Jaleel Gipson, a 17-year-old high school football player from Farmerville, La., died this past Monday from injuries suffered in a spring football practice on May 9.
Bengals’ left tackle Andrew Whitworth and his wife Melissa, from nearby West Monroe, La., couldn’t help but think of their own children when they heard the tragic news.
The Whitworths reached out to the Gipson family and have taken care of the costs of Jaleel Gipson’s funeral.
The gesture was meant to be anonymous but a Gipson family member was so moved he sent out a thank you to the Whitworths and well as the rest of the community — which included the New Orleans Saints and head coach Sean Payton — that has been generous with its time, prayers and monetary donations through his Facebook page.
“I have never met this person but this tragedy has been far reaching in people hearts and this person in particular has went above and beyond in my family’s mind,” wrote the family member on the Facebook page entitled Larry ND Keshia Lee.
Whitworth, who helped LSU win a national title in 2003, released a statement after word got out of his and his wife’s donation.
“My wife and I didn’t intend for this to become public but now that it has, I am just grateful the opportunity to serve my community and meet a need. I have two boys, and when I heard about Jaleel, all I could think was that was someone’s baby who was taken away tragically. If there is a way my family and I could help ease their burden even a little, that’s what I was going to do. Honestly, I wish I could do more. I wish I were home now and I could spend some time with those coaches, players, and Jaleel’s family, but I can’t. I hope to do that when I return from spring training in Cincinnati.”
Whitworth earned his first Pro Bowl berth last season as the Bengals reached the postseason for the third time in the last four seasons. He has started 102 of the 106 games he has played since Cincinnati drafted him in the second round in 2006, plus three playoff games. His current streak of 67 consecutive starts, including playoffs, is the longest on the team.
His foundation, the BigWhit 77 Foundation, aids in various community service efforts, including grants to help families going through the adoption process and a scholarship program for high school seniors going on to higher education.