On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Falcons tight end Jacob Tamme, fullback Patrick DiMarco and their wives went to the Atlanta Mission to serve dinner to 125 men who are, to put it mildly, down on their luck.
DiMarco and Tamme were coming off of a tough loss at home to the Indianapolis Colts. The Falcons team that had started the season 5-0 was starting to become stagnant offensively. Visiting with the men at the Atlanta Mission, a faith-based organization that provides resources and support to Atlanta's homeless population, gave Tamme and DiMarco a sense of perspective.
"To many people it's a cliché, but it really was inspiring, because they really had such a good time," Tamme said. "And so for me, after we lose a football game, we put so much into this, I'm usually miserable for a couple of days. But we went on a Monday night, and it just really broadens your perspective, and to see those guys and the way they responded to us being there was really cool."
For DiMarco, the way those men welcomed them was a highlight of the experience.
"It was just a big party -- kind of a Thanksgiving party for the guys, who have had so much doubt and so much just not good things happen in their lives, to see us committed to going there and fulfilling our promise," DiMarco said. "It was really nice to see guys that were going through such tough times, how they opened their hearts to Jacob, myself, and both of our wives, and just were very welcoming."
This experience at the Atlanta Mission is just one of many things DiMarco has undertaken off the field to benefit others. His selfless, service to the community is the reason DiMarco has been chosen to represent the Falcons organization as Atlanta's Walter Payton Man of the Year.
For DiMarco, being chosen to represent the team in this way is even more special considering what an emphasis the entire Falcons organization places on serving others.
"Given all the guys on this team and the amount of time that we spend out serving in the community, and to be able to represent this team and represent the organization, it's a true honor," DiMarco said.
DiMarco's having a great season on the field, also. Pro Football Focus called him, "A true fullback who has a real knack for generating movement." DiMarco scored two touchdowns in the team's home loss to Tampa Bay and has been a force in the run game, helping pave the way for Devonta Freeman to set league records in his first few starts.
DiMarco is characteristically humble about his performance on the field.
"Playing fullback, it's not a position where you get much praise, but I think that my recognition is due to my running backs," DiMarco said. "It's due to my offensive line. It's due to the receivers and the quarterback and everybody else around us. It takes a core unit to make everything go, and I wouldn't be able to do what I do without the rest of the team. So it's been an honor to get a little bit of praise, but the rest of the team needs it, too."
Off the field, DiMarco has earned the respect of his coaches and teammates through solid leadership.
"Although he's not a long-term veteran, he's got some veteran presence and wisdom about him," head coach Dan Quinn said. "He's an absolutely terrific teammate, and I think that is some of the stuff people don't get to see off the field. And he's a really well-respected guy, not just from the coaching staff, but from the players as well."
Jacob Tamme first met DiMarco at NFLPA meetings before Tamme signed with Atlanta, and the two hit it off right away, in part because of their shared commitment to serving others.
"As soon as I met him down there, we clicked, and now, when I signed here, it was awesome that I had just met him, and he's been awesome," Tamme said. "He's a good leader for our football team and does a great job outside of the walls, too."
As the Falcons' Walter Payton Man of the Year, and a candidate for the NFL's Man of the Year award this season, DiMarco is participating in the NFL Man of the Year Challenge. Each player involved is assigned a unique hashtag, and fans can vote via social media platforms using #DiMarcoWPMOYChallenge. Retweets don't count, so you have to tweet the hashtag yourself each time. There's no limit on the number of times you can vote. Voting is active through December 31st, 2015. The player who receives the most votes receives $20,000 for their charity of choice.
DiMarco gives of his time to a few different organizations, including T.A.P.S., the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors who have lost loved ones in military service, but should DiMarco win the NFL Man of the Year Challenge, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta will be the beneficiary because helping children resonates with him personally.
"Me and my wife are pregnant right now, so we've got a little boy coming, and just to see innocent kids going through such tough times, anything I can do to help that, especially going to be a father here soon, and just the times we've spent there," DiMarco said. "It's an amazing place and they do great work, and I'm just glad to team up with them and help them out."
Serving others benefits DiMarco as much as it benefits those he serves.
"It lightens your day when you're not having a good day, and after a tough game or a good game -- whatever it is," DiMarco said, "just to be able to go there and spend time with the kids and just see their smiles and just get their minds off of what's going on in everyday life and just to have fun with them changes our lives, too."