Martellus Bennett will soon know the feeling of having a championship ring on his finger, and he wants to make sure a team of young men in Chicago get the same feeling.
Morgan Park High School, an impoverished school on the city’s south side that counts NASA astronaut Mae Jemison among its alumni, recently won the Class 3A boys basketball state championship last month, overcoming an injury to its star player and winning in thrilling fashion, in overtime, against Fenwick High, a private school on the opposite end of the economic spectrum.
Morgan Park didn’t have the money to buy rings for the players, and the Chicago Public Schools couldn’t help either. Desperate, the school’s athletic director, Michael Berger, went on Twitter to solicit help.
And it came, in a big way.
In a true show of sportsmanship, one of the first big donations was from a Fenwick High parent; the next was from comedian Hannibal Buress, a Chicago native.
And then one more celebrity stepped up: Bennett, who spent the 2013-2015 seasons with the Chicago Bears but was part of the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl LI-winning squad.
“Bennett’s foundation offered to pay for all of the rings,” Berger told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Coach Nick Irvin gathered his players together on Tuesday for a special FaceTime call from Bennett, who told the players the news, and that he was taking on the task of designing the rings.
“I put him up on the big screen and let him tell the kids,” Irvin said. “They knew who he was right away and got really excited. They were so happy, it was great to see their reaction. That is a blessing right there.
“He said he’s going to make [the rings] look sweet. He’s going to come out and play pickup with some of the guys too.”
Bennett and his brother Michael, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks, have both announced plans to donate endorsement money they receive this year to various causes, so the gesture isn’t completely unexpected.
In retweeting video of his call with the players, Bennett wrote, “Invest in the kids. Invest in the future.”