All for a Smile: Eric Wood driven by memory of late brother

Scott Boehm/Associated Press

When the pads come off, Eric Wood keeps doing the work. Discover his and other NFL players' charitable causes in their own words at The Players' Tribune as part of a special *My Cause My Cleats collaboration with NFL Media.*

*Below is an excerpt from Wood's touching tribute to his younger brother Evan, who passed away at the age of 11. For Woods' full story visit The Players' Tribune.

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It's not the relationship I had with him that I miss - it's the relationship I never got to have.

I loved playing football outside with my youngest brother, Tyler. We'd run all over, throwing the ball back and forth, pretending we were winning the Super Bowl for the Bengals. Sometimes, though, we wished Evan could be with us, that he could feel what it was like to tackle, or dive into the end zone, or throw for the game-winning touchdown.

There are kids out there who don't have another sibling around to help them have a "normal" childhood. Likewise, there are parents whose only child is facing some kind of life-altering condition. And sometimes, when life gets difficult emotionally, financially or physically, it helps to have somebody there to say, "I know what you're going through."

Maybe I can't fully take their pain away, but I can at least help. I can take two 20-year-old young men whose lives were railroaded by cancer to a concert. I can treat parents who haven't had a night to themselves for as long as they can remember to a steak dinner. I can take 30 kids Christmas shopping at Target, and, as a bonus, bear witness to one of the most heartfelt sights of my life.

When my foundation hosted this event at Target last December, a bunch of Bills players, including Tyrod Taylor and Cordy Glenn, our big left tackle, showed up to help.

At first, the players were all just congregating amongst themselves. But suddenly I looked over and noticed Cordy was gone.

Cordy's 6-foot-6 and 345 pounds. He's not exactly easy to miss.

I walked around the store and finally I found him. There, amidst the Maybelline and the L'Oreal products, and the countless shades of pinks and reds and blacks, was Cordy. He was down on one knee helping a 12-year-old girl named Stella pick out some makeup. The smile on her face could have illuminated the entire store.

I'm a normal guy who plays a game for a living. Some guys take it way too seriously. I get it. Football's a huge business. There's a lot of stress and it's played by elite athletes (well, maybe not the O-linemen), but when it comes down to it, it's just a game.

Even today, when I get down about something on or off the field, I think of Evan's smile, and how he kept it even with everything he went through. It makes me feel silly for even worrying about whatever trivial problems I might be facing. It reminds me that I should be thankful. And it makes me want to put that same smile on the faces of others who are battling obstacles similar to those faced by Evan and my family - because I know how hard it can be to find that smile.

Everything I do in the community with the Eric Wood Foundation, I do with Evan - and his smile - in my mind and my heart. He's my inspiration and my motivation. This is his legacy.

For more stories of inspiration and courage from NFL players, visit The Players' Tribune for the full series of My Cause My Cleats features.

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