TERRE HAUTE —
Terre Haute’s Steve Weatherford, punter for the 2012 Super Bowl champion New York Giants, showed once again his generosity Friday by donating new athletic shoes to more than two dozen Vigo County kids.
Weatherford, a 2001 graduate of North Vigo, hosted a night of pizza and autographs at Pacesetter Sports, a long-time Terre Haute retail sporting goods store.
“What’s up guys,” Weatherford said as soon as he entered the shop, which is on South Third Street, about 8:30 Friday night. He had just arrived in the Hoosier state from New York where he was honored as the Giants “Man of the Year” the day before for his non-football community service.
Wearing his massive Super Bowl championship ring, a smiling Weatherford shook hands with dozens of Vigo County school kids just inside the door of the store. He started signing autographs the instant he entered the business, as if automatically.
Most of the kids in the store had just picked out a new pair of athletic shoes, a donation from the NFL standout.
“That’s cool,” Weatherford said holding a “Steve Weatherford” school project completed by Ellie Conner, 7, a first-grader at St. Patrick’s School in Terre Haute. Conner could do her report on any person, living or dead, and she chose Weatherford “because he is so nice,” said her mom, Deana Conner.
“I hope you get an ‘A,’” Weatherford said smiling and autographing the report.
Principals at all Vigo County schools selected a single student for a free pair of shoes compliments of Weatherford, said Danny Tanoos, superintendent of the Vigo County School Corp.
Weatherford, whose success on the field and joking and uninhibited personality have made him a rarity in the NFL – a celebrity punter – has donated dozens of items to needy kids in the Wabash Valley, including barely-used football cleats from his teammates and designer clothing from fashion shows.
Before Weatherford arrived Friday night, Pacesetters was buzzing with kids trying on shoes and making their selections. Michael Bell, a kindergartner at Hoosier Prairie Elementary, has high expectations of the green athletic shoes he selected.
“I can run fast in them and jump high,” Bell said demonstrating by leaping into the air in his new shoes. When Weatherford arrived a little later, the energetic Bell managed to get picked up for a photo by the NFL player.
Craig Porter, a seventh grader and athletic standout at Sara Scott Middle School, selected black Nike running shoes and kept them safely in their box, not choosing to wear them in the store. Porter said he looks up to Weatherford and hopes to someday be as successful in athletics so that he, too, can give back to his home town.
“I’ll come back and help the community,” Porter said.
Weatherford is in Terre Haute this weekend to host the second annual Rush the Punter 5k run/walk this morning at Fairbanks Park. All proceeds from the event will benefit the United Way early education program, Success by 6.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org