In many ways, football players have a profession unlike any other. One notable difference is that these athletes generally retire at a young age. With so many years left to live after retirement, former players fill their time in different ways.
For all that he's done in the community, Cliff Avril has been named the 2020 Seahawks Legend of the Year. The award – which was created last year – celebrates a Seahawks Legend who has given back and continues to make an impact. The winner receives a $5,000 donation from the Seahawks to a charity of their choice, which is matched by American Family Insurance, the presenter of the award.
"I just feel like I've been blessed with a platform," Avril said. "I've been blessed to play for a great organization that supports all their players in different avenues."
Avril – who founded the Cliff Avril Family Foundation in 2014 – will accept the $10,000 donation for his charity. Inspired by the loss of his grandmother and his mother's diabetes diagnosis, Avril has been working to educate youths about healthy living.
"It really stems from diabetes being prevalent in my family," Avril said. "Especially with Type 2 diabetes, it's based on your diet and how active you are. Based on a wide range of things, you can kind of combat that and slow the process down. It just made sense for me to be a part of that. Our youth is our future, and if they're not healthy then that's an issue."
Since playing his last NFL game in 2017, Avril's work in the community has only increased. His foundation has raised over $2.5 million since it began in 2014.
More recently, the foundation donated $25,000 and Avril donated $25,000 of his own money to four local organizations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The $50,000 was spread to the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County, Communities In Schools of Renton-Tukwila, the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic of Seattle Children's Hospital, HealthPoint and Cliff's Crew.
In addition, Avril – along with Seahawks Legends Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett – helped build three schools with more than 500 students in the village of La Chanm in Haiti. Avril's parents migrated from Haiti to the United States in the 1980s before Cliff was born.
"I could've easily been one of those kids in Haiti," Avril said. "I could've easily been one of those kids that never even got to play football. So, as I took back on that, I want to inspire and give kids hope and give kids opportunities to be able to dream, and hopefully capitalize and achieve those dreams."
Jacob Green – who played in Seattle from 1980 to 1991 – won the inaugural Seahawks Legend of the Year award in 2019. Green penned an emotional letter to Avril about what it means to be a Seahawks Legend of the Year.
Here's the full transcript of the letter:
"It's been a while since I put on the pads or been in that locker room. Walking off the field for the last time, you never forget it, but it becomes the first step for new passions and opportunities. It was off the field that I found out I had the greatest impact, and I know you've found that too. That's what being a Seahawk Legend means. It goes way beyond what we did between those lines. It's about continuing the sacrifice and the commitment to our brotherhood and all our communities. I'm proud of everything you've done for people – locally and worldwide. You are the epitome of what it means to be a Seahawk Legend. As last year's Legend of the Year, it only feels right that I'm the one to tell you that you are the 2020 Seahawks Legend of the Year. Keep using your platform for good. Your impact knows no bounds. Proud of you and everything you'll continue to accomplish. Go Hawks!"
Understandably, Green's words had a massive impact on Avril.
"When I saw Jacob's letter, I almost got teary-eyed watching it because it was a shocker, and I just think having that impact on people is cool," Avril said. "I'm just trying to follow suit – it's kind of the Seahawk way, in a sense. Coming from him, and understanding who he is and what he represents, it was just awesome to even get a letter."
Congratulations to Cliff!