Jaye Howard discusses his heart for giving back
By Matt Conner
Here’s our interview with Chiefs defensive lineman Jaye Howard about his heart for giving back to the communities around him.
The Kansas City Chiefs have several players who give back to the community, in addition to a civic-minded owner and several team employees. Jaye Howard fits in well with the Chiefs both on and off the field with his heart to provide support to at-risk youth — something he and his wife have been passionate about since he first entered the NFL.
Howard Empowers is the name of his foundation formed in 2015, and their programs include a free football/cheerleading skills camp as well as various leadership programming initiatives. Howard’s been giving back much more for much longer than Howard Empowers has been around, but it’s allowed him to take his vision for community betterment to the next level.
Howard’s next football and cheerleading camp is coming up on April 8 in Apopka, Florida and registration is still available here (no cost to attend). Other NFL players slated to appear include Chris Jones, Cairo Santos, Dontari Poe, Nick Williams, Allen Bailey, Jerel Worthy, Kyle Love, Frankie Hammond and many more.
How long after you entered the NFL did you start to give back to the community? Was that important to you from the start?
Honestly I didn’t even know there was going to be football for me. I played baseball growing up and I didn’t even start playing football until the ninth grade. Then I went to the University of Florida. I got my first offer from them in 11th grade. Most of the guys that go to Florida are often told they can go to the NFL, so I always knew that was a possibility. So I told myself if I ever make it, I’ll never forget where I came from. My wife and I have been giving back to the community since I’ve been drafted. We’ve been doing turkey drives, community outreaches and now we’re doing a camp the last two years.
You mentioned the upcoming football camp. What are you hoping these kids walk away with more than anything else?
Just to be able to be around these athletes they aren’t able to see every day and ask them questions and what it takes to get to the level that we’re at—the hard work behind it. We’ll ask them questions about school, and we’re going to have someone teaching kids about finances and just trying to guide them. We want them to know that if we can do things coming from our circumstances, then they can too.
This will be the second camp, right?
Yeah, this will our second year. We did a community outreach for the previous four years before the camp. We’ve also added a cheerleading camp this year as well.
That’s great! As you reflect back on the first year, how did that go?
Man, it was awesome. I had probably 15 to 16 guys come around, primarily from the Chiefs. I had Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey, Cairo Santos, Albert Wilson, just to name a few. We had 350 kids actually show up at the first camp. We’re doing this for free. We’re not making a penny off of it. We’re just doing it to give back.
When you’re working with the kids, do you see yourself in some of them?
You know what, I do. I was a big kid. Like I told you, I never played football until the ninth grade, so I see a lot of these guys with size like I had and I say, “Man, you just need to play football.” A lot of these guys come in playing basketball and baseball and other sports, not knowing that football might be possible. It’s good to tell these kids that there’s more than one sport out there, and that they can be well rounded.
You mentioned those guys and I’m reading a lot of the same names this year. That’s gotta be fun to do this again with those guys.
Yeah with Dontari and Allen and Nick Williams, he’s not even with the Chiefs anymore, but we always do stuff off the field. We’re always connected. I do a charity event in Kansas where I feed the homeless and I get those guys to come out and support me just like when they have events, I support them. We’re just supporting one another out here. Even previous teammates of mine are coming out to help support and give their time. We’re getting close to OTAs and they don’t have to do this at all, but they’re doing it for the kids.
You said you added a cheerleading camp this year?
The girls in the community wanted to be involved but they couldn’t be since it was just football. My wife talked to one of her friends that was a former Dolphins cheerleader and now they’re coming up to conduct a cheerleading camp to talk to girls about what it’s like to be an NFL cheerleader. I also have a 7-on-7 tournament going on at the same time where we’ve invited 8 or 9 local high schools in the Orlando area to come out and take my camp. I’ll donate to each of the schools that attend the camp and get them into the tournament.
Are you aiming for a particular number this year?
I’d be okay if we stayed at 350 or 400 kids, because when you have so many it can be hard to connect with them personally.
Where would you like to see the programs that you’re leading with Howard Empowers in three or five years?
Man, I’d definitely like to touch the Kansas City area and start doing camps there as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay with the Chiefs for those years, but you know how business is. I definitely want to see it grow and touch as many lives as I can touch. We’ve been blessed to grow each year that we’ve been doing this so far.