Today, when I'm sitting at my locker in Jacksonville, lacing up my cleats before running out on the field as a member of the Denver Broncos, I'll be thinking about all the kids back in Aiken, South Carolina — my hometown.
The NFL is supporting the My Cause, My Cleats initiative this week, allowing players to wear special, customized cleats in support of a charity of their choosing. On Sunday, I'll be representing my foundation, Koda's Kids.
I started my foundation seven years ago because I've always had a soft heart for kids. A main reason for this was being able to see where I came from. I was blessed and fortunate to have a two-parent home. They're still together, but I had some friends who only had one parent or no parents at all. I don't want any kids to use the fact that they have a broken family as an excuse to say, "Well, I didn't have my parents, so this is why I do X, Y or Z." I understand their situation, but at the same time I know from experience that they can still make something of themselves. I don't want that to be any kid's excuse to not be successful in life.
The design of the cleats was simple: Red and black are my favorite colors and then I needed my logo to be the focus of the cleats. The symbol represents my foundation, so I needed it to stand out. I think they stand out for a good reason.
The biggest challenge in running a foundation, the thing that's the most vital, is publicity and awareness. I'm so passionate about kids that I'll do whatever it takes. I'll design a pair of cleats, host a fundraising golf tournament, football camp or do any interview with whoever is willing just to raise awareness and funding for my foundation. That way I can ensure the kids growing up in Aiken can live a better life.
When I put these cleats on, the only thing I'm going to be thinking about is just how proud I am to wear these for what they represent. It's probably the closest game I'll have to Aiken and I know there's going to be plenty of people that will see them. It's going to mean so much for me and for all the kids that my foundation supports and encourages.
I am just so proud. This is something I've been working on for seven years, and now I'm finally able to show it off not only off the field, but on the field as well.
Thank you, NFL.