Ziggy Hood isn't flashy on the field. He wears generic black-and-white cleats and gloves for every game and burgundy arm sleeves to cover up the logo on his wrist straps so he won't get fined.
"Just give me my standard-issued [gear], and let me just rock and roll," said the Redskins defensive lineman.
On Thursday night, he might have the freshest cleats on the field when the Redskins face the Dallas Cowboys. The nine-year veteran is one of many Redskins players participating in "My Cause, My Cleats," a league initiative in Week 13 that allows players to promote and raise awareness for a charity of their choice with custom cleats.
Hood elected to bring awareness to autism, a cause that's personal to his family. Hood's oldest son, Josiah, has the condition. Hood's cleats will be designed with puzzle pieces, the primary symbol for autism, with his 7-year-old son's name written on the toebox.
"We're not only dealing with it as a family, but as a village for the entire DMV area," said Hood, who also held an event on Halloween to raise money for kids with autism in the Washington area. "But not only just that, but for the entire world. It's one of the things that don't get talked about much. You got diabetes. You got breast cancer. You've got homeless, underprivileged children. But whatever I can do to help bring attention, cool. I did my job."
Hood didn't participate in "My Cause, My Cleats" last year in his first season with the Redskins, the first time the league allowed players to break a strict dress code for a good cause, but he feels comfortable now as a defensive leader in his second season to participate in the initiative.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins did participate last year and plans to promote the same charity, International Justice Mission, at AT&T Stadium Thursday in a prime time game. The nonprofit aims to protect "the poor from violence in the developing world." It's an organization Cousins has promoted often over the last three seasons, and he intends to wear cleats with its slogan, "Until all are free."
"In America, it is hard to understand a culture of impunity, where literally you call 911 and you say someone is invading my home and is stealing and there is nobody to come and get you, to protect you, to fight for you," Cousins said. "There are countries and cultures and places where that is the case. And so IJM goes into those places and works with local government authorities and brings justice and brings justice to impunity. That is something that [Cousins' wife] Julie and I have a heart for and we want to raise awareness for it. . . . What they need is funding. They need people to support them and their work so we do that passionately and we want to raise awareness and help other people to do the same."
Cornerback Josh Norman and inside linebacker Zach Brown will promote children through different causes. Norman will wear cleats that features his charity, Starz24, which intend to "provide enrichment to children through community events and youth programs." Brown will support Inner City Visions.
"A lot of people don't support the inner-city kids," Brown said. "So this year, I'm going to give back for Christmas and take some kids shopping because a lot of them don't have nothing. I came from where I didn't have nothing, where you've got two pairs of shoes - school shoes and play shoes. You had to make due. So, for me, to give back makes me feel better."
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan will promote his organization, the Blitz for the Better Foundation, which works with schools in the greater Washington area to raise awareness and help children suffering from chronic illnesses. Long snapper Ryan Sundberg will team with the Redskins Charitable Foundation for their "Loads of Love" initiative to help provide washers and dryers to local D.C. schools.
"We found out one of the major reasons kids weren't going to school is because they didn't have clean clothes," Sundberg said. "So we decided to put some washers and dryers in elementary schools around here and try to get kids to go to school."
Safety Deshazor Everett will wear white cleats with a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer in honor of his grandmother, who was diagnosed and passed away. Everett has a ribbon tattooed on his arm in honor of her.
"It showed me not to quit," Everett said. "It got me through my first year of college [at Texas A&M] because I almost quit football, honestly. Doing conditioning is different than it is in high school, and I was like, 'Man, I don't know if I'm built for this.' I looked at her name on my arm, and I was like, 'if she can fight, I can fight.' It's really what got me through."
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