Ex-Terp contributes on, off field

Foxworth, Broncos' defensive star last week, gives back to community by volunteering

Pro Football

October 09, 2005|By FRANK SCHWAB

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Rookie cornerback Domonique Foxworth could have made a fuss when his first name was misspelled on the award for Denver Broncos' defensive Most Valuable Player last week.

"He didn't say one word," said Karen Foxworth, Domonique's mother. "He didn't open his mouth."

Foxworth, who had an interception, a fumble recovery and six tackles against Jacksonville, laughed and shrugged before saying, "I know what they meant."

That fits the report on Foxworth from those who know him well and say his most evident trait is his selflessness. Foxworth left an indelible mark at the University of Maryland for his off-field contributions, and he's already getting involved in the Denver community.

Foxworth started volunteering when he was a teenager, he started community programs when he was at Maryland, and a few months after being drafted in April, he and his family were researching nonprofit organizations with which he could get involved.

Foxworth settled on the "Ambassadors for Literacy" in Denver, an organization that promotes education and reading to promising preschool students from low-income families in the government-funded "Head Start" program.

"He is a phenomenal person," said Jini Puma, one of the program's co-coordinators. "I'm impressed with his big heart. We're so impressed with him and just thrilled he contacted us."

Foxworth's social consciousness sets him apart from many of his peers. He graduated from Maryland in 3 1/2 years with a degree in American studies, and the classes he took made him focus on community services that made the biggest difference.

"There's inequalities based on economics and race and things of that nature in everyday society that you see, or maybe you don't see because it's under the surface somewhat," Foxworth said. "The system will never change itself because it's a self-perpetuating system, so something needs to be done. No one person can do anything, but knowing about it, I have an obligation to do something about it."

Before Foxworth's senior season at Maryland, he started a program called "Students Taking Action for the Future." It began as a class project in which students were supposed to come up with a concept for a program, but that wasn't enough for Foxworth.

"He wanted to take it a step further," said Natasha Criss, an academic counselor at Maryland who helped Foxworth with his program. "We don't have a lot of kids that start things on their own."

The project gave kids from middle schools in Washington guidance on skills such as time management and writing that would prepare them for college. He persuaded Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen to help and recruited teammates to let students in the program shadow them during a day of class.

Criss said Foxworth did plenty of other community work when he was in college, such as working at soup kitchens, rebuilding housing projects and going to elementary schools to read to the students.

"The most valuable thing in my opinion is time," Foxworth said. "If you give time, it shows how committed you are to something."

Foxworth received the Terrapin Club Award, given for the greatest contribution to Maryland football, and the C.P. "Lefty" McIntosh Public Service Award at the team banquet after his senior season.

"He was always concerned about the stereotypical role model of African-American male athletes," Karen Foxworth said. "I think one of the things he tries to do, at least what he's told us, is make people understand he's intelligent and a good ballplayer."

Foxworth's deep involvement with community service started when he was 14. He wanted to work so his parents sent him to a summer camp for disabled people. Foxworth took care of an autistic boy and another boy with no arms or legs in a motorized wheelchair. That summer helped mold his perspective.

"That opened my eyes to community service and how fortunate I was," Foxworth said. "It was an incredible experience."

"He was always sensitive, but when he came back from that camp, I think he had an appreciation for how he could help others," Karen Foxworth said.

Foxworth is developing into a solid cornerback for the Broncos. He might not be a starter today against the Washington Redskins if Champ Bailey is recovered from a hamstring injury, but he'll probably play a lot. But Foxworth's most important contributions might be what he does off the field.

"It comes naturally," Criss said. "That's him. That's who he is. It's not something he was trying to do to impress anyone."

Frank Schwab writes for The Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colo.

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