Super Bowl Sunday is over, but it's hard to let the football season go without commending Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long's contributions this year. The former St. Louis Ram was solid on the field, helping his team to the Super Bowl. In the NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings, Long had two tackles, two QB hits and a fumble recovery. He tipped quarterback Case Keenum's arm leading to an interception by Patrick Robinson, who returned it for a touchdown to tie the score. While splitting time with defensive end Vinny Curry, Long finished the regular season with 28 tackles and five sacks.
Long also made a huge impact off the field. Before the season, Long announced he would donate his entire salary to charities in Philadelphia and two of the cities where he played in the past, Boston and St. Louis. He selected four organizations that make education accessible to underserved youth, including College Bound and the Little Bit Foundation in St. Louis.
In addition, Long continued work with Waterboys, the signature initiative of the Chris Long Foundation. It raises funds and awareness for clean water for communities in East Africa. Bringing together NFL players, their fans, corporate sponsors and other charitable organizations, it builds sustainable clean water wells through WorldServe International.
Since the start of the initiative, Long has recruited 26 players from more than 20 teams as their clubs' "waterboy." The group has raised more than $1.3 million to date – enough to build 24 wells. Sponsors include Clayton Financial Group, based in St. Louis.
Long also teamed up with former Seattle Seahawk and active-duty Green Beret Nate Boyer to develop the Conquering Kili program, as part of the Waterboys initiative. The program gives combat veterans a new mission that serves people in need: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise the funds needed to build wells for communities in East Africa. With Blake Watson, a Marine combat veteran who lost his leg in Iraq, Boyer made the first climb in February 2016, honoring the sacrifices that all veterans have made for our country.
More than $275,000 has been raised to construct four wells in Tanzania.
The foundation hosts events honoring members of the military and their families, and makes financial contributions to organizations that support and serve veterans.
While playing for the Rams, Long and then-teammate William Hayes donated money to St. Patrick Center and other organizations that support people who are homeless in St. Louis. But they felt they could be doing more. So, they took to the streets — literally — spending a day and night "undercover" as homeless men, and documenting their experience.
Just before the Super Bowl, Long and his teammate Lane Johnson challenged the NFL to donate the proceeds of its Eagles Super Bowl LII T-shirts to charity, following steps the two players have taken with their own underdog-themed gear. A day later, the league said all of the proceeds from the shirts would benefit the Philadelphia School District's not-for-profit arm.
While most of us in the archdiocese do not have the platform that pro athletes have — in St. Louis, Cardinal pitcher Adam Wainwright and former Cards pitcher Kyle McClellan support similar charities in developing countries — we can support these efforts and/or support and promote our own Church-related efforts. That tops any Super Bowl victory.
Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.
To support mission efforts recently profiled in the St. Louis Review, the Chris Long Foundation and the St. Louis efforts funded by the foundation, visit:
• Mission Office of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, www.archstl.org/mission#
• Belize 2020, a Jesuit project at St. Martin Parish in Belize, www.belize2020.org
• Qeqchi Partners, Inc., a project of Father Dan Vogt in Guatemala, www.stlouisreview.com/jPU
• Franciscan Charities' wells for Africa, www.stlouisreview.com/jEY
• Microfinancing Partners in Africa, www.microfinancingafrica.org
• Chris Long Foundation, www.chrislongfoundation.org
• The Little Bit Foundation, www.thelittlebitfoundation.org
• College Bound St. Louis, www.collegeboundstl.org
• St. Patrick Center, www.stpatrickcenter.org