2015 Arch Awards: St. Louis Community MVPs

2 of 4

Sep 13, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long (91) runs onto the field prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Long, St. Louis Rams

Perhaps no athlete on the St. Louis sports scene has developed into a better humanitarian, both in and outside of the St. Louis community, than St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long. The 30-year-old former first-round pick immersed himself in a variety of charitable endeavors during 2015, and for that he earns our Rams Community MVP honor.

First of all, Long started his own charitable initiative this year, founding Waterboys after an eye-opening mountain-climbing trip to Tanzania. After noticing the country’s alarming lack of clean water, Long began The Waterboys Initiative with the initial goal of building a sustainable, deep borehole well and therefore providing water for upwards of 5,000 people in Africa. By collaborating with 21 players from different teams across the NFL, Long has started a friendly fundraising competition among all 22 participating NFLers that engages fans from different markets all across the country and encourages them to donate and support their favorite player. According to the Waterboys website, the league-wide competition has already raised more than $182,000.

Long also partnered with a teammate to conduct the most high-profile humanitarian event in St. Louis by an athlete in a long while. Early in 2015, Long set out on a mission with fellow defensive lineman William Hayes to live on the streets for a day in downtown St. Louis in order to help raise awareness for homelessness. In addition to providing the content for a mini-documentary that aired on SportsCenter this summer, Long collaborated with Hayes to help finance temporary housing for two of the real-life homeless individuals who they encountered on their journey. Along with the rest of the defensive line, he continues to provide aid to the St. Patrick Center, one of Missouri’s biggest organizations for housing, employment, and health programs for homeless individuals.

Long has also been an active supporter of the #StartsWithUs campaign to combat cyberbullying and encourage kindness and caring among youth, and he’s been a longtime participant in the Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program to deliver holiday cards to troops serving overseas and stationed locally.

In early December, Long was named as the Rams’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is given yearly to “a player for his excellence on and off the field.” If Long ultimately wins, it’d be a well-deserved honor for a player who has such a long, successful track record of playing well on the field, but more importantly making the world a better place off of it.

Next: Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals