Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Retired NFL linebacker and devoted Philanthropist
A selfless, compassionate, and highly driven leader
is changing the face of cancer, strengthening others
and improving the world around him
To understand what motivates Chris Draft, a 13-season linebacker, it helps to know a little bit about his charitable works and community service outreach.
He founded the Chris Draft Family Foundation, focusing on the overarching themes of education, healthy lifestyles, character development, personal responsibility, self-discipline and physical fitness. He has received a range of awards for his philanthropic and charitable efforts, including the NFL Alumni Spirit Award. He was recognized on the floor of the Georgia General Assembly for outstanding contributions to young people, Georgia communities and the state.
Named the 2009 National Ambassador for the National Parent Teacher Association, Chris is the author of a children's book," Do you want to Play Catch?" emphasizing the importance of reading and exercising with your children. He ran “Project Blind Side,” a community service endeavor in which he met with young people to discuss the concepts in the film “The Blind Side.”
In 2012 Chris created Team Draft , a very important initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation. Team Draft was created to honor his late wife Keasha, who passed away from lung cancer. In November 2011, they married and Keasha passed away one month later. On their wedding day, they made a commitment to each other, and to the lung cancer community. “That commitment would transform into our campaign that changed the face of lung cancer,” Draft says.
Since Keasha and Chris created Team Draft, Chris has done extensive fact-finding research with hundreds of top cancer centers across the nation.
Chris is devoted to fighting for and fostering very personal relationships with lung cancer survivors, their families, doctors, and cancer centers all over the world. He is teaching them all to expand their definition of winning. Team Draft defines winning as increasing awareness, early detection, customized treatment, research, and survivorship. Team Draft’s worked has saved countless lives, and improved the quality of life for cancer patients, and their families.
Raised in a two-parent household – his mother was a social worker and his father a salesman -- Chris learned early on about teamwork and commitment. His first sport was soccer. He was only four years old when his father began coaching his older brother’s team and asked for a special dispensation to allow his younger son to play. But Chris let him down.” I didn’t want to run around the field when my dad said to. Basically, I ended up acting like a little baby, until my dad just told me to sit over by my mom. She said, ‘Either get out there and practice with your teammates or you’re not going to play for the rest of the year.’ I use that as an example because from the beginning, my parents made it very clear that you don’t pick and choose what you want to do. If you’re in, you’re in.”
Young Chris got the message, and so when he first took to the football field as a ten-year-old, it was a different story. “At the first practice, I gave everything I had, and man, I was so sore the next day. My dad said, ‘I know you’re a little sore, but you’re going to go back out there and you’re going to work right through that soreness because you’ve made a commitment.’ When you start it, you finish it.”
Growing up as an African-American in Orange County, California presented its own challenges. He discovered early on that certain stereotypes about young black men caused people to make incorrect assumptions about him. “Everyone, regardless of their racial makeup or other circumstances, faces the assumptions and expectations people have about them,” he says. “Even if they lack external encouragement, kids need to find inner resources with which they can find their strengths, accept their limitations and make the best of themselves regardless of what people might say or think.”
Self-determination is key, he believes, and he considers it a paramount priority to communicate this to young teens. “If you’re willing to fight and you want to get out of the situation you’re in, you’ve got to ask yourself, what is it that you’re willing to do? What type of person do you want to be? What is in your character?”
Being a long-time asthma sufferer reinforces for him time and again the importance of perseverance and resilience. “With the asthma, it’s a daily mindset. I just have to keep rolling and always be listening to my body. As an athlete, I have had to feel my body out every day and say, ‘Is what I’m doing working for me?’” But in a way, the omnipresent health concerns just reinforce the transience of life as a professional athlete. “It’s the nature of the NFL that you could be gone tomorrow, meaning done as a pro player, but the nature of my asthma meant that I could have be gone tomorrow for good. And so I asked myself all the time, ‘If this were my last day, could I say I worked hard? Did I do my best and give everything today? Regardless of what people perceive of my level of talent, did I throw myself into my work today?”
His relationship with God encourages constant self-improvement as well. “I am a Christian. God gave me purpose and He gave me opportunity. I’ve experienced the blessings of attending Stanford, of having football skills, and of my parents keeping me focused and insisting that I not waste my talents.”
With his tireless commitment to helping those who look up to him, advocating on behalf of communities and their members, and being the best man and football player he could be, Chris Draft sets a high benchmark in defining the goals and possibilities to which one man can climb as an Insightful Player™ team member.
Instant replay of Chris’s guiding principles:
1. Embody your ideals. Live out the rules you set, so that no one can accuse you of insincerity.
2. Don’t wait for someone else to step forward as a leader. Empower yourself to fix any problem you see or lead any effort in which you believe.
3. Emphasize priorities and values over flair. Whether it’s about a pair of sneakers or your performance on the football field, be sure that there is substance and quality beneath the exterior.
4. When you choose to make a commitment to something, see it through. As part of a team, it doesn’t matter as much how well you play as whether or not you stand with your team on the field.
5. Finish what you start. Don’t let physical or mental obstacles keep you from seeing your efforts to completion.
6. Take responsibility for the people and the environment around you. Be an agent of positive change.
7. Allow the quality of your work to speak for your character. If people assume the worst about you, let your actions and deeds prove them wrong.
8. Don’t rely on “cheerleaders” to convince you of your worth. Be your own best cheerleader.
9. Give 100% effort to whatever you undertake. Stay until the job is done.
10. Look for the opportunity to change someone’s life.
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