If Plaxico Burress is the poster boy for what not to do after you win a Super Bowl then Usama Young might be considered his polar opposite. The free safety for the New Orleans Saints is wise beyond his 25 years and he’s not afraid to show it…and share it. In the aftermath of his Super Bowl victory, he didn’t spend his entire offseason “making it rain” across America. Enlightened by his own success, Young focused his energy on one goal: inspiring others.
The DC native is finding creative ways to reach out to the community through his foundation. The Usama Young Foundation works with single-parent families, students with learning disabilities and underprivileged youth. And while the foundation was just recently established, you might say the building blocks have been there all along.
“I started it because I grew up in a family that was far from rich but wasn’t poor. Even though we didn’t have that much, my parents found a way to give. I remember growing up giving to the homeless…we’d go downtown and have hot plates for them and give back. It led me to continue to do that same thing, whatever I can still do for the less fortunate.”
Young says he started thinking about how much of an influence he could have on others as a pro football player, particularly in a city like New Orleans, where the boys in black and gold practically walk on water. Having come from a family of educators, he easily latched on to the idea that educating and interacting with kids over an extended period of time could have an impact beyond what they learn in the classroom.
Of all the experiences he’s had over his time working with kids, one particular interaction really stands out. Young was visiting a football practice for 13 and 14 year olds when he noticed a few players who just seemed out of it. Instead of chalking it up as “kids being kids”, Usama approached the situation head on.
“I had one-on-one convos with a few of the kids and I learned a family member or brother had been shot and killed or that they had a family member on drugs. I went through a lot of adversity growing up but I found peace on the field and I emphasized the importance of that. Even though there’s a lot of negativity, there’s always something positive that can come out of it. (One kid) was happy to hear those words. I could see the pain in his heart but at the same time he knew it could get better.”
Through his foundation, Usama now regularly hosts something called the “Chalk Talk” series. The series includes visits to classrooms around New Orleans talking to kids about everything from football to goal setting and making the right decisions. Usama focuses on rising above peer pressure, time management and giving kids the tools they’ll need to get to the next level.
The foundation will take things to the next level in November when Usama hosts a College Tour with high school students. Young and several of his teammates will sponsor 100 tenth and eleventh graders in the greater New Orleans area for a tour of Dillard University and the University of New Orleans. It’s an innovative project that Young believes could make a big difference for first generation graduates.
“A lot of kids don’t really think about college. When I ask them about their goals, a lot of them say “I want to be in the NFL, NBA, be a singer or a rapper. I tell them, ‘if you wanna go to the NFL, you’re gonna have to go to college and have some pretty good grades to get to college.’ This (college tour) is just giving them a glance at what’s to come and what might come.”
“Busy baller” Usama Young will also host a “Party for a Purpose” through his foundation on October 29th. The happy hour at Bridge Lounge in Uptown New Orleans will feature some “Saintly surprises”, games and drink specials. Every 28th person to enter will also receive autographed Saints memorabilia.
Usama Young is clearly doing his part to make a difference “off the clock” and it’s important for us fans to show our support outside the walls of the Superdome, too. For more on how you can contribute, check out the Usama Young Youth Foundation’s website.