Steelers’ Tuzar Skipper, NFL gamers prove for twenty eighth annual United Means fundraiser in Connecticut

The 28th annual NFL Players/United Way Weekend fundraiser took place in Wallingford and Hamden on Friday and Saturday to raise money for United Way of Meriden and Wallingford.

Hosted by Hamden Hall football coach and NFL agent Joe Linta and featuring NFL players Tuzar Skipper (Steelers), Jacobi Francis (Texans), Montrell Washington (Broncos), Julius Chestnut (Titans), Javon Heiligh (Bengals), John Lovett (Dolphins) , Joshua Onujiogu (Seahawks) and Jack Stoll (Eagles), a Friday night auction was held at Il Monticello in Wallingford.

During the dinner and auction, Skipper, who has deep Connecticut roots, was honored as the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford 2022 Player of the Year.

“The work that United Way does day in, and day out is amazing,” Skipper said. “They support the needs of children and families in our community, and the services they provide are vital to the success of families.”

Skipper attended three Connecticut high schools before moving on to play football at Monroe College and eventually transferring to Toledo.

“I wasn’t born here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do things for the community,” Skipper said. “I grew up in this community, I went to Hamden middle and Hamden high. Coming back to Hamden, Wallingford, Meriden, it doesn’t matter as long as I am giving back to the community.”

The Steelers linebacker is familiar with adversity. He was born in the Bronx and lived there until he was five, when he moved in with his grandmother in Connecticut. When he was seven, he was told he had to move in with a foster family.

“I know what it is like to not have food or stability that a home provides growing up,” Skipper said. “I was unsure where my next meal was coming from, or where I was going to sleep at night.”

As he entered high school, his mother passed away. Just before his 16th birthday, he left the foster home he had lived with for eight years and went into a group home.

“Those are times that I don’t like to think about and are things that no child should ever have to think about,” Skipper said. “These experiences have shaped who I am today. They have made me think about the person that I want to be, to help kids who are in the same situation that I was.”

At the age of 18, Skipper was fostered by the Duggan family in Norwich, and transferred to Norwich Free Academy where he would graduate.

He took his football talents to Monroe, a junior college in New Rochelle New York before transferring to Division I Toledo.

Reflecting on his past is not always easy, but it has shaped him and inspires his drive to give back. After the NFL Players/United Way Weekend was canceled during the pandemic, Skipper is glad to be back.

“It means a lot because I am about the talk and the action as well,” Skipper said. “This is something I genuinely love to do in the offseason. I look forward to it every year. We missed out the last couple of years because of the pandemic and that was a little devastating.”

On Saturday, Skipper and the other NFL volunteers took the Hamden Hall athletic facility to run a football camp for children in the area.

“Don’t give up, keep fighting,” Skipper said. “Life knocks you down, but it isn’t about how many times you get knocked out. It is about how many times you get back up, and that is what I would tell kids.”

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