting gig for the Seahawks, he called his mom, and then watched Entourage with his wife. He also tweets a Bible verse every day.

    (Photo Credit: Larry Maurer)
  • Tony Gonzalez, Tight End, Atlanta Falcons 14 of 17
    Tony Gonzalez, Tight End, Atlanta Falcons
    Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez has plenty to brag about, if he chose to: a first-round draft pick, he's been to the Pro Bowl thirteen times. He also saved a man from choking, but had no intention of making it public. It only became news because the man he saved, a huge football fan, told reporters, who asked Tony about it.

    "I honestly don't want to make a big deal out of it. But of course it does give me a lot of satisfaction to know that I was able to help somebody," Tony told ESPN modestly.

    Tony also works with and contributes to the children's charity Shadow Buddies, along with Kansas City Chiefs player Matt Cassel. Shadow Buddies emotional support through education for children going through illness, disabilities or medical treatments. The foundation provides condition-specific dolls that are designed to be friends for children who are seriously ill or mentally challenged. They provide comfort and a hands-on way for doctors to explain diagnoses and treatments in terms children can understand.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Jabari Greer, Cornerback, New Orleans Saints 15 of 17
    Jabari Greer, Cornerback, New Orleans Saints
    Jabari, who has four children, established The Greer Campaign to provide education and support to fathers in the area of Tennessee where Jabari grew up.

    "I want people to wake up and see how our world is hungry for strong fathers," he told the Associated Press. "They're needed badly."

    Using tools like education, therapy, and counseling, Jabari's organization helps both married and single dads be more involved fathers.

    The program has yielded some impressive results. "The Greer Campaign's Fatherhood Program was not just a 12 week course for me," said one graduate. "It's a new way of life. The changes that the program has made in my life will carry on for generations to come."

    (Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints)
  • Marvin Lewis, Head Coach, Cincinnati Bengals 16 of 17
    Marvin Lewis, Head Coach, Cincinnati Bengals
    Currently the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL, Marvin Lewis has been involved in the Cincinnati community as long as he's been coaching there. His foundation, the Marvin Lewis Community Fund, supports Cincinatti area children through scholarships, after-school programs, and both academic and athletic programs.

    In October of last year, the Cincinnati Herald noted that "Of 122 active head coaches or managers in the four major professional sports leagues (NFL, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League), Lewis is the only one to serve as chairman of the Board of Directors for a charity or foundation in his name in the same community for this long a period of time."

    Since the foundation's launch in 2003, it has contributed over $6 million in its philanthropic efforts.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Charles Tillman, Cornerback, Chicago Bears 17 of 17
    Charles Tillman, Cornerback, Chicago Bears
    Charles Tillman and his wife Jackie formed the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation after their daughter Tiana was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at three months. She received a heart transplant at six months of age, and during the long hours the Tillmans spent at the hospital, they saw things that could be improved. "My wife and I, when we were in the hospital, we saw some things we thought we could help fix," he told Yahoo Sports. "Kids would get bored. Families would get bored. Nobody wants to be there. They've got needles and IVs and they're sick, but if you're there, at least try to make the best of it."

    Besides providing iPads, computers, DVD players, and portable PlayStations to hospitals, the foundation also helps families who are financially in need.

    Possibly the most heartwarming thing his foundation does, though, is an annual "TendHER Heart Luncheon," which gives more than 150 mothers of critically and chronically ill children a special brunch, honoring them for the sacrifices they make in caring for their ill child. The brunch provides provide the moms with the opportunity to take a moment for themselves and connect with other moms in similar situations.

    (Photo Credit: Yahoo!)

Read more from Joslyn on Babble and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow Joslyn on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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