Dictionary.com defines a role model as “a person whose behavior, example, or success is emulated by others, especially by younger people.”
Athletes are some of the most prominent and influential figures in the media. Professional sports figures have a reputation of being notoriously stuck-up and self centered, and the stories of steroid use, arrests, and their ridiculous salaries certainly don’t help change the stereotype.
That’s why I decided to shine the spotlight on the Top Three Athletes from New York that society can admire.
#3. Justin Tuck of the New York Giants
What he exemplifies: Giving back to the community.
Since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2005, Justin Tuck has kept a low profile on the big stage of New York sports. Although his first two seasons with the Giants were plagued by injuries and limited playing time, in 2007 Tuck proved himself to the Giants organization. During that season, Tuck recorded 65 tackles, 10 sacks and two forced fumbles. The Giants were impressed, and therefore offered Tuck a 5-year contract.
Tuck has been a key member of the Giants ever since. Tuck has helped his team to reach Superbowl XLI and Super Bowl XLVI. He has also appeared in the Pro Bowl two times.
Tuck’s football career has been extremely successful, but perhaps his most rewarding accomplishments have come through his time off the field.
During his down time, Justin Tuck can be found giving back to the community through his charity, R-U-S-H For Literacy. With the help of his wife, Lauren, R-U-S-H was established in 2008 to motivate children to read, understand, and succeed as they grow and are faced with obstacles in their lives.
Thus far, R-U-S-H has raised over 45,000 books and raised $157,500 to benefit students in need in the New York and Central Alabama communities. Tuck also holds an annual celebrity billiard tournament to collect donations and spread awareness of his mission.
In 2011, a series of tornadoes devastated the Alabama community where he grew up. Tuck flew to Alabama and served as a support system to all that were effected by the disaster. R-U-S-H inspired MS 213 in the Bronx, a school where Tuck was a frequent visitor, to hold a school supply drive and write letters to the families in need.
#2. Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers.
What he exemplifies: Hard work pays off.
They call him Captain Cally.
Although Callahan has had a successful career, Callahan’s journey to the NHL was no easy task according to episode two of the Road to the Rangers series.
The first year Callahan was eligible for the NHL draft at age 19, he wasn’t chosen at all.
In June of 2004, Callahan scored 36 goals in 68 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm. By the end of the season, Callahan was ranked number 77, which put him in a favorable position for the June 24, 2004 draft in Raleigh, N.C.
The Rangers announced Callahan was their fourth-round pick, and soon after he became one of the first of the 2004 draft picks to play in the NHL. Before his NHL debut, Callahan was a part of Team USA at the World Junior Championships in 2005. During that time, Callahan also had a 52-goal season for Guelph in 2005-06.
Callahan appeared in his first NHL game on December 1, 2006, and lost an overtime shootout to the Sabres. Later in the season, he was sent back to Hartford, where he finished the season scoring 35 goals in 55 points.
On March 16, 2007, Callahan was permanently called up to the NHL. Callahan proved his worth the next night at Madison Square Garden, when he scored two goals in a 7-0 Rangers victory over Boston.
As his hockey career matured, Callahan was named the alternate captain at age 24. Coaches and fans alike admire his aggressiveness, worth ethic, and the way he carries himself as a professional athlete.
“He is our leader, he leads the way, and that is the way we all want to play; behind him.” – teammate Brian Boyle on Captain Cally.
#1. And unsurprisingly, Number 1 on the list belongs to Number 2, Captain Clutch himself, Derek Jeter.
What he exemplifies: The definition of a leader.
“He represents all that is good about a leader. I’m a great believer in history, and I look at all the other leaders down through Yankee history, and Jeter is right there with them.” – George Steinbrenner
Derek Jeter was born in Pequannock, NJ, and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. From a young age, Jeter always envisioned himself in pinstripes. Like many young athletes admire Jeter today, Jeter idolized Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield.
Jeter was drafted in 1992 by the New York Yankees, and was the first high school player chosen that year. Before the draft, Jeter was awarded the 1992 High School Player of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, the 1992 Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year, and USA Today’s High School Player of the Year.
Needless to say, he captured the Yankees attention.
After working his way through the system, on May 29,1995, Jeter made his Major League debut. The following season, Derek Jeter was the starting shortstop, and started 1996 off with a bang by hitting his first Major League home run on Opening Day.
In his time with the Yankees, Derek Jeter has won five World Series rings, the 2000 MVP of the World Series, four Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger Awards, and has been to the All-Star game 13 times.
Wait, there’s more.
In 2009, the season where he earned his 5th World Series ring, Jeter passed Lou Gehrig and became the all-time Yankees leader in hits. Just two years later, Jeter joined the 3,000- hits club and was among the youngest players in history to reach the milestone.
Jeter accomplished all of these successes WITHOUT the use of steroids. Believe it or not, it is possible.
Jeter is undoubtedly a leader on the field, but he is just as influential off the field. In 1996, Jeter established the Turn-2-Foundation, beginning his mission to promote healthy lifestyles for the youth. Since then, the Turn-2-Foundation has raised over $16 million for youth programs in New York, Michigan, and Tampa. Jeter’s foundation hosts the Celebrity Golf Classic, Holiday Express fundraiser, and the Jeter’s Leaders Conference every year.
Last but not least, I will rap up my praise of Captain Clutch with a quote from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig from a letter he wrote to Jeter.
“You are Major League Baseball’s foremost champion and ambassador. You employ all the best of Major League Baseball. You have represented the sport magnificently throughout your Hall of Fame career. On and off the field, you are a man of great integrity, and you have my admiration.”
If that quote doesn’t describe the perfect role model, I don’t know what does.