Charlie Batch isn’t a household name among NFL fans. But the 15-year veteran Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback joins some of the NFL’s biggest names as the 2012 recipient of the Byron “Whizzer’’ White Award.
The award, presented annually by the NFL Players Association, honors work in the community and goes to the NFL player who best served his team, community and country in the spirit of Byron “Whizzer’’ White, who was an associate of the Supreme Court and humanitarian following his professional football career with the Pittsburgh Pirates (the forerunner of the Steelers) and the Detroit Lions.
Batch, who grew up in Homestead, Pa., which is just 16 miles from Three Rivers Stadium where the Steelers used to play, was honored for his work with the Best of Batch Foundation and the Batch Development Company.
“It’s truly an unexpected blessing,’’ he says. “I didn’t expect to win. I was grateful to be nominated with the people [who] were there. As the process went on, it was surprising and caught me off guard. People see what you do and appreciate it. This ranks up there pretty high with other awards that I have received.’’
The Best of Batch Foundation has raised more than $1.2 million since it was founded in 1999, and it touches more than 1,000 kids in a calendar year.
The foundation’s largest program is Project C.H.U.C.K (Continuously Helping Uplift Community Kids). Its goal is to provide youth with the resources they need to give their best effort in all that they do. The program, which operates four days a week during the summer, is for youth ages 7-18 and accommodates more than 365 youngsters who play 20 basketball games during a six-week period. It also incorporates a summer reading program.
Batch founded the Batch Foundation in 1999 while playing for the Detroit Lions, who chose him in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He was moved to give back to the community after his 17-year-old sister, Danyl Settles, was killed in 1996 when she was caught in crossfire between rival gangs in Homestead. He hoped that his foundation would provide youth an alternative to the streets and the violence that comes with them.
“I said at that moment that if I ever was in a position to give back, I would,’’ Batch says, adding that he would never want another family to experience the feelings that he and his family experienced when his sister was killed. “She was 17. She never had a chance to live.”
Other foundation programs include:
- The Best of Batch Club, which rewards students in grades K-8 who demonstrate excellence in school work, attendance, behavior and extra-curricular activities with a field trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame with Batch as their host.
- Batch-A-Toys, an annual toy drive that benefits Toys for Tots.
- D&R Sportsmanship Program, an initiative that promotes positive behavior in K-12 schools and youth programs and encourages participants to treat everyone with dignity and respect.
- Next Level Athletics Track Club, a member of USA Track & Field Three Rivers Association, enables males and females ages 7-18 to compete in sanctioned meets around the country while promoting academic development, self-esteem and confidence.
“We’ve been able to create programs that people believe in,’’ he says. “It uses sports to draw kids in, but it keeps the focus on education. We want to be a constant reminder to push these kids beyond their expectations. We want to make sure we’re keeping these kids off the streets. It allows them to get off the streets and teaches them core values.’’
Batch is also involved in the community through Best Development Company, which reinvests back into the Pittsburgh community by creating jobs and career opportunities and also partners with local businesses to help residents with home ownership.
Batch went through an arduous selection process and was chosen from a pool of players who were first nominated for a PULSE Award by their teammates for their service on and off the field. Each PULSE winner was invited to submit an application in order to receive a donation for his foundation or a charity of his choice. From that group, a group of peer panelists reviewed the applications and selected five finalists.
The other finalists were Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and Cleveland Browns tight end Benjamin Watson. Batch joins a list of recipients that includes Payton Manning, Steve McNair, Reggie White, Cris Carter, Ozzie Newsome, Archie Manning, Roger Staubach, Gale Sayers, Willie Davis and Bart Starr.
“I know this is not me by myself,’’ Batch says. “This is the collaboration of a lot of efforts. I just get the recognition for it.’’
Batch joined the Steelers in 2002 as a free agent after the Detroit Lions released him, signing a one-year contract. He fully expected to move on after his first season back with the team, but one season became two and two has become 12. Even though he hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time while backing up Ben Roethlisberger, Batch says playing for his hometown team has been special. He has been on two Super Bowl championship teams, and he is able to be intimately involved with the work that his foundation does in Homestead.
“It allows me to be hands on in everything that I do,’’ he says. “That’s what makes it special. I am able to be part of it, and people are able to see me on a regular basis.’’