New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland, who was awarded the Alan Page Community Award by the NFL Players Association Jan. 30 for his work off the field, says he wants to create a sustainable future for Baltimore youth.
Since 1967, the NFLPA has awarded players with exceptional community service with the Byron “Whizzer” White Award, which is now called the Alan Page Community Award after a change in 2018. Copeland was excited to be greeted with the award by Page himself at the NFL Honors award show Feb. 1.
“To have a person who’s made such an impact on the field and an extreme impact off the field … literally, that’s everything I want to embody,” Copeland said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 3.
Page, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, was a defensive tackle in the NFL from 1967-1981. He then spent time as an NFLPA player rep and executive committee member, before serving in the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1993-2015.
The award is a reminder to himself that he’s “on the right path,” Copeland said.
Copeland, a native of Sykesville, Md., started his foundation, Beyond the Basics, to help underprivileged youth in Baltimore gain confidence and learn other personal skills. The Beyond the Basics football camp brings hundreds of local kids together for community service, leadership and football, which Copeland considers to be the least important part of the camp.
But Copeland, 28, isn’t just showing his face at an event. He says the heavy personal involvement makes him feel like he is actually making a difference.
“I always tell people, the beautiful thing about our foundation is the time that we actually put in,” Copeland said. Before the football camp, the linebacker and his wife, Taylor, personally reach out to local school principals and families, adding, “if you’re getting that email, it’s coming from myself or my wife.”
The Beyond the Basics football camp will be held at Gilman School June 20 for the event’s fifth year. Copeland is now putting together a charity basketball game at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., March 21 for local kids and is asking for donors to sponsor tickets.
“It’s one of these moments in my life where you literally sit back and you’re just like, ‘Look how far we’ve come,'” Copeland said of his foundation’s progress.
Apart from the foundation, Copeland has also worked on numerous projects to help benefit the community. He teaches a financial literacy class at the University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater. Copeland played at Penn from 2009-2012.
“I think that that’s what’s driven me to do so many different things off the field, just understanding that football is guaranteed to end one day,” Copeland said.
The 6-foot-3, 263-pound Copeland is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. He recorded 27 tackles, two pass defenses, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble with the Jets in 2019. He also got a chance to play in his hometown when the Jets battled the Ravens in Baltimore in December. Even though the Jets lost, 42-21, Copeland still had reason to smile.
“Felt great to be back, to be home, have my family and friends in the stands and stuff like that,” Copeland said.
His family is ready for whatever comes next in his football career, but Copeland is still unsure of what team’s roster he might be on next season.
“We’ll see where we land,” Copeland said.
To hear more from Copeland, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the New York Jets