I've always been interested in athletes as people, beyond the sport they play and uniforms they wear. Don't get me wrong, professional athletes are super humans for all intensive purposes, so I get the fandom. I've just never been that guy.
Knowing a person matters to me, and knowing someone beyond their field of play is the thing that drives my interest in their field of play. This is especially the case with football.
Do research as much as you want, but it's hard to know a player just by simply watching them on the field, or researching stats and headlines. Football is one of the few sports where players are required to wear a helmet and face mask because of the severity of the game.
But truth be told, on or off the field, it's hard to really know a person when they're wearing a mask. So I always consider it a privilege when I get to know someone, even a player, with mask off.
I got that opportunity through VaynerSports, when I had the privilege to document a budding relationship between the Arizona Humane Society (AHS) and Robert Nkemdiche of the Arizona Cardinals, both major animal advocates. I'd heard of AHS before, but in this case, seeing was believing.
The biggest distinction between AHS and other animal shelters lies in their refuge for the sick, abandoned and broken animals around the valley. Where other shelters don't have the capacity to service these animals, AHS uses extensive resources and goes to extraordinary lengths to rescue these animals from just about everywhere in the valley—that includes the very sick and nearly dead. Their vision is to end animal suffering, so they rescue, heal, adopt and advocate for sick, injured and abused animals.
So when Rob & friends had the opportunity to see the facility, where all the care and healing happens, it was all smiles and gratitude. Rob went home with four cats that day, and at first glance from the field, I can't imagine most would have assumed that would have been the case. I certainly didn't.
Goes to show, it's moments like these you only get to see in a person when the mask is off.