It is so refreshing to hear of professional athletes using their position of influence to make a difference and change peopleʼs lives for the better. On Tuesday, August 14th, ProFootball Weekly (PFW) awarded Arizona Cardinalsʼ wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald the 2012 Arthur S Arkush Humanitarian of the Year Award. “Established in 1999, the award recognizes NFL players whose contributions to the community and charitable organizations are especially outstanding.” PFW reached out to all 32 NFL teams and out of 29 candidates, 5 finalists were selected.
With a brief description of some of the initiatives they are affiliated with, you can see how these five remarkable men, like so many others, are having a positive influence on the world around them.
Thomas Davis, linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, founded the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation (TDDDF). Based on the principles of educate, empower, and defend, the foundation “strives to encourage students to develop the essential life and social skills that will make them leaders of tomorrow.” By providing and promoting programs that enhance the quality of life for children and families with community service efforts, educational development, youth sports and other support services, the vision of the foundation is to “see our efforts change the lives of underprivileged children on a national level and give them hope to do whatever is necessary to defend their dreams.” Upon establishing the foundation, “Davis made a decision to assist youth in realizing that their past does not determine their future and that they too can one day live their dreams.” 
Tampa Bay Buccaneer guard, Davin Joseph, founded the Davin Joseph Events for Cause Foundation. Devoted to supporting athletics and performing arts, with a commitment to inner-city communities and urban areas, its mission “is to enhance the quality of opportunities available to our youth by strengthening athletic and performing arts programs in public school, community based non-profits and clubs throughout America”. “Many of us fail to realize the vital role athletic and performing arts play(s) in the lives of our youth today. Athletic programs teach sportsmanship, discipline, and patience, while performing arts programs arts programs allow students to connect with their creative side and explore endless possibilities.”
Matt Birk, center for the Baltimore Ravens, established the HIKE (Hope, Inspiration, Knowledge, Education) Foundation “in 2002 to provide at-risk children with the educational opportunities needed to excel in the classroom and in life”. Selected as the 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Mattʼs foundation “launched the “Ready, Set, Read” program in the Baltimore area in the fall of 2010 to motivate and encourage more than 150,000 elementary school children to read at home by the fall of 2012”. In addition, the Read and Rise literacy program was designed to bring families, schools and communities together to support childrenʼs literacy development”. 
Matt Schaub, quarterback for the Houston Texans, and his wife Laurie, established the GR8 HOPE Foundation “that provides resources and support to promote lasting improvements and bring healing to children with medical needs, hope for our future generations, and happiness to the children and their familiesʼ enduring medical challenges”.  In its inaugural year, the foundation donated $108,000 to the Texas Childrenʼs Hospital last year, and gifted another $200,000 through sponsorships, private donations, and the annual ʻHope Can Healʼ Gala and Golf Classic, to the Texas Childrenʼs Hospital West Campus this July.
Aside from his commitment to being one of the best in the league, Larry Fitzgeraldʼs dedication to off-the-field initiatives is rooted in his upbringing. “My brother Marcus and I try and carry forward [the] altruistic torch which was passed along to us by both of our parents. That spirit of “giving” has always shone brightly. It was an integral part of their lives, both in times of prosperity and times of despair. My motherʼs life was cut short, way too short, but she continued to “give back to the community” right til the end…”  With his support of the military, dedication to the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund (in memory of his mother who passed away from breast cancer), being the NFL spokesman for Breast Cancer Awareness, numerous local and international humanitarian endeavors including this off-season with the Starkey Hearing Foundation in Malaysia, dedication to the Phoenix Childrenʼs Hospital, The Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund that supports kids and their families to make them healthier and happier “by funding positive activities, helping kids and families in crisis, and supporting health related organizations that work with families”  and so much more, Larry continues to make a positive effect in the world around him. “In our NFL community and abroad [Marcus and I] will continue to try and be the best ambassadors for your game in hopes that all players, coaches, support personnel, fans and friends will press forward and make this world a better place for everyone, and particularly for those with afflictions and those living in economic travail.” 
The football players we hold in high regard have a choice of how to make an impact outside of their profession. So many of them truly appreciate the opportunity they have of playing in the NFL and take their position of role model for our children seriously. That means a lot for me as a fan. Giving back to society is such a selfless and humbling act, and I want to thank all the people out there who have a passion for giving, a desire to help others and the inspiration to change the world one life at a time.
 Accessed at www.profootballweekly.com/video Humanitarian of the Year Award
 Accessed at www.defendingdreams.org/ on Wednesday, August 15, 2012
 Accessed at http://davinjosephfoundation.org/about/ on Wednesday, August 15, 2012
 Accessed at http://hikefoundation.org/ on Wednesday, August 15, 2012
 Accessed at http://gr8hopefoundation.com/HOME on Wednesday, August 15, 2012
 Accessed at www.larryfitzgerald11.com/first-down-fund/first-down-fund-info.html on Wednesday, August 15, 2012
 Accessed at www.larryfitzgerald11.com/in-my-own-words/larry-named-pro-football-weeklyhumanitarian-of-the-year.html on Wednesday, August 15, 2012