Broncos' Foxworth puts his status as role model to good use

October 22, 2006|By DAVID STEELE

More than three-quarters of the way into a recent 45-minute conversation, Domonique Foxworth chuckled at having been thanked for staying on the phone that long on an evening after Denver Broncos practice.

"I don't mind. It's a relief to talk that long about something besides football," he said.

Foxworth can do that, because there's so much more to talk to him about than his being an NFL player. In fact, he recognizes - and embraces - the fact that his visibility as a pro athlete gets people to listen to him, and he puts that to good use every chance he gets.

For example, by mentoring and speaking to kids in Denver and back here (he's from Randallstown, played at Western Tech and was All-Atlantic Coast Conference as a player and student at Maryland). By participating in the NFL's offseason MBA program at Harvard. By turning the rookie-year diary he wrote for The Denver Post last year into a book - On the Island, available at his Web site, domoniquefoxworth.com - and donating the proceeds to the Ambassadors for Literacy program. Even by watching his grammar and enunciation whenever he's interviewed.

And, most recently, by hearing about a student at Kenwood High who is playing football while dealing with sickle cell anemia, phoning him and speaking to the player's father - just hours before playing for the Broncos against the Ravens two Mondays ago, and making the game-clinching interception.

Once again, on the field (where the Broncos take a 4-1 record into today's game at Cleveland) and off, Foxworth is having a good year.

As much as it is still a head rush for him, at all of 23, to realize he's a role model - "Kids want to be like me? That's huge," he said he still tells himself - Foxworth doesn't run away from it. For one thing, his parents, Lorinzo and Karen (who moved to Colorado last year when the Broncos drafted him) wouldn't let him, and never have.

When he was 14, they set him up to work in a Baltimore residence for the developmentally disabled, so that he'd understand how privileged he was to have his physical and academic gifts - and that he never should take them for granted.

In the process, he noticed how those gifts made people, not just the ones in the home, pay attention to him when they otherwise might not. "I saw the respect kids had for me, and it would be dumb for me not to use that," he said.

So throughout high school and at Maryland, he spoke to gatherings of kids and parents at rec centers, community centers, churches and elsewhere - offering himself up as an example of what can be accomplished, even when their surroundings and even their elders convince them otherwise.

"I ran into a few haters," Foxworth said - including teachers who insisted that he give up his fantasy about getting a football scholarship, much less making the pros, and who conversely derided his scholarship offers by saying that he'd never be considered for some schools if he weren't an athlete.

"I was offended," he said. "What they should be telling kids is that you should take the resources and talents that you have to achieve whatever you can. It's kind of scary that people say things like that to young people. ... You should never tell somebody that they can't do anything."

Now, Foxworth said, he believes the sky is the limit for him, with the success of his diary for the Denver paper and his presence in the three-day Harvard program serving as encouragement. He was nervous about that, he admitted: "It's usually tough to intimidate a professional athlete, but you step onto that campus - you have to have respect for who has been there before.

"[But] it was like intercepting passes in the NFL - you don't know if you can do it at that level, but when you do, it's pretty heady."

Writing the diary wasn't as intimidating, but its popularity surprised him. He began his first entry, on Aug. 3 of his rookie season last year, with a quote from Helen Keller, about "a great and noble task" being aided by "the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker." It's his mother's favorite entry, he said, and considering he ended up starting during the season and the Broncos made it to the AFC title game, "it ended up being prophetic."

The more positive reaction he received about the diary, the more the idea of making the entries into a book appealed to him, especially if it could be used as a fundraiser for his favorite charity.

With the new ventures to use as examples, Foxworth believes his message to youngsters is even stronger, and he's more encouraged to pass it along.

"Kids see all of it," he said, "and they want to be like me as a player, but they also want to be like me as a man."

david.steele@baltsun.com

David Steele -- Points After

If you remember nothing else this week, remember this: The Bears were what we thought they were!

The Ravens should come close to their offensive averages this week - a bye week.

Carmelo Anthony shares one of the covers of the Sports Illustrated NBA preview issue, which is good - just not good for Gilbert Arenas, who leads him in All-Star appearances 2-0 and playoff series wins 1-0.

Justice, as administered by "The U": The TV analyst got a more severe punishment for talking about the fight at the Orange Bowl than did the Miami players who participated in it.

Still, one wonders what the level of scrutiny, of coverage, of condemnation would ensue if it weren't notorious Miami getting into a brawl like that, but an Ivy League school. Oh, wait, that did happen, that same night. Still waiting, though.

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