Ryan Switzer and Tavon Austin bear no physical resemblance to Santa Claus. They don’t have to worry about sporting white whiskers for a long, long time. When they laugh, their bellies don’t shake like a bowl full of jelly, more like a six pack of protein drinks.
Yet the two NFL receivers – one former George Washington and University of North Carolina star, the other a dynamo for West Virginia University – helped spread some holiday cheer in recent days that would make even the grinchiest person’s heart grow three sizes.
Switzer, a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys, befriended Viva Selena Lopez, a 22-year-old woman with Down syndrome, at a holiday parade meet-and-greet in McAllen, Texas. Lopez was drawn to Switzer immediately and a friendship was born.
Lopez found out how cool of a friend Switzer was a few days later, when a package came for her in t he mail. Lopez’s mother Mary Jane filmed her daughter opening the envelope in a scene that quickly spread through social media.
As Lopez pulled the contents from the envelope, tears immediately welled in her eyes as a smile spread across her face. Inside was a brand new Dallas Cowboys No. 10 jersey, the number of her new buddy.
It was a simple, yet poignant gesture from an NFL rookie who has always known the importance of being a nice guy. And that gesture led to even more examples of Christmas spirit.
In a video posted Wednesday, Lopez learned that a couple with Cowboys season tickets was given them to her for Dallas’ Sunday home game against the Seahawks. Now, she’ll be able to cheer on her favorite player in person.
Austin and Los Angeles Rams teammate Robert Quinn helped a California family struggling with homelessness have a happy holiday. The two, in conjunction with nonprofit LA Family Housing, surprised Shwonna Cox and her six children by fully furnishing their new four-bedroom apartment.
Austin and Quinn, according to the Los Angeles Times, paid for new beds, a sofa, televisions, a dining room set, wall hangings, kitchen items, furnishings and more. They also bought Christmas presents that were wrapped and placed under a small tree. This is the second year Austin and Quinn have worked with LA Family Housing.
Austin is 26 years old. Switzer is 23 years old. People that age often spend those years getting their own feet firmly on the ground and worrying about their own needs. Austin and Switzer are showing maturity beyond their years in their actions.
The two understand the responsibilities they to represent the NFL, their respective teams, their families and themselves as human beings. Their good deeds also serve as a reminder to others to watch out for their fellow man during the holiday season.
Gestures don’t need to be grand. They can be as small as making sure to put a little extra change in a donation bucket or paying for someone’s coffee during a hectic shopping trip, anything to put a smile on others’ faces. The smiles on the faces of Lopez and the Cox family are proof of how much a caring heart can provide.
Both Switzer and Austin have shown that caring hearts beat in their chests. May their days be merry and bright.