When athletic director at Saginaw high school, Dan Szatkowski, heard the announcement over the PA that Pittsburgh Steeler LaMarr Woodley had donated $60,000 cover the participation fees for every Saginaw Public Schools student-athletes, then Szatkowski cheered like everyone else.
“The whole place erupted,” Szatkowski said. “It was electric. It was a gold-medal cheer.”
“People can make the argument that it wasn’t going to hurt participation, but it was,” Szatkowski said. “Because of this, kids will have an opportunity to participate, an opportunity to be part of a team. People don’t understand how important that is.”
The fall sports numbers had already been low to begin with, and now the school has a unified force behind it that should get other student-athletes involved.
“Fall sports practice has been going on for over a week. I’ve seen the numbers. They’re low. This is one block removed for kids to participate. Hopefully, with this taken care of, we’ll see more kids playing.”
Woodley not only donated enough to see his alma mater have enough to play next year, but the entire school district.
“What a blessing,” Szatkowski said. “He did it for all the kids in Saginaw, not just Saginaw High. It’s for Arthur Hill, SASA, Willie Thompson, Arthur Eddy … all the schools.
“It makes me proud to know he’s a product of Saginaw. He understands what’s going on. He knows what it means to be a Trojan.”
Arthur Hill athletic director, Fred Townsend, was only a bit worried about participation in the district that year, but hopes other people on Woodley’s position follow his example.
“This reveals Woodley’s character and speaks a lot about how he was raised … to give back,” Townsend said. “People might say that since he makes a lot of money, it’s not a big deal. But it is.
“There are a lot of millionaires out there who make no impact on their community. But LaMarr Woodley has gone out of his way to make a tremendous impact on his community.”
Woodley probably wasn’t looking to get any press out of this, but he can rest happy knowing that a whole district of student-athletes get a chance to play the sports they love at no cost at all. And that is priceless.