I have a lot to smile about. Being a professional athlete with the Arizona Cardinals helped me reach career highs last football season as I achieved an all-time personal best record for sacks on the field. And with the help of Valley of the Sun United Way, I get to make young people smile, as well. But things weren’t always so sunny for me growing up.
My story begins in Denver, CO, where my family experienced homelessness for a short time. But thanks to my supportive family and our strong work ethic, together we improved our future. I’ve dedicated my life to academics and athletics, a mindset my dad set for me and my siblings.
In the past, I was ashamed to admit I had been homeless. It was a memory I used to bury, but I now see that it motivated me to get to where I am. I’ve worked hard to provide a better life for me and my family. I now share that tough experience with teens and young professionals, through groups like Generation United, to encourage others to succeed.
Like the local Camelback High School junior and football player, Anthony Marquez, that I met last week through United Way. He knows what it’s like not to have a home, and is steadily rising from his humble roots.
“When my parents lost their jobs, I was homeless for a year of my life,” said Anthony. “I never want to be in that position again. Now I know what I have to do to get myself ready for life.”
I’m proud to say Anthony is well on his way to being a champion in academics and life. Each day, he takes an hour-and-a-half bus ride from south Phoenix to Camelback High just to go to school. He’s a serious student with a 4.2 grade point average who is a quarterback of their football team. Anthony’s success both on and off the field helped him to earn numerous academic and athletic college scholarship offers where and plans to study Chemical Engineering.
And we have something else in common, too. Like me, Anthony’s dad taught him to put school first.
“My father says you always have to have a backup plan,” Anthony said. “You know if football works out, great. But I see academics as a better path for my future.”
Anthony and I are living up to the expectations of our fathers and inspiring others around us to succeed by putting education first and working hard.
Football gives me a chance to make people happy – that’s my ultimate goal, but it doesn't end there. I have an entrepreneurial mind and know I will succeed beyond football like our local student hero, Anthony.
Now, it’s your chance to give back. Sign up to volunteer with Valley of the Sun United Way at vsuw.org to help youth succeed and end homelessness, two issues that are close to my heart. Learn more about the Charles Richard Campbell Foundation established to honor my father’s legacy at thecrcfoundation.org.