Growing up, linebacker Lavonte David found himself seeking out advice on navigating the life of a young boy growing up in Miami, Florida from a multitude of people. Some were family, growing up the youngest child of four, some came through football, but he knows that it was pieces of their advice that is what got him to where he is today.
Back then, David made his own way. He didn't have a place he could go or one single person he could turn to for guidance. David hadn't heard about Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Now, given his platform, he's aiming to change that.
"It's not just about the kids, it's about the 'Bigs,' too; more people volunteering," David said about his mission with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization. "I've been doing stuff with Big Brothers, Big Sisters Midlands up in Nebraska. They have a lot of people supporting now. I'm also trying to bring it here, take it one step at a time, one year at a time and trying to let it grow and grow. Especially with the way the world is now, everyone needs just an extra ear to talk to or a guide to help them."
David will be representing Big Brothers, Big Sisters on his cleats come Sunday as part of the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats Campaign. It's just another way he wants to raise awareness about the organization, especially in the Tampa Bay area. The organization aims to, "provide children facing adversity with professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships that will change their lives for the better, forever." The Tampa Bay chapter paired nearly 3,000 children with caring adult mentors and looks to increase that number to 3,200 this year.
"You have the 'Bigs' already doing a great job. People are doing a great job just trying to bring awareness," David said.
While David is trying to grow the program in Tampa Bay, he was named a National Ambassador for Big Brothers, Big Sisters America in 2016. He hosts an annual bowling event in partnership with his Lavonte's Legends Foundation that benefits Big Brothers, Big Sisters and held this year's event at Pin Chasers here in Tampa, where he and his Buccaneer teammates bowled with "Bigs" and "Littles" after David gave a heartwarming speech to those in attendance as to how much the cause means to him.
Speeches are something he's had to get used to with his involvement, though it wasn't always that way. His Ambassador-ship has helped David get out of his comfort zone and while he said one of his best memories with the program was being named the National Ambassador, he admits it made him nervous.
"Being named a National Ambassador for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, it was amazing," David recalled. "It was an awesome moment. I had to give a little speech. That was probably one of the first times I've ever been nervous in my life. I barely talk as it is so talking in front of a lot of people is pretty nerve-wrecking."
David's one-on-one interactions with the children Big Brothers, Big Sisters are more of what he enjoys.
"A lot of them don't really see me as a professional football player, they just see me as a guy who's just wanting to a part of their lives and just trying to do great things for them," David said. "[I'm] just trying to make them feel loved and let them know that everything is going to be all right no matter what they're going through in their life. That's what I really take pride in."
The cleats David received this week were actually designed by a "Big" and "Little" duo from Big Brothers, Big Sisters Tampa Bay, which David thinks is really special. He hopes this weekend will aid in the awareness the organization has locally so that more people will volunteer.
"You never know what that kid could be going through at that moment and all of a sudden you adopt a kid as a 'Little' and then their life changes drastically," David said. "Their whole outlook on life will probably change knowing that somebody, a professional athlete, wants to be a part of their life as well. I think it's pretty cool and that's why I try to do my part as best as I can."