Darnell Dockett was smiling and posing for pictures and, apparently, had singer Justin Bieber on the brain.
The Cardinals’ defensive tackle first grabbed a couple of Bieber dolls as he walked into the Toys R Us Monday to start his annual “Happy Holidays with Nine-O” shopping spree with 100 needy kids, insisting to TV cameras it was what he wanted for Christmas.
Later, while encouraging a couple of 9-year-olds to be interviewed themselves, he told them he’d give them money if they could sing part of a Bieber song. They couldn’t say “No” fast enough, so he told them he’d give them money. So one did – and Dockett spontaneously slapped a $50 bill in his hand and watched all the kids’ eyes grow into saucers.
Dockett’s grin grew large too.
“We’re not having the type of season everyone wanted us to have or even that we wanted to have ourselves,” Dockett said. “But part of being a professional athlete and a professional football player is becoming a man, so that when you get to a certain stage in your life, you have to give back to the community. You don’t coach that, you aren’t taught to give back to people, that’s in your heart.”
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“When you are in a homeless shelter, it’s hard for them to be able to experience Christmas the way I think you should experience Christmas,” Campbell said.
A handful of teammates showed to at least one of the three events:
“We can sit and complain and want so many other different things, then you see these kids and they are just so happy to have a chance to meet people, to interact with people, and it takes the attention off of yourself,” Hightower said. “You tend to isolate yourself and think it’s all about you and a football game, when there are so many other things it’s about.”
The age ranged all over the place. Bridges’ group was mostly teenagers, kids old enough that they themselves wanted to give back. One Bridges’ recipient used his “money” to buy gifts for the foster family that has done so much for him.
“All kids deserve Christmas,” Bridges said. “Kids are innocent to me in my eye, and especially the ones that don’t have a choice with the circumstances they are in. This is great for them.
“To give back, man, it’s nothing. I feel sorry for the guys who don’t. I’ll be running around the whole time with a smile on my face like I’m a kid, just to see them smile.”
Said Dockett, “This is the best part of the year for me.”