Asomugha is All-Pro off field, too

Asomugha
Asomugha
Posted: August 01, 2011

BETHLEHEM - One city's loss is another city's gain.

And I'm not just talking about what Oakland Raiders fans lost when free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha signed on Friday with the Eagles.

I'm talking about the city of Oakland and its surrounding communities.

Don't get me wrong, because I know that many athletes walk their talk about sharing their good fortunes and giving back to the community.

I would never belittle anything that anyone does to help his/her fellow person because anything is great and no amount is too small, but some people have a greater call for philanthropy. It's not just something that they do. It's something they feel they must do.

Asomugha is one of those people.

As quick as people are to talk about him being one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, they are just as quick to point out what a quality human being he is and how he has made such a strong commitment to helping others.

"I've always said that no matter where I ended up I was going to continue to do work in the community," Asomugha said yesterday as he was formally introduced as the newest Eagle. "You can't play football forever.

"But I do believe that while you are playing, you have to use that platform in some sort of way. For me it's been helping out in the community and it has always been."

As much as Raiders fans will miss Asomugha's play on Sundays, the kids at the East Oakland Youth Development Center likely will miss him more.

In 2003, what started as a simple visit to the center evolved into a longstanding relationship during which Asomugha, who played collegiately at Cal Berkeley, made weekly visits to mentor and tutor.

"What gets lost in this is how difficult it is to leave a place that you've been for so long," Asomugha said. "I'm from Los Angeles, but I've spent a little less than half of my life in the Bay area.

"It's a difficult thing to do. The excitement is where I am now. I'm a Philadelphia Eagle. Let's go win a championship. But it was difficult to leave. There are obviously people that are going to be missed."

Asomugha's NFL resume includes four straight Pro Bowl selections and four All-Pro selections, including the last three.

But his philanthropic honors include the 2007 Home Depot Neighborhood MVP Award, a 2008 President's Volunteer Service Award, and the 2009 Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Award.

He was named to the 2009 Dream Team for Public Service by the Jefferson Awards for Public Service.

As chairman of The Asomugha Foundation, he and his family have helped better the lives of people on two continents - North America and Africa.

The foundation, which was formally established in 2010, has two primary programs that actually grew out of work already started by the Asomugha family.

In 2006, he started the Asomugha College Tour for Scholars - an annual college tour and mentoring program that has provided high-achieving students of color with the chance to visit college campuses across the country.

Teaming up with high schools in the Bay area and Los Angeles, Asomugha has taken students to institutions of higher learning such as Morehouse College, Georgia Tech, Spelman College, Harvard, MIT, Brown, Georgetown, American University, Loyola (New Orleans) University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Tulane and Southern University.

Orphans and Widows in Need Foundation was founded by Nnamdi's mother Lilian as a nonprofit organization in 2005, operated out of the family home in Los Angeles.

With family origins in Nigeria, Asomugha visited the African nation throughout his childhood.

OWIN began providing food and medicine to Nigerian widows and orphans who were impoverished or abused.

Its goal is to position widows and orphans for economic success and independence through education, spiritual guidance and vocational training. The foundation hopes to eventually spread OWIN to other parts of Africa.

"There is a lot of work that the foundation does in Nigeria working with widows and orphans," Asomugha said. "That's always going to be a big connection for [the Asomugha family]. That is something we are always going to do."

Asomugha's work has drawn much attention, and for the past 3 years he has participated at the Clinton Global Initiative - a program created by President Clinton that brings college student leaders to the University of Texas to find solutions for global issues of education, poverty and world health.

"Working with President Clinton is great," Asomugha said. "He is a guy who is so connected. He's also a huge football fan."

Not that it took precedent over the financial and football issues, but the Eagles' commitment to community service, particularly through the Eagles Youth Partnership, is one of the things Asomugha took notice of.

"To be quite honest, the Eagles have been one of the most active community-driven organizations in all of football," Asomugha said. "I think it's a great match in that area."


Send email to smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/Smallwood.

|
|
|
|
|