Ten NFL Players Who Deserve a Spot on Santa’s Nice List This Year

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Ten NFL Players Who Belong on Santa's Nice List

Mark D. Smith: USA Today Sports

It's that time of year again. Santa's made his list and checked it twice. Now it's time to find out who's been naughty and who's been nice.

So many times throughout the year we hear of NFL players who have gotten themselves into trouble, yet we rarely hear about those who go out of their way to make life better for those around them, in many cases, for complete strangers. In the spirit of the season, we at Rant Sports bring their stories of compassion, kindness, and generosity to you.

As I began writing this story, I was surprised at how difficult it was- difficult not because it was hard to find ten NFL players worthy of being included, but because there were so many deserving that it was nearly impossible to narrow the list down and leave someone off of it. It has really opened my eyes to see just to how many NFL stars give back, often times with little or no recognition whatsoever.

Here is Rant Sports list of ten NFL players who belong on Santa's Nice List this year. Some of the stories you've likely heard throughout the year, but others may be new to you. As we find ourselves in the midst of this holiday season--a season of kindness and giving--hopefully some of these acts of kindness will inspire you, as I know they've inspired me.

To proceed to the next slide, click on the "next" button just above the picture.

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Larry Fitzgerald

Mark J. Rebilas: USA Today Sports

...for his patience and loyalty.

Larry Fitzgerald is arguably the most talented receiver on the worst team in the NFL. Despite the horrid play of his team, especially his quarterbacks' inability to get the ball into his hands, Fitzgerald has remained loyal to them and to his Arizona Cardinals teammates. Though some people close to him have made comments about it to the media, Fitzgerald has remained patient, quiet, and committed. The very fact that he has not unleashed a tirade in today's "me-first" NFL, deserves him a spot on Santa's Nice List.

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Brady Quinn

Kim Klement: USA Today Sports

...for his words of wisdom in tragedy.

After Kansas City Chiefs Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend and then killed himself, Brady Quinn had this to say:

“The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people... When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth? We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.”

Nicely spoken, Mr. Quinn. For reminding us that people are what matter most in this life, Quinn deserves a spot on Santa's Nice List.

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Brandon Jacobs

Kelley L. Cox: USA Today Sports

...for keeping his promise.

Before summer, six-year-old Joseph Amento emptied his piggy bank ($3.36 worth) in an attempt to keep his hero, Brandon Jacobs, in a New York Giants uniform.

Weeks later, after Jacobs signed with the San Francisco 49ers, he received the money and a letter from his young fan reading, “Dear Brandon Jacobs, so you could go to the Giants, here is my money,” Jacobs sreturned the favor.

Jacobs was so moved that he tweeted that maybe one day he would take him out. A few months later, he kept his promise. The NFL running back took Joe and his younger brother out for an afternoon of fun at Jump On It bounce gym. Joe also received a Giants football helmet with the words "thanks for being a fan." Don't worry. Jacobs returned the $3.36 as well, plus a bit of interest.

For showing us the importance of keeping ones word, Jacobs earns a spot on this year's Nice List.

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Peyton Manning

Ron Chenoy: USA Today Sports

...for being an all-around nice guy.

Peyton Manning has developed a reputation as one of the most generous players in the NFL. He has several causes to which he donates his time and money in Louisiana, Tennessee, Indianapolis, and now Denver. In fact, after receiving a huge donation from the quarterback, a children's hospital in Indianapolis renamed itself the Peyton Manning Children Hospital at St. Vincent.

Just before the season began this year, Manning (with some of his new teammates) took time out of his workouts to reach out to victims of the Aurora Theater shooting. Manning contacted the victims of the tragedy who were being treated in The Medical Center of Aurora and spoke with them one by one over the phone.

For always being the epitome of what an NFL role model should be, Peyton Manning belongs on Santa's Nice List.

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J.J. Watt

Thomas Campbell: USA Today Sports

...for being a friend to those who need it most.

In 2011, tragedy struck a young Houston family. While the three Berry children survived a horrific car accident, they lost both of their parents in the crash.

Deeply affected by the story, Houston Texans defender J.J.Watt befriended the young children when he visited them in the hospital, and continues their friendship to this day. Over the last two years, he has texted them on a regular basis, taken them to concerts, to play basketball, and even invited them to practice.

For reminding us the importance of being a true friend to those in need, Watt deserves a spot on Santa's Nice List.

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Trent Richardson

Kirby Lee: USA Today Sports

...for stepping up and making one girl's dream come true.

You may remember the story of 17-year-old Courtney Alvis, a cancer survivor who missed her junior prom because she was too sick fighting the disease. Her senior year, she was able to attend, but the problem? She didn't have a date.

That's where Trent Richardson stepped in. Hearing from a friend about the young girl's situation, Richardson, though he was busy prepping for the upcoming NFL Draft, agreed to take the young girl to her senior prom.

For volunteering his time to give one fan a special night, the Cleveland Browns rookie running back makes Santa's Nice List.

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Victor Cruz

Brad Penner: USA Today Sports

....for his perspective and providing a bit of light in darkness.

After Victor Cruz found out that one of the young victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a fan of the New York Giants receiver, Cruz wrote," Jack Pinto, my hero" on his shoes and dedicated his next game to him. Afterward, Cruz fulfilled a promise to the family and met and spent the day with them and other victims of the tragedy.

After meeting the family, Cruz said, "When you visit a family that's going through so much and facing so much turmoil in their lives; you meet the family, you see people and the things they're going through, it helps you look at life through a different lens. It really changes your view and the way you used to look at things. It changes your view of it."

"It was an emotional time. I spent a little bit of time with them, and we got to smile a little bit, which was good for them. It was a time where I just wanted to be a positive voice, a positive light in a time where it can be very negative."

For understanding that life is more than football and for being a positive light, Cruz earns a spot on Santa's Nice List.

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Chris Johnson

Kirby Le: USA Today Sports

...for his beautiful tribute to the victims of Newtown, Connecticut.

After a gunman opened fire on students of Sandy Hook Elementary last week, several NFL players found ways to honor victims, but none more so than Victor Cruz and Chris Johnson.

Johnson wrote the names of all 26 of the victims on the cleats he wore in his game vs. the New York Jets. A few days later, he made a personal phone call to one of the families, that of Grace McDonnell, and showered them with gifts.

Though this kind gesture can't erase the pain the family must feel, Johnson said, “I lost my grandmother earlier in this year and just knowing how that feels I just kind of wanted to do something to at least try to lift his spirits.”

For showing empathy and compassion, Johnson's name is written on this year's Nice List.

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Andre Johnson

Brett Davis: USA Today Sports

...for his incredible generosity.

This holiday season, Houston Texans reciever Andre Johnson made the Christmas of 12 young Houston-area children. The kids, who were selected by the local CPS agency, had 80-seconds to grab whatever gifts they could at a Toys 'R' Us store. Less than two minutes later, Johnson's bill totaled nearly $19,000. Afterward, he also joined the Houston Police Department's Blue Santa program to surprise 800 students a local elementary school with Christmas gifts.

For making this Christmas season special for several kids who have had to endure difficult times in their young lives, Johnson is on Santa's Nice List.

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The Indianapolis Colts

Brett Davis: USA Today Sports

...for showing us the importance of supporting those around us when times get hard.

Early this season, Indianapolis Colts rookie head-coach, Chuck Pagano, was diagnosed with leukemia and was forced to step away from the game while his body tried to heal. When his players were given the news, they all stood in support of their coach. Many shaved their heads to show their support. One player, Cory Redding, stated it best when he said, “We’re right in there with you, Chuck. You ball, we’ll ball. We’re going to do this thing.” (beat cancer).

And that Pagano did, along with the help of his players and interim coach, Bruce Arians. Pagano has been cleared to return (though it hasn't been determined exactly when he will do so) as his team fights for a playoff spot after going 2-14 last year and breaking in a rookie quarterback.

For showing us what it means to stand by those we care about, the entire Colts team has landed on Santa's Nice List.