Though he lives and plays in Pittsburgh for the Steelers, linebacker LaMarr Woodley remembers how the rustbelt town of Saginaw, Mich., launched his career—and believes in returning the favor. LaMarr recently hosted a back to school event for 200 local boys, providing them with free school supplies, haircuts, food, and an inspirational message to ready them for the year.
"It's where I started from. That's where LaMarr Woodley came from," the linebacker recently told Yahoo! Sports. "I first started playing football right here in Saginaw ... my entire family went to Saginaw High, so I grew up bleeding black and gold."
Though he grew up in a depressed area, as the struggling auto industry led to increased unemployment, Woodley was able to transcend his surroundings with an outstanding career at Michigan -- and now, a great tenure in the NFL, in which he is able to re-create that black-and-gold alliance.
"I was lucky that through hard work, I was able to get out of Saginaw and become part of the Pittsburgh Steelers," he said.
Recalling the days when money was tight in his own household brought Woodley back to his hometown for the recent event, in which he was able to help those who have been less fortunate.
"LaMarr is a generous guy," said Janice Staples, Woodley's mother. "He loves Saginaw, and he loves giving back."
The LaMarr Woodley Foundation supports Woodley's appreciation for his hometown in many ways, and giving area kids a head-start for the school year was just one.
"These days, a haircut can cost 15 to 20 dollars, so they save a little money there. Save a little money with the [donated] book bags and school supplies."
Woodley's wife Jordan, who also comes from Saginaw, is just as deeply rooted in the community.
"My siblings are here. His siblings are here," she said of the town. "LaMarr loves to come back to Saginaw. Anytime [the Steelers] have off, even a weekend or a couple of days, you can bet we're going to try and come back."
"Playing football -- I love doing that, and it pays well," Woodley concluded. "But the thing is, I have to do something where money doesn't make me happy. When I came back and saw the kids smiling and people happy, that's where I get my joy from. Putting a smile on other people's faces. Or giving a kid hope that's been put down, [and people are] saying 'You're never going to be anything.'
"Sometimes, the problem in our community is that the people who are successful, they don't come back. It's almost a secret, like 'I made it out, but I'm not going to tell you.' I want kids to see something positive -- 'That guy came from my city, and he comes back!'"
Nobody will ever say anything else but that about Woodley -- he's proven over and over that he's true to his roots.