As I mentioned in a previous post, my household is full of Chicago Bears fans. So you can imagine how excited we were to find out that offensive powerhouse Roberto Garza would be in our neck of the woods. That was the case on June 21: he met with fans at Six Flags Great America for a United Way charity event – and even rode a roller coaster with some of them! My cousin Kevin even made the trip down from Madison, Wisconsin, to attend the event with his daughter Kimberly.

And it turns out that Garza is such a nice guy!!!

The son of immigrants from Mexico, Garza was ridiculed for his desire to play professional football. The story goes that a Marine recruiter actually said to him, “Mexicans do not play in the NFL.”

Lucky for the Bears, Garza didn’t stand for such abuse and worked even harder to prove the naysayers wrong! After playing college football at Texas A&M-Kingsville and being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001, he secured a contract with the Bears in 2005. In 2012, Garza was named to the USA Today “All-Joe Team” that recognizes hard-working, over-achieving but little-recognized or overlooked NFL players and coaches.

But Garza isn’t a slave to naked ambition. He’s also clearly driven to help the less fortunate. In 2006, Garza was named the Chicago Bears’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Garza has also thrown his support behind charities that help less fortunate children and elderly, like the United Way, the Atlanta Falcons’ Feed The Homeless Campaign, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago. And Garza’s hometown of Rio Hondo, Texas, even established December 2 as “Roberto Garza, Jr. Day”, and subsequently named a street after him.