Writer Sue Kern-Fleischer

Photography Antoine Gedroyc

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ick Lowery was having lunch at the Westin Kansas City Crown Center a year ago when a middle-aged man approached him.

“You don’t remember me, but you and Kevin Ross spent time with me in 1993 when my mother was in prison, and I never forgot it,” the man said. “It inspired me to make a difference in people’s lives.”

It was an unscripted moment that took the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer by surprise and validated why he devotes his life to helping others. The man went on to explain how Lowery and fellow Chiefs Hall of Famer and recent Arizona Cardinals coach Kevin Ross gave him hope for his mother and the other prisoners. Years later, the man bought several houses on a street with the sole purpose of providing a safe place for former prisoners to rebuild their lives after being released.

Moments like that fuel Lowery’s philanthropic work through his non-profit, Nick Lowery Youth Foundation. While sports fans know him as the most accurate kicker in NFL history, it’s Lowery’s five-time record as Man of the Year and his drive for helping others that keeps his non-profit organization in the national spotlight.

Lowery worked under three U.S. Presidents in the White House during his NFL career, and he was the first pro athlete with a master’s degree and fellowship from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. 

With all that he has accomplished professionally and personally, it’s hard to imagine he was cut 11 times by eight teams in his young professional football career.

“I’m very competitive and I had great mentors, so I never gave up,” he said. “My favorite positions in baseball and football were pitcher and kicker because both require you to maintain your focus, your dignity and your composure on an island with all eyes watching. You had to manage those moments of truth.”

A Scottsdale resident for more than two decades, Lowery is gearing up for the Phoenix Metro Chamber Foundation/Nick Lowery Youth Foundation Charity Golf Tournament Friday, April 26 at Stonecreek Golf Club. Proceeds from the event will help raise funds for several Nick Lowery Youth Foundation programs, including Champions for the Homeless events at St. Vincent de Paul’s, the Stronger Safer Sports program to reduce concussions in sports, and NBNY, which helps Native American youth find their purpose. 

Learning from Great Leaders

Lowery grew up in the Washington D.C. area with a father devoted to national service as a senior CIA officer. He lived next door to Byron ‘Whizzer’ White, who led the NFL in rushing twice (1938 and 1940) and would go on to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. In a strange twist of fate, Lowery received the Byron Whizzer White Award—the most prestigious humanitarian award an NFL player can receive—in 1993.

“Justice White was a Mount Rushmore-figurehead human being,” Lowery said. “Years later, I was also remarkably fortunate to live next to Muhammad Ali in Paradise Valley. 

“I was incredibly blessed to be surrounded by great role models who taught me that we’re here to make a heartfelt difference in the world. I look at the work I do now as carrying the torch of President Kennedy’s legendary call to service: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

He views his work as much more than making a positive difference in people’s lives. His goal is to help others realize their own potential for making a difference.

“God gave us a permanent spiritual filing cabinet in our souls to fulfill a beautiful and powerful purpose, each with our own unique gifts,” he said. “When people tap into their own intentional power to help others, they tap into God’s special wiring within, and a lifetime of what I call the only healthy addiction that can stay with us for the rest of our lives. 

“That purpose-filled filing cabinet in us always increases in capacity, impact, skill, and in the richness of how it fills us up as we drench others with hope.”

Proceeds from the April 26 tournament will benefit the Phoenix Metro Chamber Foundation, the Nick Lowery Youth Foundation, Harvest Compassion Center & Mitchell Swaback Charities, Junior Golf Association of Arizona and Girls Golf of Phoenix.

Lowery hopes the tournament will inspire people to do more. 

“Our work is far from done. Homelessness continues to be a big problem throughout metro Phoenix,” he said, adding that 30 percent of the people they serve are homeless veterans. “We are passionate about reducing the high suicide rate among veterans.”

Champions for the Homeless has set a new standard for volunteerism, and it has provided service opportunities for NFL stars like Larry Fitzgerald, Seth Joyner and David Johnson, tennis legend Bethany Mattek-Sands and top musicians like Country Hall of Famer Jessi Colter. 

“Our homeless brothers and sisters at St. Vincent de Paul’s shelter say that they have never felt so much love and hospitality in all their life,” he said. “Every program we start never stops giving—and what starts as a positive intention becomes the core values of a life and a community.”



Phoenix Metro Chamber Foundation/Nick Lowery Youth Foundation

Charity Golf Tournament | Friday, April 26 | 7:30 a.m. shotgun start | Stonecreek Golf Club | 4435 E. Paradise Village Parkway S., Phoenix. 

Non-golfers can attend the luncheon for $25. | phxmcf.org | 602-561-2348