Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley earned a Super Bowl ring and a Pro Bowl selection in his five years in the NFL but the biggest play he’s made was off the field. His alma mater, Saginaw High School, in Michigan has to charge athletes $75 as a participation fee because of budget cutbacks, so Woodley cut a check for $60,000 to cover the fees not only for Saginaw High but for the entire Saginaw City School District.
The move allows any and all athletes at schools within the district to play without having to worry about coming up with the money. In an area where the unemployment rate sits at a staggering 17.8 percent, nearly double the national average of 9.1 percent, the effort by Woodley is a life raft for young people to cling to and have an outlet. Woodley signed a six year deal worth $61.5 million last August and is an anchor on the Steelers’ defense.
The $60,000 donation is not the first time that Woodley has reached out to help those in need in the Saginaw area. Since he was drafted by the Steelers in 2007, Woodley has donated school supplies to those in need. He’ll be back in Saginaw on August 29 at a back-to-school event for boys entering first through eighth grade. Woodley will be handing out backpacks loaded with school supplies and there will be food and shirts provided as well.
Earlier this year, Woodley donated 100 hooded sweatshirts to the Saginaw High band before the “Mighty Marchin’ Trojan Band” played at halftime of the Nokia Sugar Bowl contest between Virginia Tech and Michigan, Woodley’s alma mater. Woodley also provided free haircuts, food and football camps to children in the area. The donation to cover athletic fees is merely the latest in a litany of philanthropic contributions by the linebacker to the area.
With the donation, 800 student athletes who would have had to pay the $75 fee will be able to participate on a school athletic team of their choosing. The donation covers all the high schools and middle schools in the Saginaw City School District, not just Saginaw High. The announcement was met by raucous applause and cheers throughout the community. Here is a sampling of some of the things that were said.
Saginaw Public Schools Athletic Director Jeffrey Goodwine said: “Through his foundation, LaMarr wanted to make sure that kids get to participate in athletics because it meant so much to him. He’s doing it for everyone, Saginaw High and Arthur Hill.”
Dan Szatkowski, the athletic director at Saginaw High, echoed Goodwine’s statement. “People can make the argument that it wasn’t going to hurt participation, but it was. Because of this, kids will have an opportunity to participate, an opportunity to be part of a team. People don’t understand how important that is.”
Malcolm Staples, who is Woodley’s uncle and advisor, had this to say about the situation. “When LaMarr heard about it, it bothered him. When LaMarr was playing sports, if his family had to pay $75, they probably could have done it, but it would not have been a simple thing. It would be a hardship for a lot of people, even if they could come up with the money.”
It’s a heartwarming story to see an athlete give back to his community. The world could use more people that are proactive in their communities like LaMarr Woodley.