nfl Archives - Athletes for Hope

Join us in breaking down the stigma: become a Mental Health Champion today

AFH Athlete Spotlight

AFH Athlete Spotlight

From Small Town To Big Impact

On September 18, the Minnesota Vikings agreed to terms with NFL veteran offensive lineman Dalton Risner. The four-year Denver Broncos starter and 2022-23 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee may bring on-the-field expertise to Minnesota, but he also brings years of charitable service and leadership to the Vikings community. 

Risner’s foundation, RisnerUp, is a reflection of who Dalton is as a person, kind and passionate about helping others. Whether it is bringing a simple smile or helping someone find a new pathway in life, Risner offers many people a helping hand each year. 

Dalton Risner standing between two new friends made at Howdy Handmade.

“We may not be stopping world hunger but we are making a positive impact one day at a time without turning down opportunities to do more,” Risner said. 

Dalton grew up in a small rural town with less than 1,000 people. He went on to play Division I football at Kansas State and was eventually drafted by the Colorado team he always dreamed of playing for, the Denver Broncos. 

The offensive lineman had to defeat many odds in his journey, but he realized his true definition of success while in college. 

“The countless humanitarian awards in my time at Kansas State reflected my true meaning of success,” Risner said. “Which is positively impacting & empowering those around me.”

Risner has continued to showcase his faith in the world and finds ultimate fulfillment in others’ joy. Once he realized he had a platform, Risner did everything in his power to expand his reach and support as much as he could. 

Dalton Risner poses for a photo at the Special Olympics polar plunge.

The small-town football player quickly became a notable figure in the philanthropy space and sacrificed lots of time to help those in need. 

“When I started figuring out who I was, what made me happy, what filled my cup every day, is when I started to utilize my platform for the greater good,” Risner said. “I started to see the bigger picture and just how many people I could impact & empower in a positive way.”

Now an NFL veteran, Risner has established a better routine in terms of time management and prioritizing his various commitments. He also hopes to help develop those around him into becoming role models as well. 

Dalton poses for a photo at the SuperBowl in Arizona with Eastyn.

“People look to us in the spotlight for empowerment, guidance, inspiration, courage, and much more,” he said. “Someone’s always watching and we don’t want to let them down.”

From football camps to building houses to serving meals, Risner does not set boundaries to what his foundation can and cannot do. He knows that he simply wants to support communities where he can. 

“Giving back, being a mentor, being a light to someone is a big deal,” Risner added.

Whether it is Colorado or Minnesota, this NFL player tries to be a shining light in any situation possible. Dalton Risner is living proof that an NFL schedule, while an obstacle, does not define the amount of effort athletes can put into their charitable work. 

A smile can go a long way. Dalton Risner has helped put smiles on hundreds of people, and it is only just the beginning. 

“The truth is that in life if something is important enough, we will do it,” he said. “If we need to eat, sleep, brush our teeth, etc. we make time to do it, and we plan ahead to do so. I treat service to others the same way, it’s important to me to be a role model, and show kids like my younger self that you can be a professional and have “made it” or however the world views it, and still be a genuine person that gives to others with time, money & commitment.”

Dalton tells participants of the RisnerUp football camp to put their hands in for a team chant before getting started.

Sport For Good Highlight

AFH Sport for Good Highlight: National Football League

September 7 marks the dawn of the 2023 NFL season. From now until February there will be highlight reel plays and iconic moments on the field, but there will also be important events away from the gridiron. 

The National Football League has long been a philanthropic institution that prides itself on giving back to communities and people in need. Whether it is through the NFL Foundation or independent charity organizations, the league is one of the premier organizations in terms of charitable donations and initiatives. 

During the next several months there will be a spotlight on the players, coaches, and organizations that are the backbone of “America’s Game.” Check out some highlights below of players and teams giving back to their communities as we get ready for the season ahead!

“To Weaver, love can come in many different forms. It can come in a smile, an ounce of happiness, or a small gesture. Giving back has become the star’s way of showing love, and it is through others that he realizes he is more than a normal person, he is a source of inspiration.”

Read the full article on

“The awards bring the program’s total commitment since it began in 1998 to $61.8 million, resulting in the creation or refurbishment of 431 fields nationwide.”

Read the full article on

“He’s recently signed on to be an AFH Whole Being Athlete Mental Health Ambassador and gotten involved in our Hospital Heroes program – all within two weeks of the NFL Draft!”

Read the full article on

“The NFL first met Rojas this past February at Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. After seeing a commissioned piece he made during a Super Bowl week event and learning more about the artist’s inspiring life mission and unique backstory, the NFL set out to collaborate with Rojas for the upcoming season to create and display pieces that encourage love and unity.”

Read the full article on

Check out all of the NFL Community’s work on

Athlete Spotlight

Rashad Weaver finds love in the little actions

Football player Rashad Weaver found a “deep love” for football his sophomore year in high school after he transitioned to defense, and never looked back. Today, Weaver is aware of his blessings and has found a way to support the next generation of children. 

The NFL linebacker has always viewed himself as a person who remains a work in progress socially. There is no sense of ego in his everyday emotions, and the Tennessee Titan will be the first to admit that it can be hard to balance such a busy lifestyle. 

The only difference between Weaver and many people is that he finds fulfillment in giving back, no matter the circumstances. He has found how influential his platform can be as a professional athlete and has embraced his role as a giver. 

photo of Tennessee Titan, Rashad Weaver, down and ready to make a play.

“I view myself as a very normal person, but to these kids and people I am so much more at times,” Weaver said. “It’s awesome to give them that joy.”

So when he is tired after a long practice or is coming from a brutal workout, he simply remembers the smiles he receives and the impact he can have. 

As a kid, Weaver played 4 sports and looked up to mainstream athletes as idols. Now, he makes it his mission to give back to the kids whose shoes he was once in. 

“I see kids telling me I’m their favorite player, with my jersey, writing me notes or letters, asking for autographs or just excited to hang out and have a good time,” Weaver said. “That’s when I realized the impact my platform can have.”

To Weaver, love can come in many different forms. It can come in a smile, an ounce of happiness, or a small gesture. Giving back has become the star’s way of showing love, and it is through others that he realizes he is more than a normal person, he is a source of inspiration. 

When he is able to make the time, Weaver enjoys participating in school days and other things of that nature to help the youth. He views them as innocent and without control of their situation making their smiles that much more important. 

Rashad Weaver stands with Patrick Jones II at the Chasing M's charity softball tournament.

“I just tell myself how much fun I will have and no matter how big or small that I can positively impact someone,” he said. “It gives me the desire to go to these events even when I have things going on.”

It took time to adjust to a lifestyle with service involved, but he remains candid as to the importance of supporting the less fortunate or underserved. 

Whether a person is sick or without many of life’s privileges, Weaver is always grateful for the opportunity to touch lives. 

He is the first person in his family to attend a university and also graduate from one. He was a first-team All-American in college and was drafted to the NFL. And he still counts his blessings and reaches out to help others. 

Rashad Weaver twirls his friend around at the Rally on the Runway event.

He knows football is more than a game, it is an opportunity to make your mark on the world. 

“Just take the leap,” Weaver said. “It can be overwhelming sometimes or even a little nerve-wracking as you can end up in uncomfortable positions, maybe with sick people or people in not great positions. But the feeling you will feel after being involved outweighs it all and you will be so grateful you got to spend time with these people.”

Athletes in Action

NFL Prospects Prepare for the Draft By Making Kids Smile

First step: Senior Bowl. Second step: AFH Empowerment Workshop. Third step: Hospital Heroes visits the week of the Draft. Fourth step: Making kids smile.

While the players we met at the 2022 Senior Bowl are getting ready for the next stage of their careers, some of them took time out of their busy schedules to bring smiles to the faces of kids who need it most.

These visits featured:
🏈 Perrion Winfrey of Oklahoma
🏈 Cameron Thomas of SDSU
🏈 Leon O’Neal of Texas A&M
🏈 Braxton Jones of Southern Utah
🏈 Matt Waletzko of North Dakota
🏈 Sterling Weatherford of Miami University
🏈 Jordan Silver of Arkansas
🏈 Dameon Pierce of Florida
🏈 Tycen Anderson of Toledo
🏈 Chris Paul of Tulsa

“The visit was so much fun! Hands down the highlight of my week!”

Chris Paul, Tulsa Football

It’s always an honor to work with athletes at any point in their athletic journey, but it’s extra special to witness the next generation – days before one of the biggest moments in their lives – make an impact in such a meaningful way.

Unsurprisingly, the feedback we received from our hospital partners was nothing short of amazing.

“I just wanted to send you a quick thank you for helping recruit our amazing guests today. Matt, Jordan, and Sterling were so fun and really great sports. We were all truly impressed with their acting, drawing, and sculpting skills! Please let them know how appreciative we are that they took the time to play a game with us and answer some questions [about playing football].”

Leslie Scott, Child Life Specialist at Children’s Wisconsin

Another thank you to the Senior Bowl for making AFH a part of their offerings to players in February. We like to think it goes a long way!

Najee Harris, Community Hero of the Week

Najee Harris is Making an Impact Off the Football Field

What’s most impressive about Steelers’ Running Back Najee Harris isn’t just his unbelievable rookie season in the NFL – including his 2021 Pro Bowl selection, PFWA All-Rookie Team and finishing in the top 4 of rushing yards league-wide – it’s his relentless commitment to making the world a better place off the field. For that reason, Najee is this week’s AFH Community Hero!

From the moment AFH connected to Najee at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl, it was clear he was someone who embodied what our organization is all about. Over the past year, all while Najee was preparing to be drafted and then playing for the entire 2021 NFL season, he made time to contribute to many different causes in many different communities, using his platform for good.

In March of 2021, prior to the Draft, Najee made time to visit the North Texas Food Bank, helping pack, sort and box food for food insecure Texans. During the Draft itself, a night that one could say was the biggest of his life, he made it about others and his community by hosting a party for children living at the homeless shelter where he spent time during his childhood. Najee has also recorded multiple videos to spread joy and hope to sick patients at the Children’s Hospital of Mobile Alabama. This week, he participated in Project Play’s Reimagining School Sports event where he spoke on the importance of high school sports and how football opened doors to opportunities he never imagined (an event he prepared for on his 24th birthday!). Najee also founded his own foundation, Da Bigger Picture Foundation, which focuses on assisting underserved families in reaching their potential and goals.

“I found out that I could help people, my story could help people – or it will make them feel like they’re not alone in a way.”

Najee Harris to ESPN

Najee is truly special and we are very lucky to work with him to help make the world a better place. Congratulations, Najee, on being this week’s Community Hero of the Week! And a very Happy Birthday week 🎉

NFL Draft Prep: Reflecting on the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl

If you’re a football fan, you probably already know what the Senior Bowl is. You already know that it’s one of the biggest pre-NFL Draft events of the season where elite prospects – and soon we can drop the word “prospects” and replace it with “players” – from all over the country are invited to Mobile, Alabama to showcase their talent to coaches, scouts and decision-makers from all 32 NFL teams. 

What you might not know is that since 2017, Athletes for Hope has had the privilege of presenting to each Senior Bowl class and helping them understand how to turn their charitable passions into action while leveraging their platform as athletes.

From strict COVID-19 protocols to our session being the first in-person workshop we’ve held for almost a year, everyone’s 2021 Senior Bowl was a little different than years’ past. But that was really where the differences ended. Lead by Athletes for Hope CEO Ivan Blumberg, players were engaged, inspired and since our workshop, we’ve had countless conversations with them on how they can give back to their communities. 

So apart from prepping for the NFL Draft, what have some of these Senior Bowl athletes been up to since January?

Alabama’s Najee Harris spent an afternoon at the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) helping pack kid-friendly food items for NTFB’s Food 4 Kids Program which provides backpacks full of nutritious foods and snacks to elementary school children experiencing food insecurity. He also moved pallets in their warehouse (which in all fairness might count as prepping for the Draft).

Pitt’s Patrick Jones II has been volunteering at various food banks across southeast Virginia, packing grocery bags, stocking shelves and sorting produce.

Duke’s Noah Gray joined the Philadelphia Phillies’ Sam Fuld’s TD1 Sports Camp where he spoke to campers about his experience living with Type 1 Diabetes as an athlete.

Education is at the core of Athletes for Hope and at the beginning of every charitable athlete’s philanthropic journey. We know this is just the beginning for not just the athletes mentioned above, but for so many soon-to-be NFL players.  

We know the draft starts in Mobile. Where does an NFL prospect’s journey in turning their charitable passions into action start? Answer: also in Mobile.