Quarterback Kirk Cousins: International Justice Mission
This isn’t the first time Cousins has promoted the International Justice Mission, which according to its website seeks to “protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world.” Last season, he donated proceeds of his “You Like That” T-shirts to the organization. Cousins said his passion for IJM dates from high school when the organization’s founder, Gary Haugen, spoke at his church.
“I walked out of the service that day saying to myself if I ever have the opportunity to support him and his work I will do that because of how powerful his testimony and the testimony of his organization was,” Cousins said. “So it goes back to when I was 17 years old. But they’re going into the darkest, most depressed places in the world and freeing people from slavery, from human trafficking, from injustices. And they are a voice for people who don’t have a voice. And they’re creating justice and a legal system for places that don’t have one. It’s powerful stuff to hear the testimonies of the people who they’ve rescued.”
Tight end Vernon Davis: Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts
Davis created the foundation to promote arts education and appreciation among disadvantaged youth. It provides arts scholarships to dedicated students and grants to deserving arts programs.
“The reason why I started the foundation, growing up in my neighborhood I wanted to pursue the arts, but I couldn’t,” Davis explained. “I wanted to do it all: I wanted to do drama, I wanted to paint. I wanted to do all those things, but I couldn’t do it. Reason why is because where I come from, in order to be cool — I wanted to be cool — you had to play football, basketball. You had to dress cool. So I had to stay in line of what I wanted do.
“When I got into to college, I started to expand my mind. I looked around, and I was in the environment where I could be myself. So my message to these kids is, ‘No matter where you come from or what environment you’re in, don’t be afraid to be who you really want to be. Expand your mind, do what you want to do.’ ”
Defensive end Ricky Jean Francois: Historically black colleges and universities
Francois attended LSU, but he chose to pay tribute to HBCUs for paving the way for African Americans to receive a college education and pursue collegiate athletics. Francois, who grew up in the Miami area, said he hasn’t lost sight of the sacrifices made to give him the opportunity to pursue an education and play football.
“I’m paying homage to all the black schools that helped us break the barrier to enter schools like Texas, to enter schools like Louisiana State University, to enter schools like the University of Florida,” Francois said. “If it wasn’t for those schools to help us get an education, it would be no way we’d be in these Big Tens or Pac-12s or SEC schools today.”
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan: Blitz for the Better
Kerrigan will wear cleats that represent his charity, which serves area families of children with special needs. The burgundy and gold Nike cleats have “Blitz for the Better” painted on the outer side of each cleat, and “Ryan Kerrigan 91” on a helmet on the inner side of each.
“It’s a cool thing the NFL is letting us do,” Kerrigan said. “You normally can’t do too much with your uniform, but if they’re going to let us do this, then it’s a cool thing, and I know my foundation is excited about this opportunity, and they did a good job making them.”
Cornerback Josh Norman: Starz24
Norman created Starz24 as a way to give back to youngsters. The charity “provides enrichment through community events and young programs” with Norman’s ultimate goal of building a recreation center in his home town, Greenwood, S.C.
“Have some fun for a change,” Norman said about the cleats initiative. “So, it’s been fun. Show our support for our charities that we’re out here trying to raise money for.”