Steve Weatherford’s life is all about clock management. The New York Giants punter, now preparing to enter his ninth NFL season, has the standard obligations that come with being a professional football player and which consume the vast majority of his schedule for six months of the year. And, as a husband and father of three small children, family life is his highest priority. However, Weatherford also puts an enormous amount of time and energy into his charity commitments, which are numerous, and sandwiches them in wherever he can.
It all adds up to not a whole lot of free time, but Weatherford isn’t complaining. “I’m just as passionate about charity as I am about football,” he said. “You can touch so many people with the smallest amount of energy. My main thing of what I look for when choosing a charity is who’s it benefiting? Is it benefiting children, is it benefiting veterans?”
Weatherford understands the power of reaching out and the impact it has on others in paying it forward. He related a story from his own childhood when NFL running back and former Heisman runner up Anthony Thompson, a native of Weatherford’s hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana hosted a football camp for local children during the summer.
Although Weatherford wasn’t even playing football at that point (he started in high school), he signed up and the memory of Thompson making the effort to help in his community stuck with him through the years. When he finally reached the NFL himself, it was simply instinctive to take on that mantle.
“With the celebrity of playing in the NFL also comes the ability to inspire, motivate and educate almost everyone you encounter,” he said. “Something as simple as me speaking to a group of fifth graders for 10 minutes, they’ll remember that for a long time.”
In addition to numerous appearances for a variety of charities including organizations like Project Prom, Kicks for Kids and Rush the Punter, Weatherford also has The Steve Weatherford Foundation, which is run out of Terre Haute.
In 2013, Weatherford, who is intensely focused on his own fitness, was named Health and Fitness Ambassador by the Boys and Girls Clubs of New Jersey. He oversees a fitness challenge for the clubs’ youth members and posts blogs and videos to inspire them and encourage their progress.
His personal website, weatherford5.com, provides a running overview of all of his various activities, including his role as spokesperson for Second Chance Toys, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Steve Weatherford Charity for Ghana.
His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by those around him and in 2013 Weatherford was the recipient of the Byron “Whizzer” White Award, one of the most prestigious NFL honors recognizing outstanding community service.
Although Weatherford is the public face, it is his wife, Laura, who remains behind the scenes, but very much in the forefront of managing both the Weatherford family and Steve’s charity endeavors. They make all decisions together, with Laura usually getting the final word depending on how his requests and commitments will fit in with their family’s schedule.
Like all NFL wives, Laura had to learn on the fly how to navigate this unique world. Players are scarce for a good part of the year and wives are immediately thrust into the role of overseer of the entire family’s life and much of her husband’s obligations.
“I don’t think anyone’s ever prepared for it,” Laura said of life in the NFL. “And no one [outside] really understands.”
But now, after eight years, they have a system down. “I don’t go to most of the events,” Laura said. “It’s more a factor of big picture. We try to figure out the big things we have to do. If Steve has nothing going on during the week we plug something in. I try to deter weekend things and keep that for family.” During the season, she tries to limit his events to Monday nights or Tuesdays, his one day off.
Equally gratifying for them are the rewards the Weatherfords are seeing right in their own household. Their oldest child, six-year-old son, Ace, frequently accompanies his father to events relating to children and it has made a noticeable impression.
“It’s important for our kids to understand the privileges they’ve been given,” Laura said. “Now, Ace will say, ‘Dad, I don’t play with this toy anymore, we can give it to another kid who needs it.”
What they’ve all learned the most from their mission of giving is summed up by Laura, “It’s not always a matter of what you give them; it’s the time you give them. “