7 Jersey-Worthy Male Athletes
By Alex Flanagan
The only time I made my daughter go back into her room and change her clothes was when she was almost 7 years old and about to go to school in a Brett Favre Vikings jersey. It was the same October day back in 2010 that Favre was dominating the headlines for a sex scandal. The only NFL news anyone wanted to talk about was whether or not the Hall of Fame quarterback had sent nude pictures of himself to a TV host and my first grader was about to wear a Favre jersey to school.
“Sorry, honey. You are going to have to change,” I told my daughter as we rushed out the door, already late for school. “Why?” she asked, confused. I had recently brought the jersey home for her as a gift and she thought wearing it would put a smile on my face. “Um … how about I tell you when you are 21?” I mumbled, struggling to know what to say next.
Explaining to our children why an admired athlete has had an epic fall from grace is challenging, but inevitable. Especially in this modern era of excessive hero worship, where we constantly set ourselves up. But here’s the deal … when the price of a sports jersey sets you back more than $100 a pop, you’d better make sure your kids can wear it for a while. (The Favre jersey was eventually sacrificed for Halloween to make a zombie football player costume.)
I’m not promising anything, but I’ve done a little asking around and here are 7 Male Athletes we think are worthy of having their jersey worn by kids. (Fingers crossed.)
I first met Steph Curry years ago, before he was an NBA champion, on the golf course. Back then he was humble, polite and professional. People that know him well say he still is. I asked my dear friend who works with Steph Curry what makes him an athlete worthy of admiration. Is it his work ethic; because he takes the job of being a role model seriously or is he just a good human being with his head on straight? His answer? … All of the above.
What’s not to love about how the Angels superstar center fielder approaches playing baseball? “Respect the game, play as hard as you can and try and be a good role model for kids.”
The NFL’s 2014 Man of the Year is one of the best linebackers in the NFL and has done an admirable job of using his public profile to make a positive impact. Through his Thomas Davis Youth Leadership Academy, Davis and his wife Kelly give away college scholarships among their many other charitable activities and contributions.
Some people talk and dream about one day doing good things, others like Chris Long, just cut to the chase and do it. Long’s foundation supports providing clean water around the world, helping veterans and the homeless. This season he will donate at least 10 of his NFL game checks to educational charities.
Adversity can make you bitter or better. It made JJ Watt better. After high school Watt went to community college, was out of football and delivering pizzas. When one of his delivery clients recognized him from his high school football days and asked why he wasn’t playing anymore it sparked something in Watt. He walked on at the University of Wisconsin and followed the mantra of the bracelet he often wears, “Dream Big. Work Hard.” It’s rare for young athletes to understand the immense power they have as influencers and even rarer that they utilize that power to help the number of people JJ Watt helped after Huricane Harvey
Being a female reporting on a male sport is challenging and I think Russell Wilson gets that. Every conversation I’ve had with him has been respectful, thoughtful and professional. I remember talking with him in 2013 about the death of his father, who he lost in 2010. He talked about how when he was 7 years old his dad used to wake him up at 5 a.m. to throw with him. Wilson already seemed wise beyond his years, which probably is a side effect of losing a parent at a young age. “I knew if I got opportunity I’d have a chance to play right away,” he said explaining the impact his father’s motivation had on him. No doubt his dad would be proud of who he’s become.
As impressive as Drew Brees is as a football player, he’s equally as impressive as a dad and a youth sports coach. A father to 3 boys and a little girl, Brees recently launched his own flag football league, Football N’ America. Brees, who didn’t start playing tackle football until high school, is hoping to continue to grow the sport he loves, but one which many parents are concerned about because of concussions, through the game of flag.
Alex Flanagan co-founded I love to watch you play in 2015. She was flying home from an NFL work assignment when a learning specialist, who was sitting next to her, shared 5 reasons she shouldn’t feel guilty missing her son’s game. She shared their conversation on her own website alexflanagan.com and the response was so overwhelming it inspired her to create ILTWYP to help parents like herself navigate youth sports.