The values that keep the football athlete a consistent in-person inspiration for youth in King County Juvenile Detention are being recognized on the Jan. 15 cover of The New Yorker and in the Seahawks’ nomination of him for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. 

When Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett launched a gardening program inside King County Juvenile Detention last summer, its staff was skeptical he would come back to visit the kids and watch the program flourish like he said he would. Would he be just another celebrity grandstanding promises and values and then be gone?

He wasn’t. He’s come back to the juvenile detention several times, often with friends, family and teammates inspired to be part of his work inspiring youth to see the opportunities they still have before them if they choose to chase them down.

There’s no doubt that this work is part of why he’s recently been recognized as the Seahawks’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and why he’s illustrated alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Colin Kaepernick on the New Yorker’s Jan. 15 cover.

“He ‘s not a flash-in-the-pan athlete. His message is different. He makes a point of communicating to these kids that it didn’t come easy. That he had to work hard and sacrifice,” said Juvenile Detention Division Director Pam Jones in an interview posted on KC Employee News . “Sometimes he’s still here and we’re rolling into meal time and other scheduled things, because he stays for hours talking one-on-one with them. But, you know, since he’s willing to really give of his time and be here and be present for these kids, we make it work, even if it gets a little complicated with the schedule. We make it work.”

Bennett has shown he sees himself as more than a football athlete and a celebrity.

“It’s our responsibility as human beings to leave this world in a better situation for our kids,” Bennett told ESPN in a recent interview about the gardening program. “And that’s what the real legacy of all this is.”

For more info on Bennett’s work with youth, check out the videos below: