In 2000, a young Lamarr Woodley was a member of the Saginaw High School Trojans’ team that won the state championship. Now, 12 years later, he is doing more to boost the school’s fortunes than he ever did in his career as a Trojan, which made him the #1 DE prospect in 2003.
With the Saginaw, Michigan school’s budget in dire straits, an impending $60,000 dollar slash in funding was about to necessitate a $75 participation fee for joining the Trojans athletic teams. For the poverty-stricken youth of the city, that fee was threatening to blot out the aspirations of many high schoolers that wished to be included.
Enter Woodley, the pride of Saginaw High. Upon hearing the state of affairs at his old stomping grounds, Woodley realized he had the power to do something about it. He decided to chip in to cover the budget shortfall. All of it. All $60,000. Enough to make the fee totally obsolete.
This was no tiny slice of a multimillion-dollar income for Woodley, either. In February, he restructured his contract to clear up cap space for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a result, his base salary for 2012 will be $700,000. Endorsement deals and a prorated signing bonus boost his final numbers, of course, but his donation to Saginaw High still represents a very significant portion of his earnings this year.
School administrators conjecture that Woodley’s donation will significantly boost student interest in the football team, which has been hurting for manpower in recent years.
In an era where many aspire to the title of philanthropist, but not all carry through, it’s reaffirming to see a person that uses their position to make tangible good in the world. Woodley has transformed his physical gifts and good fortunes into literally paying forward for the youth who follow in his footsteps. People all along the political spectrum cherish and admire the power of private charity, and with schools nationwide having their budgets ravaged, people of means like Woodley have opportunities to be real heroes.
I’m no lover of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a 49er fan growing up in the 90’s, it was always a fact of life that we had the most championships, and that’s the way it was. I’m still adjusting to this post-Mike Tomlin world, and will never cheer for a Steelers win until my 49ers are back on top. But I will be cheering until I’m sore for one outside linebacker from Saginaw, Michigan.