By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
When the Los Angeles Chargers called the team together to announce the 2017 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominee, everyone was looking around asking, “I wonder who it is?” – including Chargers cornerback, Casey Hayward.
The question was soon answered, and it turned out, it was Hayward who was nominated. “I was trying to figure out who it was,” Hayward laughed. “When they called my name, I was surprised. But, I think everyone who is nominated probably feels the same way because you don’t do [the work for the nomination].”
In addition to helping those in his community, Hayward hopes his work can inspire and give confidence to other players who might want to get involved doing charitable work, but don’t know how to get started.
He offers advice on what he found worked for him.
“I always say take it slow,” Hayward said. “One thing at a time, the way I did it. Then it picked up from there. Once you start and are doing well people want to join. And you can also piggy back on other people. People always want to give back.
He also suggests tapping into resources that are already available – for Hayward that was his family.
There are literally hundreds of Haywards in the small town of Perry, Georgia. Not only do they all cheer for their, son/brother/nephew/cousin Casey Hayward every Sunday, but many of them have joined him in his efforts on behalf of the community.
Initially, it was Hayward’s mother, Tish, who spearheaded the community efforts alongside her son after he joined the NFL with the Green Bay Packers in 2012. They focused on their own community of Perry where they knew people were in need. She launched the foundation called Hayward’s Hands.
“My first year we were doing football camps and then she wanted to start cheerleading camps,” Hayward recalled. “Then at Thanksgiving [we wanted to help give people food for the holiday so, we said, ‘Let’s make this an invitation from the Hayward family.
“That just went on from Thanks giving then we joined with another organization to do a toy drive for Christmas. The first year with the toy drive we sponsored over 250 families. Now I’m more fortunate, but when we weren’t, I wished people could help. Kids give a long list (of things they want) and if we can take items off that list, then the burden comes off the families.”
They have also added a scholarship program for students in Perry.
When Tish was diagnosed with breast cancer, the foundation took on that cause as well. Although Tish lost her battle with the disease in 2016, Hayward continues their efforts. The foundation now hosts a fundraising event called Shoot for the Cure, with proceeds donated toward cancer research.
Hayward gets gratification from being able to help others and being able to do it alongside his family members gives him extra joy – and offers a level of trust and comfort.
“For me, everything we do is with my family,” Hayward said. “They help with everything so, it’s easier for me to say they’re looking out for my best interest. But when you join with other organizations, you have to do background checks. “And,” he cautioned when building a charitable presence, “Always keep integrity of yourself. Make sure it’s the best for everyone. I have my financial people look at anything that comes to the table.”
He also hopes that seeing the off-the-field efforts of their peers will continue to inspire other players to take the first step.
“Hopefully [people] will see that you can always do more,” Hayward said.
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.