AFC East: Alexia Gallagher
How powerful it must feel to make 80,000 people, some of them wearing your jersey, ascend from their seats and cheer your effort.
How exhilarating it must feel to be completely surrounded by fans, pumping their fists and screaming their throats hoarse for you.
To consider the massive audience beyond the confines of the arena, the millions watching at home and around the world on television, or those who don't care one whit about your uniform but maybe drafted you in their fantasy leagues, the sensation must be profound.
NFL players affect the way people feel every time they snap up their Riddells and stride onto the field. In many cases, what transpires on Sunday can buoy or ruin a town's mood for an entire week.
Yet some players' greatest accomplishments happen nowhere near a stadium, aren't broadcasted and have only a handful of witnesses.
These moments often are the greatest feats players will achieve as human beings.
Overlooked too often are remarkable acts performed in the community by the same men who garner so much attention for participating in a football game. They help children, comfort the sick and encourage the destitute -- and don't expect any applause in return.
|Al Pereira/Getty Images|
|Running back Tony Richardson takes great pride in his charitable contributions off the field.|
When NFL Charities recently rewarded 89 player foundations $1 million in grants, three of the five organizations it highlighted belonged to AFC East players: Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington, New England Patriots tackle Matt Light and New York Jets fullback Tony Richardson.
"I've been blessed to do what I do for a living, but with that I think it's also a tremendous responsibility," Richardson said. "The fact I can show up somewhere and somebody's life can be impacted, at the end of the day that's how we're all going to be judged."
Richardson's jersey isn't the NFL's biggest mover, but the three-time Pro Bowler and lead blocker for five 1,000-yard rushers has sold his share over the years for the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Jets.
One of his jerseys, in particular, symbolizes the influence an NFL player can have on one life.
Christopher, a 9-year-old Kansas boy, was buried in it.
"That's definitely humbling and overwhelming," Richardson said. "It doesn't even seem real. I would never think that I could have that kind of impact on one individual or family.
"You can't even put that into words that you've touched someone's life like that."
Christopher had leukemia. Richardson would visit him at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Christopher, when his health permitted, would attend any event he could for Richardson's organization, the Rich in Spirit Foundation.
On the desk at Richardson's home in Kansas City is a picture of Christopher.
"My philosophy in life is that if you've had a bad day, that's up to you," Richardson said.
"You control how you respond to adverse situations. His picture helps me maintain that perspective. It reminds me how precious life is, how each day could be your last."