INTERVIEWS: NFL Players Discuss the Rare, Chronic, and Underserved Causes that Mean the Most to Them (Pt. 3)

Before you read on, make sure to check out:

  • Part 1 of our article: Green Bay Packers’ Shemar Jean-Charles and Los Angeles Chargers’ Storm Norton discuss why they raise Alzheimer’s disease awareness.
  • Part 2New York Jets’ Tanzel Smart and his wife Jada explain why Down syndrome is a personal cause, and Indianapolis Colts’ JoJo Domann shares why he supports the Team Jack Foundation. 

Today, in Part 3, we’ll hear from Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Benny Snell Jr. about his support for the 22 Oats Strong Foundation, and learn why Indianapolis Colts DE Dayo Odeyingbo hopes to honor his teammate’s legacy through Turner’s Heroes

Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Benny Snell Jr.: 22 Oats Strong Foundation

To say that Benny Snell Jr. has had an impressive football career would be an understatement. The 5 ’10 running back, who hails from Westerville, OH, has a career 982 rushing yards since joining the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019. During his time as a University of Kentucky Wildcat, Snell Jr. broke the school rushing record of 3,835 yards, ranked 3rd in SEC history in rushing touchdowns, and was the first player in school history with three 1,000-yard seasons. 

During this time, Snell Jr. came to recognize the importance of community support – especially when it came to his teammates. In 2020, Chris Oats, a linebacker at the University of Kentucky, experienced a major stroke; he was just twenty years old. The community quickly rallied behind Oats, raising funds to help Oats and his family with the necessary care and resources to work towards recovery. 

Choosing this Cause

Snell Jr. shares:

For My Cause My Cleats, I chose the 22 Oats Strong Foundation because I want to support my former teammate. Due to the circumstances of what happened, Chris wasn’t able to live his football career or dream out. I felt like this was a great opportunity to share his foundation. I love Chris, I love his family, and I’m just so glad to bring awareness.

While strokes in children and young adults are on the rise, they are still considered to be rare. After Oats’ stroke, his family found themselves facing a mountain of medical bills. Snell Jr. explains:

“Health issues like this throw a lot of families for a curveball and they’re not ready for it. For Chris’ family, they weren’t ready for the appointments, doctors, and other things they had to pay for to get moving. There are a lot of families in situations where they don’t have a voice or the funds to do that. It’s very unfortunate. So I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to put it on the national stage for other people to see.”

If other people are looking to get involved, Snell Jr. advocates for just spreading the word and continuing to raise awareness. While donations are welcomed (and you can donate here to support families, particularly single-parent families, of pediatric stroke victims), Snell Jr. says:

“I think it is most important to just spread the word about Chris, his family, and his story. And on a greater level, just bringing awareness to these stories can help other families.”

About the 22 Oats Strong Foundation

The 22 Oats Strong Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that serves young stroke victims, particularly in single-parent homes, alongside other charities in need. Its mission is to minimize financial stress so that families caring for impaired children can spend more quality time with their loved ones. You can learn more about the 22 Oats Strong Foundation via its website or via Twitter.

Indianapolis Colts Defensive End Dayo Odeyingbo: Turner’s Heroes

In November 2018, Turner Cockrell, a third-year Tight End for the Vanderbilt Commodores, passed away following a battle with melanoma. He was twenty-one years old. Since his passing, his friends and family launched Turner’s Heroes, a registered 501(c)(3) organization that aims to help support children with cancer. 

When he got the chance to raise awareness on a greater level, Indianapolis Colts Defense End Dayo Odeyingbo jumped at the chance. He shares:

“Turner Cockrell was one of my teammates at Vandy. He passed away from cancer when I was a sophomore. I chose the Foundation because it’s close to my heart, and I know and am close with his family.”

An Overview of Melanoma

Melanoma is considered to be the most severe form of skin cancer, though it can spread to affect other parts of the body and organs. It occurs in melanocytes, or melanin-producing cells. Most often, melanoma is found on the shoulders, hips, head, neck, arms, and legs. It is most common in adults but can appear in children. Cases of melanoma have been increasing over the past three decades. Symptoms and characteristics can include new moles, spots on the skin that change in size, shape, or color, skin color changes, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, appetite loss, headache, chronic cough, and unintended weight loss. Treatment options can include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, biologics, or targeted therapy. 

About Turner’s Heroes

Turner’s Heroes is a nonprofit organization, established as a way to honor Turner and his legacy, that aims to support children with cancer while also advancing cancer research. On the organization’s website, founder Cody Markel, a fellow teammate of Cockrell and Odeyingbo, shares:

“Turner’s love for superheroes was unmatched. Turner was a superhero throughout his fight and his life to those around him. I know that Turner would believe that every single child suffering from cancer is more of a superhero than he ever was. That is just the type of person that Turner was.”

The organization has funded Discovery Grants that are exploring the genetic predisposition to pediatric cancer and disordered ribosomes and leukemia.

Stay tuned for Part 4, where we’ll be sharing Indianapolis Colts RB Deon Jackson’s support of the National Breast Cancer Foundation and why Colts WR Ashton Dulin felt it was important to raise awareness for the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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