For the second consecutive season, the NFL’s Week 13 initiative “My Cause, My Cleats” has given NFL players around the country a unique platform to share the causes that they’re passionate about. Through the program, players will have the opportunity to customize their cleats and wear them on game day. Not only do the cleats generate awareness for each player’s cause, they tell stories – stories of inspiration, perseverance and great strength. Proud to show their support, over 25 Bills players have joined the campaign and will sport their cleats this week against the Patriots. Each representing a mission that is near to their heart, the players are hopeful that their messages can make an impact.
1. Micah Hyde - IMagINe For Youth Foundation
For safety Micah Hyde, the story behind his cleats dates back to his childhood. Raised by his mother, who was a single parent, Hyde, his brother and his sister, learned the meaning of sacrifice at an early age. Working to support her children and to give them the opportunity to participate in sports proved financially taxing for his mother. Able to lean on others in their time of need, Hyde and his family navigated their way through adversity and grew stronger.
* “*It hits home for me,” said Hyde when explaining his cause. “When I was growing up, my brother, my sister and myself – my mom was a single parent and we were doing a lot of traveling. I played football, basketball, baseball [and] soccer. My sister had her own sports, my brother had his own stuff. A lot of the stuff we couldn’t afford to do; it was a lot on my mom. Fortunately, we had my friends’ parents. Whether it was traveling halfway across the country, they would take us along. It was little stuff like that.”
Grateful for his mother’s love, unwavering support and for those who helped him and his siblings along the way, Hyde has made it his life’s mission to repay the kindness that he was shown through his IMagINe For Youth Foundation. The foundation, which started as a college project in 2013, has since grown and developed an identity. Providing youth with sporting equipment, funds to participate in sports and academic enrichment, Hyde is making a difference. A family affair, Hyde’s mother, fiancé Amanda and stepdad are all actively involved.
“The idea behind this is that we’ll be the person to help kids and single parents and families…If kids want to join sports, need equipment and to travel,” said Hyde. “It started off as my class project, but once I had my camp last summer and I did a backpack drive here earlier in the year, [and] we’re doing stuff in other states, it’s opened up. We have a staff now and everyone’s participating. It’s just a blessing.”
By displaying his foundation on his cleats, Hyde is optimistic that he can continue to spread his message.
“It’s awesome, everyone gets to design their own cleats,” said Hyde. “I just want to build more awareness that we’re here to help. That’s the main thing. We’ve sent some helmets to North Carolina [and] some cleats all over the place already. People can get on our website and refer a recipient. We get it straight through our email. I think that’s the best part of our foundation, is it’s word of mouth.”
2. Head Coach Sean McDermott – Food Allergy Awareness
Although he’s not a player, Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott is also taking part in the initiative by customizing his own pair of sneakers. His cause, food allergy awareness, is one that hits home for him and his family. Diagnosed at an early age, two of his children have food allergies. Working to increase awareness and to let other families know that they are not alone, McDermott is confident that his message will help advance the conversation and ultimately lead to a cure.
“We’re in this together,” said McDermott. “We know a lot of families are experiencing this with their kids and it’s a challenge for them, as it’s been for us, but we’re able to get through it. If there’s anything more we can do to help find a cure, I’m glad to do that.”
3. Colton Schmidt – Classroom Champions
Similar to his teammates, punter Colton Schmidt’s desire to give back has led him on a selfless journey of paying it forward. Generous and enthusiastic, Schmidt has spent the last few months donating his time to mentor children through the Classroom Champions program. An ambassador for the program, which pairs classrooms with athletes to help them succeed in school and in life, Schmidt has developed a relationship with the aspiring youth that will continue long after the term ends.
Electing to dedicate his cleats to his work with Classroom Champions, Schmidt recently paid a visit to the local participating classrooms, where he met with the children and posed a special request. In honor of their bond and academic achievements, Schmidt asked the students to sign their names on his cleats. Filled with signatures from those who view him as a role model, Schmidt considers himself lucky for the opportunity.
“For my cleats, I thought it was a cool idea to have the kids autograph them and [get a chance to] see their names on TV,” said Schmidt. “They were super excited about it. It was a cool experience; it was two-sided. I was able to go to these classrooms and meet the kids first-hand, so it wasn’t just the online portion of Classroom Champions.”
Advising the young students on critical skills, such as goal setting and perseverance, has allowed Schmidt to make a positive influence.
4. Zay Jones – Alzheimer’s Association
Rookie wide receiver Zay Jones will honor his grandmother and her battle with Alzheimer’s this week. Wearing purple cleats in support of the Alzheimer's Association, Jones is grateful for the chance to show how much he cares for his grandmother and all those suffering from the illness.
“My grandmother is battling [Alzheimer’s] right now,” said Jones. “She’s near and dear to my heart; I’m very close to her. So just to see her going through that is something that I want to honor in a sense – how strong she is and just the type of woman that she is.”
While simplistic in design, Jones believes the meaning behind his cleats speaks volumes.
“I don’t really think it’s about the flashiness,” said Jones. “It’s more the meaning behind it. It’s just simple. I think it’s dear to me – that’s how I came up with the idea.
“I didn’t tell her. Hopefully it will be a little surprise for her, something meaningful when she finds out. She has a hard time. She struggles to know who I am at times, but it’s about me doing it and knowing that it’s for her.”
5. Eddie Yarbrough – Special Olympics Colorado & Unified Sports
Like Hyde, defensive end Eddie Yarbrough’s cause is one that precedes his NFL career. An Aurora, Colorado native, Yarbrough attended Grandview High School, where he was known for his outgoing and caring personality. A member of the football team, Yarbrough made it a point to venture outside of his close circle and befriend all his classmates. During his freshmen and sophomore years, his eagerness to engage with those around him prompted him to take action. Working with the school’s assistant principal, who was also one of his football coaches, Coach Chandler, Yarbrough got involved with a unified sports program.
For Yarbrough, there was no cause more fitting to showcase on his cleats.
“My cause is unified sports and Special Olympics in Colorado,” said Yarbrough. “It’s near to my heart. In high school, me and my assistant principal were part of getting a program started in Colorado. We’d give special needs kids an opportunity to play in front of a crowd, give them a running clock, uniforms, warm ups, refs and the whole community came out and supported it. It’s been a huge part of my life and growing up I was a part of that.”
To create the perfect design for his game day footwear, Yarbrough teamed up with Special Olympics Colorado and Grandview High School unified athletes.
“I actually sent my cleats to Grandview High School in Aurora, Colorado, to have the kids that are there now design and paint my cleats," said Yarbrough. “I’m excited to wear them. I was on FaceTime with them throughout the whole process and they were ecstatic about it, so it’s really cool.”
Although Yarbrough’s life has changed drastically since he walked Grandview’s halls, his passion and commitment to providing opportunities remains the same.
“It’s cool, the school district is flying out Coach Chandler – one of the head honchos of the program and my friend Dalton, who was my unified partner back in the day for the game and to be on the field with me.”