Fort Worth, TX - On Sunday night, an email was sent informing members of the media that former TCU great LaDainian Tomlinson had a big announcement coming Monday afternoon in conjunction with the University. Monday, we learned that it was the created of an endowment that would serve student-athletes across all 21 sports as they transitioned from the playing fields to post-grad life and careers.
The endowment was created in alignment with Vision in Action: Lead On strategic plan, which focuses on academic profile and reputation; endowment; TCU experience and campus culture; and workforce. The fund will specifically benefit the Student-Athlete Development Department at TCU as well as Team America Foundation, Tomlinson’s social “platform for inclusiveness, driven by opportunity, which aims to lead our nation to a new standard of tolerance; building bridges of unity across all religions, classes, races, and ideologies.”
Athletic Director Jeremiah Donati has been working behind the scenes with LT for quite a while, it appears, to get this off the ground. But it was a perfect partnership from the very beginning. “Very quickly it became apparent that we had a parallel vision for student-athlete development. We got together to create this endowment, one of the first of its kind in the country, and to have someone of LT’s stature jump on board and not just write a check but get involved on the ground level - it says a lot about LT. He’s a better man than football player and that says a lot.”
The foundation will be focused on preparing for life after TCU for student-athletes and after their playing career is done. Job interviews, resume building, networking, and more will be areas that the endowment will be used for. “I think we are preparing our kids for graduation, but what’s life like after? One of the promises we make to our kids and their parents is that we will help their kids become responsible citizens and better leaders”, Donati said.
It’s something that Tomlinson himself has been thinking about, going back to the first days he arrived on TCU’s campus himself. “It has been a long time coming, it’s been a vision I have had for a long time - how I could come back and give to my university which gave so much to me? It comes from my own experience - when I got to this university at 18 years old, the process of me becoming a leader got started. I always thought there was something missing, that if I had had some leadership development even in high school, I would have been so much more prepared. So that’s why we are here, that’s why we are creating this foundation. Because it’s not just about what they do here, but what they do when they leave here.”
Having a star of LT’s stature on board can’t be overstated - what his name can do for fundraising and for buy-in among the student-athletes themselves is priceless. Donati knows it, too. “It would have been easy for LT to write a check and said ‘best of luck to you’. The fact that he’s here, spending time with me, with our student-athletes, rolling up his sleeve and helping. LT practices what he preaches - he says what he means and means what he says. To have a guy on our Mt. Rushmore of former athletes jump in and do this is pretty much unheard of.”
LT is in it for the long haul, too, now that he has (officially) made DFW home. “In years to come, we will continue what we are doing - helping kids develop leadership and character. I know one thing - I won’t be moving to LA.”
For more information on how you can be a part of the endowment, you can contact the Frog Club.