News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 17, 2010

Punter for NFL’s Jets gives athletic shoes to Vigo students

Steve Weatherford a North Vigo graduate

TERRE HAUTE — New York Jets punter Steve Weatherford, through a donation of about 50 pairs of cleats, is helping some players for Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo and West Vigo High Schools get a better grip this football season.

The shoes were collected by Weatherford, a graduate of North, from fellow New York Jets players during training camp as well as from preseason games.

His father, Sam Weatherford, said the shoe collection’s value is no less than $5,000, based on the price of the shoes from $100 to $200 a pair.

Weatherford, an employee at Bemis, said his son, who wears a size 12 shoe, “feels fortunate and blessed to be able to give back to the school corporation.

Many of the players have contracts with cleat companies and they try the shoes out and wear them a few times, then Steve collects those and is able to give 30 to 50 pairs back to the school corporation.”

The shoes were spread out on a table Thursday in the Vigo County School Corp.’s administrative office at 7th and Wabash Avenue for coaches to collect. Many shoes had numbers on the back, indicating the player, such as No. 92 for defensive end Shaun Ellis.

Other player shoes include running back LaDainian Tomlinson, backup quarterback Mark Brunell, safety Eric Smith, linebacker Calvin Pace, defensive end Vernon Gholston, tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, wide receiver Braylon Edwards, defensive tackle Marcus Dixon, defensive end Mike Devito, cornerback Marquice Cole and running back Chauncey Washington.

Some other shoes were soccer shoes, sometimes worn by NFL kickers, such as a pair with the imprinted name of Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho.

Coaches will disperse the shoes to players based on their income need, as many of the recipients are already on other programs such as free or reduce lunches.

The shoes went as large as size 16.

That’s OK with North football coach Chris Barrett who said he has three freshman offensive line players that fit that size. “We will have to take advantage of this opportunity to get them some cleats,” Barrett said.

“When we talk about having a former Terre Haute North Patriot in the NFL, it lights up our kids faces,” Barrett said. “What Steve has done with the cleats and the camp this summer was phenomenal. It was such a great experience. The dreams and vision he is applying to our kids is phenomenal.”

Weatherford held a free football camp in July for high school football players. It also included No. 3 quarterback Eric Ainge and cornerback Marquice Cole of the Jets, as well as offensive lineman Michael Toudouze of the Indianapolis Colts and tight end Jamie Petrowski, another North graduate, of the Carolina Panthers.

Tony Brewer, athletic director at Terre Haute South Vigo, said “giving quality shoes, a higher grade shoe, to students who could be financially strapped and not able to afford them, an opportunity to wear a different type of shoe.

“These shoes are higher quality as far as technology for professional athletes,” Brewer said.

Superintendent Dan Tanoos said, “It is easy for people who sometimes raise to different heights of fame to forget their home town, but one person who has not forgot us is Steve Weatherford.

“Steve, since he has turned pro, has really remembered our kids and community and school corporation though many, many charitable gifts; many that many people don’t know about,” Tanoos said.

A a pair of cleats from quarterback Mark Sanchez, Tanoos said, has been returned to Weatherford to see if the quarterback will autograph the shoes for a future fundraiser for the school corporation.

Sam Weatherford gave Tanoos a “Shake Weight” from his son. The weights were featured in an HBO episode of Hard Knocks, a program that followed the Jets through spring training.

Weatherford contacted the maker of the product, which donated 100 to the Jets. The team had fun with the product during the show, with Weatherford saying it would give the Jets the “extra edge” needed to get to the Super Bowl this year.

North Vigo Principal Stacy Mason said a Jets jersey from Weatherford, bought in an auction and donated by school board president Paul Lockhart, will soon be displayed near the school’s cafeteria. The school already displays a Weatherford jersey from 2006, when he entered the NFL playing for the New Orleans Saints.

Weather has also played for the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and is in his second year with the Jets.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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