NEW YORK —
Dan Tanoos, superintendent of Vigo County schools, remembers the first time he saw Steve Weatherford as a freshman at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.
Weatherford was in trouble as Superintendent Tanoos walked into the high school just as discipline was about to be handed down.
But Tanoos, as he often does with kids in trouble, asked to talk with Weatherford.
“I think we sometimes rush to punishment,” Tanoos said. “I like to get to the root of the problem.”
That conversation, and many more over the following years, helped Weatherford become the person he is today. On Thursday, Weatherford’s already successful career as an NFL punter received another endorsement as he was named the 2013 New York Giants Wellington Mara “Man of the Year,” a top prize within the Giants organization.
Appropriately enough, Tanoos was seated at the table at the awards dinner in New York when Weatherford received this latest honor.
The Wellington Mara award is given to the member of the New York Giants team that does the most for his community outside of football. Weatherford has become known for his generosity, establishing a charity in San Diego where he trains in the off season and taking part in numerous charitable events in his hometown of Terre Haute.
“He’s taken on the servant’s heart mantra as his mission,” Tanoos said Friday. “He’s probably the most giving person to our community among professional athletes.”
Weatherford, on his own, also organized relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Tanoos said.
Terre Haute has had its share of professional athletic success stories, but Weatherford, who played a critical role in getting the Giants their 2012 Super Bowl victory, is a special case. He has returned to the city several times to participate in fundraisers and is hosting the 2nd Annual Steve Weatherford “Rush the Punter” 5K this morning at Fairbanks Park. All the proceeds from that event will go to the United Way of the Wabash Valley.
On Thursday, Tanoos surprised Weatherford by attending the gala fundraiser in New York hosted by the Giants organization. The event raised more than $280,000 for a New York charity, Tanoos said.
Tanoos was invited to the event by the Giants organization, which paid for his seat at the $1,000-per plate dinner.
Tanoos said the proudest moment for him at the dinner was when John Mara, president of the Giants, introduced Weatherford, noting especially the athlete’s generosity for his home town.
“That was the first thing [Mara] talked about,” Tanoos said. All night long, “they were just off the charts about Steve.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org