Chris Canty Makes Commitment to Inspire Youth
On a first glance, 6-7, 304-lbs DL Chris Canty strikes an intimidating figure.
But any apprehension one first has about this physically imposing man quickly dissipates, as Canty soon proves to be the very definition of a "gentle Giant" with a heart of gold, and a relentless desire to make a difference in the lives of today's youth.
Canty's commitment to giving back to his community is no accident, nor is it for show. It comes from the strong family values that were instilled him from when he was growing up in the Bronx and Charlotte, North Carolina.
His mother, Shirley, is an ordained minister and pastor at the United Methodist Church and his father is a major contractor. So from a very young age, Canty learned all about the values of hard work and giving back to others, lessons that he not only practices today as an adult, but ones that he also looks to share with children of all ages.
On the football field and in the locker room, Canty is generally described by his coaches and teammates as one of the hardest working players on the team, a guy who willingly comes in on his lone day off to put in extra time to make sure he's the best athlete he can be.
Off the field, Canty rarely takes time for himself. Whether it's serving hot food in a homeless shelter, running a youth football camp in his Charlotte, or dressing up as Santa Claus, Canty's view of giving back to the community isn't because he has to.
It's because he wants to.
"Right from the get go , I learned about the importance of service and the importance of giving back to others because one of the things my mom always said you have to make an impact on other people's lives because those same people are making an impact on your life," Canty said.
Those people who impacted Canty's life extended beyond his immediate family. They included people from his church, neighbors, and of course friends, all of whom looked out not just for Canty and his brother, but for all of the community children.
"I'd come home from school in the afternoon, and since my parents worked, we would go across the street to our neighbor's house," he recalled. "She made sure we did our homework, we had a snack after school, and then when our parents came home, she'd walk us back home across the street to our house."
As Canty grew older, his brother's high school teammates took on the collective role of guardians for the young boy. Canty recalled how the older boys would watch over him and make sure that if trouble did come his way, they were there to intervene as necessary.
When Canty recalls all the people who positively influenced his life while growing up, it's no wonder that he wants to reach as many children as he can with the same message.
"It took so many people — not just my parents, who were very influential in my life growing up — who helped me get to the point where I could become self-sufficient and have the level of success I've had so far," he said. "That's why it's very important for me to give back and give others opportunities to pull themselves up."
These days when he plans out his community service, Canty mainly focuses on young, impressionable children who look at professional athletes as role models. Recognizing that he has a captive audience, Canty used that to relay the importance of simple concepts such as education, good manners, and being a good citizen to those children who idolize him.
"I look at football as my ministry," he said. "However, there are causes where I can have maximum impact using my platform to do the most for a particular cause. Understanding how kids look at athlete, I try to parlay that platform in a way that influences kids to do positive things."
One of the staples of Canty's community service is his three-day football camp that he runs in Charlotte, NC at his old high school. "It's growing every year by leaps and bounds," he said proudly.
He's also involved with the United Way and the Boys and Girls Clubs, just to name a few others.
"There are so many things I try to do in order to get the message out to kids that there are things that they can hang their hats on in the future regardless of their socioeconomic upbringing and the other tangibles," he said.
"My mom always used to say your manners will take you places your money can't. So today's youth needs to hear that message."
With a demanding full-time football schedule that understandably takes its toll on him mentally and physically, it is only natural to expect that Canty would want take some time for himself.
However, he just smiled and shook his head.
"It's not about me," he said. "I've been blessed to play a game that I love, but there's a purpose behind it. There's a plan that God has for me, and He has prepared work for me to do in advance. I'm trying to discern what that is, and accomplish His will of building His Kingdom here on earth. That is where my life's direction is going."
That's why when it's time for Canty to hang up his cleats for good, there's no question in his mind how he wants to be remembered.
"I want to be remembered as a good human being, hands down — it's not even close. When it's all said and done, I would like people to look back at my career and say that he tried be about his Father's business as best as he could. I can live with that."
For more information about Chris Canty's charitable work, please visit his official web site at www.chriscanty99.com.