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One of the perks of being an NFL player is an endless supply of high-end tennis shoes and cleats. Most players wear them for only a short time, barely long enough for them to get scuffed or scratched.

What some may see as a waste, Weatherford saw as an opportunity.

“It’s not like we wear cheap, trashy cleats. These are $150 a pair, and guys will wear them three times and throw them out,” he said. “So you just kind of dust them off and send them back home.”

Once they found out what Weatherford was doing, his teammates were more than willing to pitch in. Nicks says he donates “a pair of cleats and a pair of Jordans” whenever Weatherford roams through the locker room with his cart, while others drop them off on their own.

Weatherford estimates he’s collected 500 pairs of shoes over the last three seasons, making a shipment about once a month.

“Obviously it’s important to me because I go through the trouble of asking everybody, `Hey do you want those?’ But everybody knows why I do it,” he said. “To be able to help so many children and so many people in need, it only costs me 20 minutes out of my day maybe once a month during the football season. It’s important, and I know those people really appreciate it.”

Tanoos, who has known Weatherford since he was in high school and has become one of the Giant’s closest friends, is in charge of distributing the goodies. He spreads them around the district’s three high schools, and the kids are ecstatic to have a pair of shoes that once belonged to Nicks or Tuck or another NFL star.

“Their eyes become the size of silver dollars,” Tanoos said. “They wear them with such pride because many of these kids, the best shoes they’re wearing are the ones Steve sends them.”

Weatherford also sends Tanoos memorabilia signed by him and his teammates that can be auctioned off for local charities. A ball signed by Giants quarterback Eli Manning fetched $825 at an auction to benefit the United Way earlier this week, in fact, while one signed by Weatherford brought in $650.

Terre Haute residents have tried to find ways to thank Weatherford. His refrigerator is covered with hand-drawn pictures, “Go Giants!” written in crayon. When the Giants made the Super Bowl, an electronic billboard began flashing a congratulatory message. Somehow, though, it never seems like enough.

So when Weatherford called Tanoos late Monday night and said he was going to come home for a few hours Tuesday, the city responded with an impromptu pep rally. Weatherford, Tynes and long snapper Zak DeOssie got a police escort, and they walked into the Terre Haute North gym to find more than 2,000 people waiting.

“I tell you what, the hair stood up on the back of my neck,” Tynes said.

“I told the kids at the school, `Steve’s a good punter but he’s an even better father and husband,’ so I think that says it all,” Tynes said. “He’s taking care of Terre Haute and you know what? He’s a stand-up guy. They should be very proud of him.”


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