As a child, Jairus Byrd used to do charitable work because it meant spending more time with his father. Now that he's in the NFL, the Buffalo Bills safety is helping others in a bigger way.
Whether it's attending Bible study, mentoring youth, or offering financial assistance to people in need, Byrd is moved by giving and inspiring others. He has one Twitter account where he has inspirational sayings like, "Blessings come in all shapes and sizes" and another named Louder Than Words where he encourages posts of all acts of kindness they've witnessed, big or small.
"It boils down to trying to make an impact, to give back, be a blessing to others," Byrd said. "I'm excited to see other people enjoy what God has done for me."
At 25, he's already been named to a Pro Bowl yet he has kept both feet planted firmly on the ground. With all the disapproving stories about athletes and coaches hovering dimly over sports, Byrd serves as a positive role model.
Last year, Byrd was the Bills recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award which is given to the player who exemplifies a commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. He devotes time to the NFL Play 60 Super School Program and last month Byrd and his mother, Marilyn, attended a Play 60 event in Holland to honor Jennelle Nadler as H.O. Brumsted Elementary's Super Parent.
Over the summer Byrd became a spokesman for Compassion International, a 59-year-old faith-based organization whose mission includes helping lift children from poverty and enable them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.
There is a price attached to all this, of course, and it's measured in time and energy. It's not easy to help heal society's problems and master becoming a premier safety at the same time but Byrd was influenced to help others at an early age.
Byrd grew up in San Diego where his father, Gill, played nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers. His parents were a huge part of the community.
"I saw them as giving people and helping others," Byrd said. "They did a lot for others, whether it was their time or other things. In turn, growing up and seeing that it just became a part of me."
Gill used to go to a local community boxing center to speak with children, and Jairus and his brother Gill Jr. tagged along.
"It more like an outreach through the church," Byrd said. "We would go down there and box a little bit. With my dad being in this profession, I didn't spend a lot of time with him so when he was around he would say, 'Oh, we're going to go here,' and me and my brother would say, 'Cool, let's go.' We didn't care where we were going. We were so young that we just wanted to hang with him."
When Byrd was drafted by the Bills in 2009, he immediately wanted to make an impact in the community.
"Once I got on my own it was something I wanted to do," he said. "You really don't realize how you can be a blessing to others until you sit back and see how others are impacted by what you do. Once I got here to Buffalo I realized I could make a difference to other people."
Compassion International is a huge part of that equation. When the Bills played their preseason game in Chicago last August, Byrd met Abbel Joseph of Haiti and Lois Nangudi from Uganda who told their stories to Byrd about growing up in poverty. With the help of Compassion, Joseph and Nangudi gained newfound hope and are now attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
Byrd also recorded a promotional video and got a chance to see pictures of the two children from Brazil who he sponsors.
"It's something that I always wanted to get involved in because I've always felt for kids who didn't have families and weren't taken care of financially or with food and things like that," he said. "Compassion is something that I was aligned with faith-wise what I believe in. It gave me the opportunity to support kids in other countries that otherwise don't get the attention that they need. I'm excited about being part of that."
He's also energized about the future, which includes starting his own foundation.
"Once the season is over I want to sit down and map things out," Byrd said. "Right now I just want to focus on the season."