More than six weeks ago, Kelvin Beachum met with Steve Ryan, the Cardinals' senior vice president of business development, across the street from State Farm Stadium.
Their conversation centered on finding a way to partner with Safeway/Albertsons. Beachum knew the Cardinals had a relationship with the marketplace and Ryan was conscious of Beachum's passion for ending hunger. Both were ingredients to achieving their goal.
" 'This is what I want to do,' " Beachum said, recalling the conversation. " 'Y'all have a relationship with Safeway/Albertsons; what can we do together?' Steve was like, 'Where would you like to have this event if we were to do something?' I said the United Food Bank. That's where my family and I volunteer."
The discussion became a reality Tuesday when the Cardinals' charities and Albertsons/Safeway partnered to donate 200,000 meals to the United Food Bank during an hour-long community event in Mesa.
Beachum's teammates D.J. Humphries, Eric Smith, Dennis Gardeck, Antoine Wesley, Koda Martin and Joe Walker also made an appearance to help pack meals at the event and present a $40,000 check to benefit the food bank.
Markus Golden was a late addition. The linebacker saw a flyer of the event on social media and texted Beachum, letting the veteran know to expect his arrival after picking up his son from school.
The players, some team staff, a handful of Cardinals cheerleaders and mascot Big Red all helped Safeway/Albertsons employees place canned goods and boxes of macaroni in bags.
There was also a "competition" between two teams vying to fill their box with the most bags. Some people were shocked to see players take the battle as seriously as they did.
"You see, I'm sweating a little bit," Golden said. "It's fun to come out here and give back, especially to people who haven't been able to eat a lot. That's stuff we take for granted.
"We know we're packing bags to give back to the community, but it's a competition. When you have a bunch of NFL players, it's going to be a competition. And don't forget to let them know we won it."
Last year, the United Food Bank distributed more than 22.7 million pounds of food and 52,000 meals per day. For decades, the equal opportunity provider has erased hunger for citizens in the East Valley and eastern Arizona.
President and CEO Dave Richins said the company has partnered with the Cardinals for years, including Beachum, one of their most active ambassadors. Richins said he's most impressed by the team's culture of helping others.
"It's important to recognize where we came from," Richins said. "We don't all come from wealth. We don't all come from having everything that we need. But it's important to be grateful for what we have. That's what I see in the Arizona Cardinals.
"They're grateful for what they have: A great fanbase. A great team. Great players. They recognize that greatness comes with an obligation. And that's to give back to their community."
The 2022 season is approaching. The Cardinals can't wait for the campaign to begin and don't care about having the second-most difficult schedule in the NFL.
Why? Same reason for taking the contest during the community event seriously.
"Like we said before, we're competitors," Humphries said. "When I saw it, I felt like it was a challenge. We didn't finish as the No. 2 team in the NFL but we got the second hardest schedule? Bet. We accept the challenge."