Must be the shoes.
Well, this week at least, it is all about the shoes. More specifically, the cleats being worn by more than 900 players in Week 14 NFL games as part of the My Cause My Cleats program now in its fourth year.
Their causes range from health and wellness to cancer awareness and prevention to youth-focused initiatives.
Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers is supporting the North Valley Community Foundation. A Northern California native, Rodgers has seen wildfires devastate the area.
"Last year, when the Camp Fire happened, I immediately got in touch with some close friends there, the mayor of Chico, and just looked into what the need was and where my money could best be spent," Rodgers said. “After talking with the North Valley Community Foundation a number of times, I felt really good about what they're all about. They've raised almost $100 million, which is unbelievable. It's been a lot of small donations and then a lot of really big ones from across the country and northstate (Northern California).
"And they've done some amazing things, helping to rebuild Paradise, just the area, and make sure that all the programs that need funding are funded. So I'm wearing cleats that have a lot of emblems and words associated with Northern California and Paradise and California Fire, Paradise Strong — just because I think in cases where there's been a natural disaster, a lot of times when it's out of sight, it's out of mind for people. So when they don't see it on TV, people don't think about it.
"Just a reminder that there's still a lot of people that aren't helped. The awareness of it needs to stay up because this is a 10-to-15-year rebuild for an area that I called home for a number of years growing up ... I was born there. We moved back. I lived there for a few offseasons, as well, in Chico, which is 10 minutes from Paradise, and I knew a lot of people who had family and friends up there."
Several players worked with The Shoe Surgeon on their cleats. Along with Rodgers, Rams running back Todd Gurley and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had their cleats made by the custom shoe designer.
Gurley's highlight his foundation, M.A.D.E. SPORTS, which uses sports to show youngsters how they can make a difference in society. Prescott is supporting his own Faith, Fight, Finish Foundation, which focuses on fighting cancer and aiding those facing life-challenging hardships.
49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is representing the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Each year, Thomas participates in the Out of Darkness Walk to raise money for the AFSP.
"I lost one of the most important people in my world to suicide earlier this year," he says. "I will be walking for her and for everyone who suffers from the pain she felt. Ella was my sister. Ella was my best friend. She loved harder than she could breathe. She filled a room with such a strong presence that it would light up the room. She made my life go.
"Having Ella as my sister was the greatest gift this life has given me. She taught me to be myself, to make everyone feel loved, to appreciate everything in front of me, and so much more. She was so perceptive and so compassionate. I will live every day for my amazing sister."
Solomon and his family were presented with the AFSP's Survivor of Loss Award earlier this year.
Eagles safety Rodney McLeod believes My Cause My Cleats is one of the most impactful programs the NFL and its players are involved with.
"I think it's great and important that the NFL encourages players to participate in My Cause My Cleats,"McLeod says. "It is imperative that we get to express our philanthropic endeavors. The causes I've chosen are so important to me, and likewise, the causes represented across the league this week mean so much to a lot of us players and define who we are as men off the field."
One of McLeod's causes is the Student Health Impact Project. In October, McLeod opened a comprehensive student health and wellness center at Olney Charter High School in Philadelphia, an expansion of his "Healthy Attitude Campaign." The project features medical exam rooms; dental operatories; a vision care center, which provides access to comprehensive eye exams, glasses fittings and adjustments; and a behavioral health suite. The work is overseen by a medical director and staffed by a nurse practitioner who assist with coordination of health services with students' primary care providers; diagnosis and treatment of acute illness or injury; and management of chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes.
This center will have an immediate, positive effect on the students as well as its surrounding community," McLeod notes.
Players can also raise funds for their cause of choice through auctioning their cleats via NFL Auction; 100% of funds raised will be donated to charities selected by players.
AP Sports Writer Keith Jenkins contributed to this report.
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