News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

April 25, 2014

A punter’s shoes

Super Bowl champ Weatherford buys shoes, pizza for Vigo students

TERRE HAUTE — NFL punter Steve Weatherford,  who is proud to call Terre Haute “home,” spread goodwill on Friday to some Vigo County kids one athletic shoe — and pizza — at a time.

The punter for the New York Giants, who helped the team win the 2012 Super Bowl, bought new pairs of shoes for about 30 school kids at a Terre Haute retail sporting goods store before having pizza night with families and other guests at Sarah Scott Middle School.

Standing on stage beside the Vince Lombardi trophy, he addressed the kids and their families at the pizza party.

“Very honored to be up here and very excited to put shoes on your feet,” he said.

Weatherford, a graduate of Terre Haute North Vigo High School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School, became emotional when he spoke about the personal significance of giving shoes to kids who need them most.

“I remember what it was like to get brand new shoes,” he said, because most of his shoes growing up were hand-me-downs. His voice started to crack when he recalled how his grandfather took him shoe shopping every year.

“That’s special to me because I don’t have him anymore,” he said tearfully. “It’s special for me to do that for you because my grandpa did that for me.”

In addition to donating shoes, Weatherford said he wanted the opportunity to share his story with the kids “to motivate, encourage, inspire.” It was also his way of giving back to the community that supported him “all the way.”

Weatherford also shared his early struggles at school due to having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. What some people refer to as a disability, he “used that as a weapon” to succeed in life.

“Some things didn’t come easy for me, but anything worth doing in life is worth doing right,” he advised.

‘It was big’

Inside Pacesetter Sports earlier in the evening, Weatherford signed countless autographs, posed for numerous pictures and talked to each kid — and adult — that went to meet him.

He wore a New York Giants jersey, his massive Super Bowl championship ring and a big smile.

Several of the kids got the chance to try the Super Bowl ring. One of them was David.

“If you get one of these one day, you let me wear it, OK?” Weatherford told David as he wore the ring in his finger.

Elementary school students Kaylee and Kaitlin McCoy also got to wear the ring.

“It was big,” Kaylee, 9, said. She chose gray and purple shoes, which she intends to wear when she participates in the school’s running club, she said.

Another student chosen to get shoes was 9-year-old Evan Moats, but due to illness, he was unable to get the shoes personally. Evan, who has Leukemia, was rushed to an Indianapolis hospital on Thursday night but he was thrilled to meet Weatherford at the event via Facetime, an Apple video application.

Evan does chemo at home but also goes to Indianapolis for treatments. Despite being very sick, he has earned all A’s and will pass third grade, his family said.

“Evan is very active in all sports. He loves all sports,” said grandmother Amy McGinness. Being at the event “just means everything for his family because he can’t be here himself.”

But Evan’s two brothers, Anthony, 11, and Elijah, 7 accepted the shoes for him.

Anthony, who admitted to being close to Evan, picked out a pair of blue and light green athletic shoes.

“Because his favorite color is blue, and I know how much he likes blue,” he said of the choice.

One student, 11-year-old John Jones, wore a Weatherford jersey at the event. It was obvious he’s a big fan.

“Because he’s the best football player ever,” he said. It is an honor to receive the shoes, he added. He picked the neon green-colored shoes because he simply likes neon.

John  was at the event with his school mentor, Weatherford’s own mother, Lisa Weatherford. The two patiently waited in line to meet Steve.

“I’ve been waiting on this for a while,” Steve Weatherford said upon meeting John. “My mom brags about you all the time. I think she’s more proud of you than [of] me.”

‘Dream Big’

Weatherford arrived in Terre Haute from New York only two hours before the 6 p.m. event at Pacesetter Sports, located on South Third Street in Terre Haute.

Weatherford has an earlier start this morning for the third Steve Weatherford’s Rush the Punter 5K & 1 Mile Fun Run at Fairbanks Park. More than 600 participants are expected to compete in the two-hour event at the start/finish line in front of the Terre Haute YMCA.

Vigo County School Corp. Superintendent Danny Tanoos said during Friday’s event that principals at all Vigo County schools selected the students for the free pair of shoes from Weatherford. The kids personally handpicked the shoes just before Weatherford arrived. Pacesetter Sports provided a big discount for the shoes, he said.

Tanoos said the event aims to show kids a positive role model, that they can come from Terre Haute and be successful. It also teaches them the importance of giving back.

And from Weatherford, young John also got a personal note.

“To John, Dream Big!”

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.

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