As the Philadelphia Eagles’ nominee for this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, Malcolm Jenkins got two tickets to Super Bowl LII to give to whomever he felt worthy.
There’s been some great video on social media of other Payton MoY nominees surprising people with the tickets – from the Tennessee Titans’ Wesley Woodyard giving them to a janitor in the team facility to the Patriots’ Nate Solder giving his pair to a woman who works at the cancer facility that treats his young son, to the Saints’ Cameron Jordan honoring a 108-year-old World War II veteran and huge fan of the team.
Jenkins went a slightly different route.
Via philly.com, the ninth-year veteran invited Kempis Songster, who was released from prison last month after being locked up for 30 years. Jenkins and the Eagles are also paying the travel and hotel expenses for Songster and his fiancee to travel to Minneapolis.
Songster, now 45, was arrested in September 1987 for the killing of Anjo Pryce inside a drug house in southwest Philadelphia. He was a runaway – he was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. – and began working with drug dealers in Philadelphia.
At the time of Pryce’s killing, both he and Songster were minors.
Songster was given an automatic sentence of life without parole, but in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court declared such sentences unconstitutional for minors. Songster was released on Dec. 28 after a resentencing.
Jenkins and Songster met while Songster was at Graterford Prison in Pennsylvania, and Jenkins was visiting the facility as part of his work for criminal and social justice reform. They also met the day after Songster was released last month.
The Pro Bowl safety “came up to Graterford to talk about criminal justice reform,” Songster said. “He said he just wanted to work with me on various issues close to his heart. Then he offered me two tickets to show how serious he was.”
“A few weeks ago, I saw an article come across my text that he was getting out, and I wanted to do something special for him,” Jenkins told the N.Y. Daily News. “I didn’t know what, but I knew I wanted to do something to celebrate him coming home because I understood he really dedicated himself to a life of service and he’s trying to repay what he’s taken from society. I know he has some great ideas and we’re trying to accomplish the same thing when we talk about reform and healing our communities.”
Jenkins is heavily involved in what is now known as the Players’ Coalition, the group of current and former NFL players who have held unprecedented talks with the league and owners on community issues they’re passionate about; in November, the league announced a $90 million commitment to fund national and grass-roots programs aimed at social and criminal justice, with Players Coalition members helping direct where the funds go in their team’s cities.