CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It didn't take Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman and his wife Nikki long to make an impact on Charlotte.
After signing a one-year deal with Carolina last spring, the Bozemans jumped in quickly to make a difference by educating kids about the dangers of bullying and accepting differences in others. The couple started their campaign while they were both student-athletes at the University of Alabama and have taken it to the next level since Bradley joined the NFL.
"We've just been given such a big platform to help people and to be able to do great things," Bradley Bozeman said. "We've always decided that we were going to use that platform. It didn't matter if we're here for a month, two months or whatever it was. While we're here, we're going to make an impact."
Bozeman signed a three-year contract to stay with the Panthers this offseason. But the family's also put down roots in Charlotte, welcoming their first child. Becoming parents for the first time has changed everything for the Bozemans, who plan to raise their son with the principles and values they've spread to thousands of students.
"It's always been my goal to make sure that he knows the values, principles and morals that I was brought up with," Bozeman said. "It's just such an amazing blessing that we've been given.
"I just hope he sees the same things that Nikki and I did from our family. Just helping, helping with blind eyes ... We both came from pretty, pretty good upbringings and the ability to give back. We just play into that and teach him those kinds of lessons and shape him into the young man that we hope he's destined to be."
That's not to say it's all been perfect. Anyone with young children understand "life happens" sometimes. And for athletes who are accustomed to extremely tight schedules, the Bozemans have learned to let go and just take things as they come.
"I don't know how I just didn't have all the time in the world before," Nikki Bozeman said. "People tell you all the time you just figure it out and it's totally true. The adjustment has been just changing your schedule and being able to amendable. If he's upset, you're not going to dinner that night, you're just not going. It's not like a life-altering thing, just going with the flow."
As for their son's future, the couple says they won't push him to follow in his father's footsteps.
"I really do hope that he does whatever his heart desires," Nikki said. "He already has enough pressure from the outside world to do something sports related. Even if it's not that, that's OK."
With Bozeman now signed with the Panthers for three more seasons, it's allowed the couple to make serious long-term plans with their foundation. They're optimistic Charlotte will become their permanent home where they can make a difference for years to come.
"It's fun to be able to start planning things ahead of time, start planning events with the foundation," Nikki Bozeman said. "We're making this our permanent home so it's just cool to be able to do those kinds of things. Obviously nothing's permanent in football, everybody that plays knows that, but to have a little bit of stability for our family and for our future is really, really nice."
Bozeman says that stability will give him an even bigger opportunity to give back to Charlotte, which welcomed the couple with open arms last year.
"Everyone in this community has been so amazing," he said. "I think it Baltimore it took us a couple of years to get set up and here it took us a month to start rolling through our events. We're just so blessed to be here with such a philanthropic community and a loving and open community."
The Bradley and Nikki Bozeman Foundation doesn't have anything publicly planned yet but there will be a few events during the holiday season. They hope to announce those events in the next few weeks. The couple also hopes to start having regularly scheduled events with volunteer opportunities.
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