When Terron Armstead was 10 or 11, long before he developed into an NFL left tackle, a summer internship at his church changed his life.
Armstead spent his summer learning basic life skills: how to build a credit score, how to budget, how to do taxes, how to interview.
A lot of kids end up learning those skills on the fly, long after they've become adults. Armstead got a preview at an early age.
"I felt like it was extremely impactful going forward," Armstead said. "I was young, but I carried those skills with me."
Now that Armstead is the kind of player who commanded a five-year, $66.671 million deal, he's trying to open the eyes of more kids like him.
"I just want to give that opportunity back to as many as I possibly can," Armstead said.
For Armstead, this is the next step for his foundation, a foundation that he started in his second year in the NFL, one he's been building ever since.
A handful of NFL players on each team have foundations, but the process is not easy, particularly the process of filing to receive tax-exempt status from the IRS.
Armstead pressed ahead anyway, establishing the Terron Armstead Foundation with his sister, Kimiante Brown. Initially, the foundation turned its eye primarily toward providing assistance for children and families in and around his hometown of Cahokia, Illinois, on the other side of the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
"I never had access to any of these things," Armstead said. "I did the internship the one summer, but besides that, I never had access to camps or toy drives or all of these things, the back-to-school events. We didn’t have anybody where I’m from doing those things. I felt like, why wait?"
Armstead has been working hard in the area ever since.
For several years now, he's held a football camp in Cahokia, a camp that has grown to more than 300 kids. A camp is often where NFL players begin giving back because the NFL Foundation provides grants for players who want to provide free camps, and Armstead works hard to bring other NFL players to his camps — he's had players like Todd Gurley, Mark Ingram and Jahri Evans in the past.
But he hasn't stopped there. Armstead's foundation has also sponsored a basketball league, handed out scholarships, holds Thanksgiving food drives and offers Christmas gifts to needy families and sponsors back-to-school events, giving kids school supplies, backpacks, shoes and bikes. At times, the foundation steps in to help individual families who've lost homes or individual children who need medicine for cancer treatment.
"It's hard when you plan an event, but once everything comes together, everything you went through is worth it," Brown said.
Now, Armstead is getting ready to implement an internship like the one that made such an impression on him so many years ago.
"We’ve kind of grown more, and we’re focused more on this internship I’ve got started," Armstead said. "A leadership internship, focused on real-life skills, like credit scores and taxes, how to dress for an interview, how to conduct yourself in an interview."
Armstead initially plans to put 10 young adults through the practice, with a class each week focused on a different aspect of navigating life as an adult.
And he's looking for some help.
“There’s a criteria, it’s a curriculum that we would follow," Armstead said. "It’s still in the works. We’d love to get volunteer teachers. A tax person, a credit person to come in and do those special courses."
All of it, so far, has been funded by Armstead himself, who has used his considerable resources to give kids some of the things he never had.
And because Armstead is in New Orleans preparing for Saints games in the fall, his sister has handled a lot of the duties of fielding events, outside of his camp. For the first couple of years of the foundation, it's been a family affair, although the team did just hire a director, Dewey Hudson.
"Ninety percent of the time, I plan everything," Brown said. "From the beginning, it was just me and my brother, but as time goes on and things happen more, we have more people."
Armstead wants to keep the foundation growing. Although he's funded all of the foundation's events so far he would welcome donations — he now has the federal tax ID number necessary for those making a donation — but he hasn't publicized his foundation much in his five seasons with the Saints.
Whether or not he had external help coming in, Armstead wanted to help.
"I’m definitely looking for more funding. More funding would be more people I can reach,' Armstead said. "I’ve spent a lot, but it’s all for a great cause, and I’m going to keep doing it ... My foundation’s growing rapidly, and I’m excited about it."
Cahokia has already begun to say thanks to its favored son.
A football field in Cahokia is already named after Armstead, and there's a commemorative plaque with his name on it across the street from the library.
Both for the work Armstead's done on the field in the NFL and off.