Nothing says NFL offseason quite like the concurrence of news cycles we’ve experienced over the past week; rookies signing contracts, anguish over a few of the game’s stars choosing to forego OTAs, and of course, the powers that be in the NFL uniting to pulverize whatever tiny fragments of public integrity they have left.
So let’s take a break from it — because there is a countless number of wonderful, positive stories happening around the NFL — specifically with its players. These stories are everywhere, if you know where to look; from Patriots.com reporter Angelique Fiske’s piece last Friday on Patriots players (James White, Kyle Van Noy, Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, Derek Rivers and Harvey Langi) dishing out smoothies at Boston Children’s Hospital, to the reports of J.J. Watt offering to pay for the funerals of the 10 victims of last week’s Santa Fe High School attack.
Another of these terrific stories was published early Wednesday morning and was quickly engulfed by the rising tide of the day’s divisive news on the league’s new policy on the national anthem. Written by MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas, the story details a trip to Puerto Rico taken by five New York Giants last weekend — including former Patriot left tackle Nate Solder.
Following last September’s direct landfall of Hurricane Maria — the 10th strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was left in ruins. The storm decimated much of the U.S. territory’s infrastructure and almost completely dismantled its utilities grid. The power blackout was the largest in U.S. history, and much of the population was deprived of clean water, leading to a host of other issues. The ongoing recovery effort — now on its eighth month — has been well-documented, including the significant shortcomings of government agencies like FEMA. The official death toll from Maria was initially reported as 64, but has since been estimated by some to exceed 1,000.
As reported by Vrentas, 98% of the island’s power has been restored — which sounds great, until you realize that roughly 30,000 people, mostly in rural areas, are still without it. So, last Friday, on their only day off during OTAs, the five New York Giants flew into San Juan, met up with Americares — a non-profit disaster relief agency from Connecticut that provides medicine and medical care — and took the long, occasionally dangerous drive into the areas most in need of aid.
Nate Solder, who reportedly has a cousin that lives in Puerto Rico and relies on the island’s now-drastically suppressed tourism industry as a freelancing boat captain, was joined by new teammates Michael Thomas, Teddy Williams, Eli Apple, and Landon Collins, who lived through the traumatic events of Hurricane Katrina as a child.
After spending a half day delivering $90,000 worth of medicine and supplies, and helping to transform a decrepit warehouse into a clinic in the city of Utuado, the players, along with 15 volunteers from the Americares organization, traveled to the small mountainous town of Juncos. They arrived to cheers from a crowd of grateful residents — including players and coaches from the town’s youth American football team. Not long after visiting and interacting with local children and families, a full-on football scrimmage broke out.
Jacqueline Santiago, the youth team’s director who sent her two teenage sons to live with family in New York, was presented with a $10,000 credit from Riddell to replace the team’s football equipment. It was at that point, Vrentas reported, that the team’s coaches announced the Juncos American Football Club’s new mascot would be the Giants.
“You are never going through anything as bad as you think you are when you come out and see how some people are living,” third-year corner Eli Apple told Vrentas. “It’s humbling.”
Positive stories like this are everywhere in the NFL — especially during the offseason. The positive emotional equity they possess has an infinitely greater impact than anything that can be gleaned from a meeting of a few dozen billionaires, or any doomsday scenario potentially manifesting itself from a quarterback missing some voluntary workouts.
Give stories like these your clicks. Give them your attention.