Jets OT George Fant was honored with the Hometown Hero Award at the United Way of New York's 29thannual Gridiron Gala in Manhattan on May 3.
"It means a lot to be the Hometown Hero," Fant said. "Anytime you get an acknowledgement of stuff you are doing in your community, it obviously means a lot. I'm just happy to have my family here to watch me do this today."
Not only was Fant's family in attendance, but some of his Jets teammates were also there to watch the veteran tackle accept his award, including guards Laken Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker.
"Just getting to know him over the last couple of weeks to a month and to hear him talk about how passionate he is giving back to his community, it's an awesome deal" Tomlinson said.
Vera-Tucker added: "I think George Fant is a great guy, that's my tackle right there, everything he has done for his community and others as well, it's big. He should be here, and the offensive linemen are happy to support him. He is such a great guy and I know he'll continue to do great things."
Fant created the Fant Foundation, with his wife Chastity, in 2019. The foundation's goal is to strengthen, enrich, and support young people via different events including the 'Dream Big Camp,' a celebrity softball game, a turkey drive, financial wellness seminars, and more.
The veteran tackle was recognized as the Jets' recipient of the United Way of New York's Hometown Hero award at the 29th Anniversary Gridiron Gala held at The Glasshouse in New York.
For the past three decades, the United Way of New York City has teamed up with the Jets and the New York Giants to celebrate community heroes who raise awareness and support important work benefitting New York's most challenged neighborhoods.
"The United Way Gridiron Gala is a celebration of everything that the United Way does for New York City. It raises well over $2 million dollars for the most at-risk and at-need youth throughout the entire five boroughs," Jets' vice president of community relations Jesse Linder said. "To have George Fant as the Jets' honoree is awesome. What he does for his community both in Kentucky and here in the tristate area is unbelievable."
The award goes annually to a Jets player and Giants player who have given back to their communities and are passionate about their philanthropic work. Eric McDonnell, interim CEO of the United Way of New York City, said that there are always deserving candidates.
"It's not an easy competition," he said. "There are plenty of players who do good things in their community, but players like George Fant stand above even those. Not only do they give of their financial resources, but they also volunteer, and they really work hard to inspire the young people in their communities. George has such an enormous heart that he gives back to the community with, so we are honored to be able to honor him."
Fant, a Bowling Green, KY, native, raised more than $30,000 to assist residents of his hometown after it was devastated by tornadoes in December 2019.
"I went to college at Western Kentucky University, and it was right there located in Bowling Green," he said. "I was lucky to have a lot of NFL teammates that played college football with me including Jets QB Mike White, and right away we got together and started raising money. We just wanted to give back and help the people that needed help. I was just so happy I was able to raise the money and give it to people who needed it."
While he's humbled by the recognition, Fant said that it's not what motivates him.
"To be recognized for something you do in the community that I would do free any day — I'm just so happy to be able to do that," he said.