CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Shaq Thompson was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2015. He learned early on from some of the Panthers greats the importance of being a leader on the field and in the community.
However, the importance of treating others with kindness was instilled in him at an early age by his mother, Patty.
“It just something I seen growing up," Thompson said. "My mom was a giving back person. She opened the doors for a lot of people. She was just like the community lover. Everybody was welcome to her house. It was just something I grew up around - opening your arms, helping people out regardless of what situation you’re in. That’s kinda what started it.”
Thompson’s mother passed away last season, and Thompson says that was a turning point for him personally, which led him to establish the Thompson Legacy Fund.
“When my mom passed away, I kind of found my purpose in life,” Thompson said. “It was kind of just picking up where she had left off, which was opening your arms to your community and helping people out.”
The Thompson Legacy Fund’s main focus is to help low-income children access dental health resources, as well as mentorship and career development, in both Thompson’s hometown of Sacramento, California, and Charlotte.
“Just show them the ropes and help them get their confidence or bring new confidence and really letting them go and seek in their full potential," Thompson said. "I can relate to that because I was one of those kids who wasn’t able to go to the dentist for 10 plus years. Once I got drafted that was the first thing I did. I went to go fix my teeth, I wasn’t happy with it."
Thompson also gave back to those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, donating 2,000 meals to healthcare workers. But one of the moments that meant the most to him during 2020 is one you probably didn’t hear about.
“I was able to get some families that were staying in hotels and stuff like that – I was able to get them – I mean it’s not big, but it’s big to me – some pizza so they were able to feed their families during a time when everyone was struggling. I kind of did that on the low. No one really knew about that," Thompson shared.
Thompson now has two kids of his own, and just like his mother taught him at an early age the importance of helping others, and he hopes to do the same with his own children.
“Like my mom did to us boys, I want to show them that you got to show love to everyone who isn’t as fortunate to have what you have and be thankful for that and just open your arms to everybody,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day we’re all humans and we all have feelings and emotions and we all go through stuff in life. You never know what smile you’re going to bring to somebody.”
Thompson has been nominated by the Panthers for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his outstanding community service, as well as excellence on the field. You can learn more about Thompson's cause on the Thompson Legacy Fund website.
You can also support Thompson for Walter Payton NFL Man of the year by tweeting #WPMOYChallenge + Thompson. The player whose hashtag is used the most from Dec. 10, 2020, to Jan. 17, 2021, will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second- and third-place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations respectively, all courtesy of Nationwide.