Woodley donates $60,000 to help hometown players

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Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley doesn't know if his family would have been able to afford to pay for him to participate in sports when he was a youth in Saginaw, Mich. So, when he heard the news that the Saginaw public school system had instituted a $75 fee to participate in sports this year, Woodley did something about it.

Woodley donated $60,000 to the school district he attended in hopes that underprivileged children will continue to have an opportunity to play sports.

"It's just something that needed to be done," Woodley said last night after practice. "I know how it is to be in that situation. If I had to pay to play sports, I know what the outcome would have been.

"It would have been tough. We had a lot of kids on our family. It's hard times for people back home, for people everywhere. For kids to lose out on an opportunity to maybe earn a scholarship or learn about playing team ball ... to miss out on that because your family can't afford $75 was going to be tough. I wasn't going to sit back and allow that to happen."

The $60,000 will be used to offset the cost for all children in Saginaw public schools from middle school through high school. Woodley said he wants to donate money every year if the school district is in need.

"Now they don't have to worry about that," Woodley said. "Hopefully, I helped out a little bit. This $60,000 might be able to help someone get a scholarship next year, so it would be a few hundred thousand dollars. People helped me out along the way. I'm just doing my job giving back to my hometown."

The kind gesture got the attention of Woodley's boss, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

"That's a responsibility they all embrace," Tomlin said. "LaMarr is not looking for acknowledgement in that area. He understands he has a responsibility of being LaMarr Woodley. I complimented him on it. That's a man that took $60,000 and provided potentially a lifetime of opportunity. If there is one kid that didn't get an opportunity to play sports and does ... Imagine if he goes on to get an athletic scholarship, how much that $60,000 has helped someone."

Starks back today

Offensive tackle Max Starks will practice in pads for the first time this afternoon, but the veteran tackle will not play against the Indianapolis Colts in the second preseason game Sunday night.

Starks, who had offseason knee surgery, came off the physically-unable-to-perform list earlier this week. He has been going through an acclimation period since then and has only participated in limited portions of practice.

A nine-year veteran, Starks is eager to find out how far his surgically repaired knee has come since injuring it in the playoff loss at Denver.

"It's usually nine months to a year," Starks said of the healing period for an ACL tear. "I think I'm on schedule, maybe a little ahead. I'm 7 1/2 months right now. I'm [doing] a lot better than most guys would be. Once you get that contact for real and see how the knee reacts to it ... Those are the questions I'm looking forward to get answered."

Starks' health is one of the most important issues for the Steelers this camp. They drafted rookie Mike Adams to be their future left tackle, but they're not sure if he is ready to assume that role. Adams, who returned to practice Thursday after a knee injury kept him out previously this week, struggled in the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, allowing two sacks.

Starks said he doesn't believe it's important to have a starter named until the final preseason contest. His ability to practice and practice well over the next two weeks will determine whether he will regain his starting job.

"If everything does go well, I would step in and play," Starks said. "There's not much to it. Sept. 9 is still a long way away. In my mind, there's a lot I have to do and show enough progress to get to that point."

Harrison update

Outside linebacker James Harrison was back on campus at Saint Vincent College Thursday night, but he didn't have much to say about when he will be able to return to practice. Harrison had what was deemed a "minor surgical procedure" by Tomlin Wednesday.

"It feels all right," Harrison said.

When asked about a time frame for his return, he said: "I don't know. We'll see. It's week to week."

When asked whether he would like to play in a preseason game, he said: "I would like to, but we'll see. It's week to week."


Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.


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