Tuesday, January 10, 2012
INDEPENDENCE -- Back in December, former Central High football star and fifth-year NFL defensive end Jeff Charleston gave Panthers coach and athletic director Shane Hedrick a phone call just before the holidays hit.
It turned out to be a pretty nice Christmas present to the Central football program -- to the tune of $10,000.
"That was gigantic," Hedrick said of the money, which Charleston donated to the program through the NFL's Youth Football Fund.
Charleston heard about the program -- which allows NFL players to donate up to $5,000 to approved youth or high school football programs, and then have the amount matched by the YFF -- through a New Orleans Saints teammate.
"I don't get back to Monmouth too often, but my parents are still there and I keep in contact with Shane," Charleston said by telephone, just days before Sunday's 45-28 wild-card playoff win over Detroit.
"It means a lot to help the kids there. I'd do anything to help out that program because that's where I came from.
"Being in the NFL and you're away from home, you don't want to forget that's where you started and that's where you came from, and if it wasn't for that you wouldn't even make it to the NFL," he added.
Hedrick plans to use the funds -- Central received the $5,000 check from Charleston Jan. 4 and expects the matching check from the NFL some time this week -- to pay for new football helmets for not just the high school team, but for the district's youth programs as well.
"Our No. 1 priority is safety, and that's the helmets right now," he said. "We need to make sure that our youth programs are taken care of as well, so I wanted to include helmets from third grade to 12th, and then I can oversee sizing them up right as well."
The average cost per helmet is $225, so in all reality $10,000 won't go too far -- that's enough to buy about 45 helmets.
But it will alleviate some of the inefficiency of leasing helmets for one season at a time, which is what Hedrick has been forced to do in the past.
As for Charleston, he's enjoying another year on a successful team, as the Saints eye another Super Bowl title (their last came in 2009).
He's also looking ahead to one more date, with longtime girlfriend Reagan Tucker.
"I'm engaged and getting married in July," Charleston said.
JEFF CHARLESTON FILE
Specs: 6-foot-4, 265 pounds
Position: Defensive end
Current Team: New Orleans Saints (4th year*).
Alma maters: Idaho State (2004-05**), Western Oregon (2001-03), Central High School (1998-2001).
Stats: Charleston has nine tackles (including a sack) in 10 games this season for the NFC South Division champion Saints, who finished the regular season at 13-3.
* Charleston played one season for the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 as a free agent. He was undrafted in 2006.
** He sat out the 2004 season due to transfer rules.