If you’ve ever checked out my blog, THANK YOU, and you have likely noticed that I follow the Miss America organization and our local representatives. When it came time to write this week’s Huskers Throwback Thursday blog post, I came EVER so close to calling it ‘Mr. America’. I didn’t, because… it’s probably not very cool for any dude to be called Mr. America… I didn’t want this week’s former Husker to get teased.. because he’s still an athletic guy.. a fight could break out.. and so on, and so on. (These are the kind of random scenarios that go through my head on a daily basis. Don’t judge.)
Now, CAPTAIN AMERICA, on the otherhand, is a national hero. So we’ll go with that.
Ladies and gentleman, NEBRASKA’S CAPTAIN AMERICA..
..or as he’s known on the streets, Jay Foreman. (Pictured here with an awesome lady I’m sure would agree with me, Beth Pfeffer with Nebraska Medicine. More from Beth to come.)
Foreman was a starter on two national championship teams at Nebraska. He played in the NFL for eight years, team captain for three. He earned his MBA from HARVARD, WHILE playing for the NFL. Who does that?!?!?
And most impressive to many, he is now working towards something that offers little financial compensation for himself, but means the world to those battling a debilitating illness. Foreman has founded the Foreman Foundation to make life better for those with diabetes, a disease Foreman himself does not even have.
The Foreman Foundation contacted me several weeks ago, hoping as part of our Huskers Throwback Thursday series we could touch base with Foreman and more so, share his non-profit’s mission and goal; to ultimately find a cure for diabetes.
Foreman, #44, heads to the locker room to celebrate Nebraska’s 1997 National Championship. Photo courtesy of Josh Harvey & Scout.com.
To throwback to Foreman’s days at Nebraska is to remember Glory Days in Lincoln. When the Huskers crushed the Tennessee Volunteers in the 1997 Orange Bowl, Foreman started in his second national championship game.
“You know, what’s funny is while we were doing it, I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have,” Foreman told me recently. “Probably, to be on the team that’s maybe the best of all time is something not a lot of people can say. Only 22 people can say they started on the team, so I feel special just to say that. That alone is good enough for my career.”
The following year, Foreman would be named a semi-finalist for the Dick Butkus Award, and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in just 3 1/2 years with a BS degree in Business Administration. While playing eight years in the NFL (including five consecutive seasons in which he logged more than 100 tackles,) Foreman ALSO earned his MBA at Harvard University. AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY. And as if that didn’t keep him busy enough, Foreman, as a professional football player, began to devote himself to public service. While playing for the Houston Texans, Foreman created ‘Foreman Friends’ to assist abused and underprivileged kids in group homes. He also reached out to families battling a disease he’d seen nearly all his life, diabetes.
“A lot of people in my family were affected, ARE affected, by diabetes and have actually lost their lives to it,” said Foreman. He describes relatives who literally seem to wither away. He says the effects impact their bodies, their moods and their energy levels. One of Foreman’s loved ones affected by diabetes, his father, 5-time Pro-Bowler Chuck Foreman.
“He’s always been in somewhat good shape,” said Jay Foreman. “For him to have the episode he had to where he had his big toe cut off, that hit me pretty hard. It was something that hit home, and I knew I needed to do something.”
In 2013, back in Nebraska, Foreman DID do something, forming his own 501c3 non-profit organization devoted to the cause.
In February, the Foreman Foundation hosted its first big event, a Bowl-a-Thon to ‘Strike Out’ diabetes.
The event raised $6,000.
Foreman and his foundation have since reached out to area businesses, applied for and won grants, and are planning the first Foreman Foundation Gala. So far, they have raised an estimated $32,000 for groups like Nebraska Medicine’s Diabetes Center, the Heart Ministry Center in North Omaha and the People’s Health Center in Lincoln.
The donations make a huge difference to patients Beth Pfeffer sees everyday. That’s Beth in the first picture in this post; she’s the Director of Diabetes Services with Nebraska Medicine (formerly the Nebraska Medical Center.)
“Diabetes is a very expensive disease,” Pfeffer told me. “There are medications, testing strips, monitors, meters, pumps, all kinds of supplies.”
Pfeffer adds that many patients, just like Chuck Foreman, need many different doctors, as diabetes affects eyes and feet among other things. All of this can be overwhelming for patients who may or may not have the ability to pay for supplies, care or education. The Foreman Foundation helps cover that gap.
“Being a former Husker football player means a lot, especially to younger patients,” said Pfeffer. “It’s a pay-it-forward type scenario to me.”
Paying forward KINDNESS. A novel thought.
I asked Foreman WHY. With all his success in football and business, why doesn’t he just take what he’s earned and live an easy life in a beach house in Malibu?
“Well first, I’m from Minnesota, so it would be a cabin on the lake,” Foreman joked. “Life is short. I want to have an impact and reach as many people as I can.”
Jay Foreman is certainly reaching people. Through TV, when he flies back to Texas for analysis of both college and pro football. Through radio, when he fills in on friend and former Nebraska teammate Damon Benning’s sports talk show on 1620 The Zone (and here’s hoping the Mr. America reference NEVER comes up on Sharp and Benning in the Morning!) And through his iconic 90’s Nebraska football teams that still make Husker Nation smile.
But perhaps, Jay Foreman’s legacy will not be all the tackles he recorded on the field, but the work he’s doing now tackling this horrible disease.
It’s a mission he hopes today’s Huskers continue, for whatever cause hits home for them.
“It does feel good for people to recognize you for your hard work, and that’s all you want as a football player,” said Foreman. “I figured if I could use a little bit of my notoriety to help people, bring some knowledge and obviously raise funds to hopefully find a cure and get people educated, that’s the least I can do.”
You can also email the Foreman Foundation at email@example.com or call (402) 830-9269.