TERRE HAUTE —
When the spotlight shines upon them, some celebrities take that opportunity to give back.
Terre Haute’s Steve Weatherford — ahem, Super Bowl champion Steve Weatherford — has certainly been busy doing so.
Last month, Weatherford traveled to Ghana to help lay down the foundation for a school.
Then last weekend, he was the leading man of the inaugural Rush the Punter 5K. The event benefits the United Way program Success by Six, which helps young children to get a head start on reading and other skills.
Weatherford’s philanthropy began when he decided to collect cleats from NFL players to provide for high school football players in Vigo County.
What makes Weatherford want to give back to his community and to a village in Africa?
“It was a no-brainer decision for me to use my celebrity status as a newly-crowned teammate on a Super Bowl champion team. It’s a lot easier to get people on board when you’re a Super Bowl champion. I just try to capitalize on that and give back,” Weatherford said.
The trip to Ghana was unforgettable, he explained recently.
“It was a lot of hard work, really hot and humid. tough conditions. For me to go there and spend six days there, you have a lot of appreciation for the luxuries we’re blessed with in America and for the relationships I’ve gotten to be a part of in the last seven years in the NFL,” Weatherford said.
Weatherford’s life has gone from Terre Haute North multi-sport standout to University of Illinois punter to some bouncing around the NFL.
Weatherford made his presence known in the league with the New York Jets, but still switched to the New York Giants with a one-year deal for the 2011-12 season.
The Giants gave him a five-year contract after his clutch kicking — and holding for the placekicker — in the Super Bowl.
“From going to signing a 1-year contract, to winning a Super Bowl, to setting statistical records, to ultimately signing a 5-year multi-million dollar extension, it was just easy and the right thing to do at this time in my life. To give back a small percentage,” Weatherford said. “I probably got more out of it than the kids did. Sure, they have a clean water system and a school, but emotionally and spiritually, the things I got from those kids will last me a lifetime.”
While it was poor, the country of Ghana, particularly the quality of the people, was impressive, even inspirational to Weatherford.
“Beautiful country, you’d be so taken back,” Weatherford said. “You’d think a country so poor, I associated the cities with rougher cities, like Newark, N.J., low income high crime area, there’s a lot of muggings and drugs. I didn’t see any of that. Nobody was drinking, everyone was so busy helping each other. Even if you weren’t related. everybody was helping someone do something. Everyone was busy. It made us want to help even more because they were trying to help themselves.”
So a memorable year for his own career became even more rewarding.
“I’m not going to win the Super Bowl every year, but I’m always going to have won one, but next year if we don’t win the Super Bowl, I’ll still be trying to help some group,” Weatherford said.
Weatherford is hoping to return to Terre Haute again soon after receiving his Super Bowl ring on May 16 in New York.
“I’m trying to plan something for when I get my ring to come back and show everybody. I’m sure my dad’s going to want to see it,” Weatherford said.
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone after 3 p.m. at (812) 231-4356. Follow him on twitter @TribStarCraig.