Santa's a sports fan like the rest of us, but he's more concerned with recognizing athletes who've gone the extra mile to spread holiday cheer. Here are some of his favorites this season.
Cowboys blow it Sunday, but Monday matters more
Yes, plenty of NFL fans despise Dallas, and yes, that was an epic fail against Green Bay on Dec. 15. But the very next day, several Cowboys -- Tony Romo and Dez Bryant included -- showed what they're really made of. The players shook off the tough loss and were all smiles as they visited different children's hospitals in the Dallas area as part of their annual holiday tradition.
Screenshot via YouTube
Andre Johnson spends $17K on toys for the kids
It's been an ugly season for the Texans, but their star wide receiver did a beautiful thing on Dec. 10, spending more than $17,000 on children in need of some holiday cheer. As part of Johnson's seventh annual toy giveaway, 12 children and their brothers and sisters were allotted 80 seconds to grab whatever they could at a local Toys 'R' Us. The children, who were chosen from child protective services, racked up a total bill of $17,352. "It's fun for the kids and it's fun for me," Johnson said. "It's something I enjoy seeing every year, so I figure why not keep doing it?"
KG goes all Kris Kringle on us
The newly minted Brooklyn Nets star is legendary for his fiery, intense attitude on the court. But he showed a softer, more generous side at the team's Dec. 17 holiday shopping event for children, where he and other Nets players posed for photos and videos and helped pick out gifts for the little ones. There aren't a lot of photos of Kevin Garnett smiling, but when he does, he helps light up a room full of happy kids. Well done, KG. Photo: via Twitter@BrooklynNets
Flyers organize family reunion, using life-size G.I. Joe box
You won't find many homecomings as creative as the one Pfc. Matthew Windish pulled off on Dec. 12 with the help of the Philadelphia Flyers. The team gathered Windish's family together during the game, where they thought they'd just see a video of Matthew on the Jumbotron. But then they noticed a huge, gift-wrapped box. When they opened it, guess who popped out with flowers and hugs? "We have missed him so much this past year," said Matthew's mom, Joann Windish. It was an awesome surprise." Photo: Screenshot via Comcast/Sportsnet
Getty Images for BCHDarren McCollester
Merry Gronk-mas! Pats star isn't too hurt to lift spirits
New England Patriots players Stevan Ridley and Rob Gronkowski -- dressed as Santa and an elf, respectively -- stopped by Boston Children's Hospital on Dec. 17 to visit with patients. Gronk himself is confined to a wheelchair after his gruesome knee injury vs. the Browns earlier this month . . . but no way is he gonna let that stop him from being there for his young fans. Here, Gronkowski and Ridley visit with a patient named Audrey and her mother at the hospital.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY SportsRich Barnes
From Syracuse blogger to benefactor for children
The Syracuse Orange face off against the Minnesota Gophers in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 in Houston. The only problem for some fans is that Syracuse is more than 1,500 miles from Houston. But Syracuse blogger Sean Keeley, of NunesMagician.com, has a fundraising plan to try to help fill Reliant Stadium anyway. "Let's take a little bit of the money we would have spent and use it to send some local kids who couldn't otherwise attend the game to go on our behalf," Keeley wrote in his blog. It may work. Keeley claims donations are pouring in, maybe enough to send at least 400 kids to the game. Wanna help the cause? Visit NunesMagician.com for more.
Tony Allen kicked CP3 in the face, so why is he on this list?
Glad you asked. True, the Memphis Grizzlies player earned a one-game suspension for pulling this kung-fu-like move on the court, but he hopes the maneuver will earn something more useful. The shoe that hit Chris Paul is now up for auction on eBay, and Allen says the money will go toward buying presents for underprivileged kids. Allen has also signed the shoe, which already has received multiple bids and appears destined to fetch a pretty penny. Also, for the record, Allen says he didn't kick Paul on purpose. Season's greetings! Photo: Screenshot via FOX Sports/Prime Ticket
Getty ImagesGregory Shamus
Barry Sanders sends beaten fan an autographed jersey
A Detroit legend, Hall of Famer and all-around great guy, Sanders heard the story of a Lions fan who claims he was beaten unconscious after his team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in a blizzard on Dec. 8. Sanders reportedly took to Twitter in search of the man's identity, so that he could send him an autographed jersey. The fan, a 33-year-old Lions die-hard named Paul, says he was "completely in shock" at the gesture. "I always thought really highly of Barry as a player, but this makes me kind of think of him as a player and a person in a whole new kind of level." Santa agrees with you, Paul.
While Z-Bo offers the actual shirt off his back
The Memphis Grizziles got blown out at home vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 11, but Randolph's awesome moment is all anyone will remember about the contest. Will Furlong, a 9-year-old Grizzlies fan, caught the eye of his favorite player during the game and began chanting "Z-BO!" ... and the rest was history. "I just took off my shooting shirt and gave it to him," WMC-TV reports Randolph as saying. "He was like, 'Thank you.' And I seen him after the game walking through the tunnel, and he was right there, and I shook his hand and gave him a hug." Photo: Screenshot via FOX Sports South
Russell Westbook pulls off his greatest assist of the year
The Oklahoma City Thunder's star point guard took some time to give back to his community in December, hosting a Christmas party for local foster children as part of his Why Not? Foundation. Westbrook teamed with Citizens Caring for Children to provide backpacks and Jordan-brand shoes to the kids. "More and more children are placed into foster care each year, and to be in a position to bring the joy of Christmas to some of these kids is truly a blessing," he said. Nice move, Westbrook. Photos: via Facebook/Russell Westbrook
@steelers via Twitter
Steelers set up surprise for Marine's family
During the Bengals-Steelers game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 15, the family of Marine Lance Cpl. Cory J. Lemasters thought they'd be receiving some sort of honor on Lemasters' behalf. After all, Cory was still in Afghanistan -- or so his loved ones thought. Instead, Lemasters himself emerged from the tunnel, and hugs and tears ensued. Kudos to the Steelers for helping to create a memorable moment and a happy holiday for a family that's given so much to America.
Georgia makes young Bulldog fan's dream come true
Joseph Liguori had a simple wish: to be a University of Georgia tight end. With the help of UGA and the Make-A-Wish Foundation -- which helps grant the requests of children with life-threatening illnesses -- Liguori's dream came true. The team welcomed Liguori out to a December practice and gave him everything he needed, including a helmet and a jersey to wear over all of his football gear. Liguori even got personal instruction from the team's tight end coach. But the best gift? He was included in a final play devised by head coach Mark Richt that ended in a touchdown and plenty of celebrating. Photo: via Georgia football/Make-A-Wish
Chandler Parsons uses his head -- literally -- to help cancer patient
The Houston Rockets forward is the favorite player of Patrick Hobbs-DeClaire, a 10-year-old terminal cancer patient at a Houston hospital. So when Parsons heard about Patrick, he had an idea. "I decided to shave my head to look more like him and hopefully give him some support and encouragement frome me," Parons told the Houston Chronicle. "He is an unbelievable kid, and the stuff he is going through really makes you realize how fortunate you are." Patrick was likely also pleased that Parsons and the Rockets notched a huge win over the San Antonio Spurs two days later on Christmas Day. Photo: via Instagram/chandlerparsons
Getty ImagesMike Ehrmann
Joe Maddon's 'Thanksmas' continues to touch lives
Earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Rays manager served a meal for the needy at the St. Petersburg, Fla., Salvation Army. It was part of Maddon's annual "Thanksmas," a 10-day tour of generosity and good will, which he's been spearheading for eight years. "I had this concept a couple years ago, Thanksmas," Maddon said. "I used to live in California and ride my bicycle up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, and I'd see a lot of people down there in need, and that bothered me. So I thought, one day when I'd get a chance to become a major-league manager, that I would do something just like this." Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Texas Tech helping arena employee build a new home
For the past 12 years, Jim Anderson has taken exceptional care of the Red Raiders' facility. After he lost his house in a fire and was forced to live in a tent, the university decided it was time to repay the favor to Anderson. Marshall Thornhill, an employee of the athletic department, reached out to a nonprofit for help with a big idea. "I want to build this man a house," Thornhill said. "Last winter was brutal, and to think that man going home to a tent in this kind of weather. ... " Thornhill and other benefactors helped get Anderson into a fully furnished apartment, and ground will break on his new house this spring. Photo: Screenshot via Texas Tech TV
Getty ImagesStreeter Lecka
FSU player wants to help cancer patient attend BCS title game
Florida State offensive lineman Michael Scheerhorn wants to make the game vs. Auburn a special night for a child who is battling cancer. The sophomore has two personal tickets to the game, and he's giving them away to a young girl and one of her parents. He just needs to raise money to get the family there and pay for all of the expenses of the trip. For Scheerhorn, the fundraising effort is personal. "When my brother Daniel was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma -- a form of brain cancer -- it was devastating to my entire family," he wrote on his fundraising web page. "Everything changed in a heartbeat." He says the Children's Cancer Center helped his family during their difficult time, and "now I would like to pay that kindness forward." Visit www.crowdrise.com/ccckidtobcs/fundraiser/michaelscheerhorn if you'd like to help.
L.A. traded him, but Trumbo still loves the city's kids
Trumbo was traded by the Los Angeles Angels to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Dec. 10, but he's still making time for L.A. children. The slugger attended his former team's annual Children's Holiday Party in Downtown Disney, an event he's participated in since he was in L.A.'s minor league system. (Trumbo cleared it first with the team's PR department.) "It would only be the adults that would probably find it a little bit strange, because the kids are just happy to be there," Trumbo told MLB.com. Trumbo wore normal clothes instead of an Angels jersey, but the 200 or so underserved L.A. children likely didn't mind as he read them Christmas tales and gave out autographs.