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The Communities that Shape NFL Players


Jan. 1, 1970

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

I recently returned home to Cinnaminson, NJ to present my high school with a ‘golden football’ in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. I wasn’t expecting much on the drive up from D.C. with my son, Chet. Truthfully, I spent some time on Interstate 95 mapping out my return to DC: based on traffic how long will the drive home take? and what do I have waiting when I get back? After all, this would be a simple trip. I’ll shake a few hands, take a few pictures and check the box on one more visit home.

As I entered the school office, I was greeted by my old friend Angie’s big smile; it was like no time had passed. Strolling the halls felt good. And the thoughts of my plans back in DC disappeared.

I walked into the school library to greet the principal. It wasn’t just a few hands. There was a community of teachers, coaches and friends waiting to say hello, share a hug and maybe some old pictures. I was completely overwhelmed by all the love and support.

It got me thinking about how much family and community has poured into my life. Looking out into the audience, I realized that my accomplishments were shared with Cinnaminson, and rightfully so. From Mark Lassiter to ‘Topper’ Clemons to Darrell Hazell and Rob Topolski, I stand on their shoulders. From Ms. Adderley to Ms. Karsh and Ms. Sammartino, I learned so much about respect, literature, art and people. They were the ones who watered the seeds of confidence in an impressionable teenager. I wasn’t perfect, and there is plenty I wish I could take back and do over, but so much time has passed and there has been so much growth beyond those years. And that all started with the community of family, friends, teachers and mentors invested in me.

Think about it, there are opportunities every day to make a difference in someone’s life: to be part of their community. You can make it easier for someone else by taking a moment to teach and share your experiences. You never know if that young person in front of you is full of energy and ideas, needing someone to look up and tell him or her, You are full of potential. You are allowed to hope and dream.

Stop. Breathe. Exhale. Remind yourself that you are qualified to help someone celebrate all of the small victories. Life is way more fun that way.

Needless to say, my drive back to DC with Chet was less about beating traffic and more about the quality time we had on the journey.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund

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