Like so many Americans last week, Jets cornerback Bless Austin was shocked and dismayed by the reports and gut-wrenching scenes from Texas as millions of people struggled with freezing temperatures brought by a winter storm, power failures, and frozen and burst waterpipes.
He could not sit by any longer and decided to do something meaningful to help.
Austin spent several thousand dollars to finance 35,000 meals that were distributed by the Food Care Center-Killeen. The group, whose motto is "Stand in the Gap," has served the community for 36 years and last year distributed meals to 90,000 families, including 25,000 military families.
"I'm just a guy who when he sees someone in need will help," Austin told nyjets.com. "I'm super thankful for everything I have and this is just something I will do. It was a reaction, not much thought went into it really."
Austin, who grew up in Queens, N.Y., played in college at Rutgers (a sixth-round pick in 2019) and now lives in Northern New Jersey, has no legacy ties to Texas other than a sister who is serving in the U.S. Army and is stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen. (Austin comes from a family with deep military roots; his grandparents on his mother's side both served.) The central Texas city of a bit more than 145,000 residents is about 70 miles north of the state capital, which coincidentally is named Austin.
"Last week I saw a couple of other athletes donating to Texas, but Killeen is really not a big area," Austin said. "And since my sister is based there, I wanted to help a town that doesn't get a bunch of the limelight."
He added: "I've always been a guy to use my gifts to allow people to feel and share my successes as well. I'm not a guy who prayed for it all for myself. It's about helping people along the way. I'm a positive person and the donation was my pleasure."
Austin, according to his agent Mike Swenson, was from the beginning of the disaster in Texas and his subsequent donation, reluctant to come forward and even discuss what he had done.
Austin recently completed his second season in the NFL. In the 2020 campaign, he appeared in 11 games with 10 starts and recorded 63 tackles, 3 for loss, 4 pass defenses, a forced fumble and a quarterback hit.
"I'm not a guy who just blurts out things," Austin said. "I saw what was going on. I was paying attention, especially since my sister is there. A lot of the more populated areas were getting the attention and I saw this as an opportunity to go to where it's less populated. And having been exposed to Fort Hood because of my sister, it just made sense."