Via Jordan L. Walker and Imani Harris of the Detroit Free Press. Read the entire article by clicking here.
Joe Barksdale and Carl Davis live on different sides of the country, but they have a lot in common.
Both are from Detroit; both play professional football, and both spent this month giving back to the community that planted the seed for their careers in the NFL.
Barskdale, an offensive tackle with the Los Angeles Chargers, provided dozens of students with backpacks full of school supplies Wednesday at the Northwest Activities Center.
“It just makes me so happy to see (other kids) receive things they need,” said 9-year-old Kamron Jones, who is a student at University Prep Science and Math Elementary.
Barksdale, 28, was raised in Detroit in a neighborhood near the center, and after graduating from Cass Technical High School, attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He was drafted in 2011 by the then-Oakland Raiders. He joined the Chargers in 2015 and was named the Chargers' Lineman of the Year that year, according to the team's website.
Davis also spent time in Detroit this month, sharing with students at Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School and giving football equipment to players on the Westside Steelers football team.
“We started off the day at Mackenzie, and we basically took a few kids from the neighborhood on a shopping spree,” said Davis who is a defensive tackle with the Baltimore Ravens. “We chose the five students based off effort in the classroom, behavior and kids that might need that extra push and some type of motivation to say: ‘Hey, someone notices you.’ I needed that extra push, so I’m giving it to them. We just wanted them to know somebody from the neighborhood cared about them.”
Davis, who graduated from Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights, partnered with Walmart to give each student $200 to spend on school supplies and whatever else they wanted. Under Armour chipped in by donating backpacks.
Danielle Reed, 34, and parent of Omari Reed, a Mackenzie student who went on shopping spree said Davis' generosity is inspirational.
"To know that people haven't forgotten about you, because sometimes it feels like people have forgotten. It's a great thing because it can be hard to maintain for the parents," Reed said Wednesday.
Davis and his assistant and former mentor Brandon Jackson, 43, also visited students at Cody High School, where they announced plans to outfit the team with new gear and share their experiences.
“Well, we’re actually working out some stuff with gear with them,” said Davis. “I told my story and tried to speak a positive message into their life, some tricks in the game and some things I’ve learned on my pathway through football.”
The Detroit tour by giving new shoulder pads to the Steelers, a youth football team that Davis never played for, but wanted to.
“A lot of my friends growing up played for them, and I wanted to play for them," Davis said, adding that his weight kept him off the team. "I was too big as a kid, but they still showed me love, and I appreciated that. ... They might not get enough support, and having the platform that I do now, I just wanted to help.”
The Steelers were grateful for the gift.
“It’s the inner city, and you know, a lot of families are single families. Moms trying to do it themselves, and it’s always tight, and we have to fund-raise, and it’s kind of stressful on the parents," Dion Norman, president of the Steelers, said hours before the pads were delivered.
"So any time we can get a donation is appreciated. To upgrade that equipment is for, first and foremost, the safety of our kids. We’ll get the expression on their face today when they get their equipment. So, to take that financial burden off the shoulders of us and the parents goes a long way.”
Back over at the Northwest Activities Center on Wednesday, 13-year-old Jamari Tolbert chose a red backpack with an emblem of money across the bottom. He said he enjoyed the event and chose his backpack because of the design.
Mosie Lanus, a grandmother of 13, came to the giveaway with her 16-year-old grandson Deionta Lanus, and was happy to see “such a great turnout.” Deionta said he had a good time meeting Barksdale and “likes that he came to give school supplies to students.”
Barksdale, who said he plans to make the giveaway an annual event, said he believes that it his job to give back to the city.
“Detroit is a city full of resiliency and hard work, and that’s what I carry with me now...I have to give back to the city that raised me."