In just his second year in the NFL, Myles Garrett took on the role of team captain with the Cleveland Browns.
In Year 3, Garrett is adding that title to his role with the Waterboys, the cornerstone initiative of the Chris Long Foundation, which works to bring clean water to communities in need in East Africa. In his elevated role, Garrett will lead a team of active NFL players -- a group that includes Zack Martin (Cowboys), Brett Hundley (Cardinals), Beau Allen (Bucaneers), Johnny Hekker (Rams) and Kyle Long (Bears) -- committed to using their platform to engage their fans in the clean water crisis.
"I always feel like I had a passion for helping give water to underprivileged countries, towns, everywhere -- not just overseas but here, too. It happens everywhere in the world," Garrett said. "When I entered the league, I had some maturing to do and some growing to do on the field. Once I was set in both walks of life, I could step up and take this kind of leadership role. Chris came to me before, but I wasn't ready. Now that we're both on the same page, it's now my turn to right the ship and take the leap."
Long, a two-time Super Bowl champion who starred in the NFL for more than a decade, launched Waterboys with a goal of building 32 sustainable deep borehole wells — one for each team in the NFL. Thanks to the generosity of individual donors and corporate support, Waterboys achieved its initial goal in February 2018. Through its partnership with WorldServe International, Waterboys has helped more than 245,000 people gain access to a healthier, more productive way of life.
Long was named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year in large part for his work with Waterboys, Now, he's passing the torch to Garrett to be the face of the active players Waterboys has enlisted for the 2019-20 season.
"The way I looked at it was, this was a priority signing for us," Long said. "Teams need certain position players. We needed to find a young player. On my very, very short list was Myles and he was my first choice. We read about his mission work, how smart he is, how intentional he is with everything he does. He just seems like the type of guy that would have the work ethic and awareness to take on something like this. It was a pipe dream for us.
"There needs to be a desire to do it that's coming from the player. That desire was there from Myles. He wants to change the world."
To celebrate his elevation to captain, Garrett is imploring Browns fans to join the Waterboys mission and help him recruit a team of clean water champions by tagging three friends on social media posts from Waterboys' social accounts (@waterboysorg on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and using the hashtag #DawgsDigDeep, from September 4-9. One of those fans will be rewarded by Garrett himself with four tickets to the Browns' Week 3 matchup with the Rams.
Since its launch, Waterboys has funded 67 wells serving more than 245,000 people. Roughly 844 million people around the world are without basic water access -- more than twice the population of the United States.
"Around the world, you see it every day. Countries in Africa and Asia just don't have the resources to get clean water," Garrett said. "They're drinking bacteria infested parasite infected water every day. It's draining their energy, it's killing them. It's not allowing them to live the life we do every day. What really shocked me is what we don't know about the lack of water that's here in the states. There's so many people who are without water, without clean water, and don't know it and don't know how to change that."
It's a big year full of big expectations for Garrett and the Browns. Long expects Garrett to flourish on the field just as much as he will in his new role with Waterboys.
"For me, my third year was my breakout year. You settle in and get more comfortable off the field and can act on these impulses you have off the field," Long said. "We're not asking him to rebrand something tremendously or start something from the ground up. This is how we wanted this thing to go. We wanted to get some momentum and pass the baton. This is a nice thing because it's our thing and he's able to kind of build on this momentum. That's why I thought it was a good fit. It matched some of his passions.
"I don't worry about him at all. It's no secret why he's a great player. He has all the physical ability and the attention to detail."
For more information, visit waterboys.org.