This is part two of a three-part series. For part one, please click here.
By 2006, I was a husband, father and teaching full-time at Lift For Life Academy. The Rams were partners of ours on several projects. One included some of my students participating in a pregame event one Sunday
Panic ensued because some of the kids didn’t show, but the event had to go on as scheduled. Mike Yarbrough, then-director of Rams’ community relations, asked if my daughter, Madison could go on the field. The situation involved her going on the field without me or my wife, Madelyn.
There were plenty of adults already. They needed kids. My friend and sportsmanship pioneer, Marvin Berkowitz promised to take care of Madison on the field and get her back to us in time for the game.
When the ceremony was over, the kids got to stand on the sidelines and watch the team warm up. Madelyn and I saw Rams receiver Torry Holt run over and hand a football to someone. We didn’t really pay the gesture any mind beyond that.
Lo and behold when Marvin brought Madison back, she was grasping a football almost as big as she was. I asked where she got it. She said, “Tor-Ree Holt gave it to me, daddy!” From then on, every time she caught me watching a football game, she asked if Torry Holt was playing.
Every guy on every team who wore No. 81 was Torry Holt. That’s how she learned football. I explained Torry didn’t play for every team. He played for our team. We never asked Torry to autograph it or anything, but the plain Wilson football is priceless to us. True story: We found out later that Madison and Torry have the same birthday. Go figure.
Soon after joining the St. Louis Sports Commission in 2007, I met Chris Draft. Chris is a Stanford grad and played linebacker for the Rams. Football was Chris’ job. The community is his passion.
Many NFL players have a community focus. Some work on health programs. Others concentrate on the environment and green initiatives. Even more put their efforts toward helping troubled youth. Chris does all of this…and more.
Chris was (and is) so dedicated to the community, I wondered when he ever had time to practice, study the playbook or lift weights. While there is a value to the power and influence NFL players have, Chris taught me humility in your work can be just as effective.
He held an event once where the entry fee was bringing a new book for a child. The following weekend, he was out on the streets of North St. Louis picking up trash. Chris believes a cleaner community is a better one and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.
Chris’ mission these days centers on finding a cure for lung cancer. In 2011, Chris lost his wife, Keasha, to the disease. However, when St. Louis was in the throngs of Ferguson protests in 2014, Chris was here, on West Florissant, lending a hand as he always does.
In Friday’s conclusion, I’ll share my experiences with a pair of Rams ministers. Let’s just say “The Reverend” and “The Pastor” kept me on my best behavior.