NEW YORK -- USA Network and the National Football League are expanding their annual collaboration on NFL Characters Unite to include a new, weekly on-air vignette and webisode series on charactersunite.com launching on Monday, December 2. The initiative will culminate with the third annual NFL Characters Unite one-hour documentary premiering Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. ET on USA during Super Bowl XLVIII weekend. Part of USA's award-winning Characters Unite public service campaign, the documentary -- presented by GMC -- profiles NFL stars as they share deeply personal stories of overcoming prejudice, bullying and discrimination, with the goal of helping young people who are currently facing similar challenges.
The series kicks off with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb mentoring a teen boy named Tyson who is struggling, much like Cobb did growing up, with bullying and intense peer pressure to use drugs and commit crime. Cobb serves as a much-needed positive role model and encourages Tyson, through a volunteer project with Habitat for Humanity, to become a leader rather than a follower and stay committed to his dream of playing football.
"By sharing the profound stories of NFL players, we hope to inspire viewers to find the same strength and determination to combat hate and discrimination in their own lives and communities," said Toby Graff, USA's senior vice president, public affairs. "In this effort, we are honored to once again join forces with the NFL and we are grateful for the incredible support from GMC, a company that truly shares the values of Characters Unite."
In addition to Cobb, NFL players featured in this year's initiative include New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and linebacker Mark Herzlich, New York Jets center Nick Mangold, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. Through meaningful conversations and unique one-on-one confidence building activities, the NFL leaders, both on and off the field, open lines of communication, instill courage and help the kids they meet realize that they, too, can achieve greatness and should "Never say Never" to their dreams.
"Courage is not measured by how many hits you can take on a football field, it's measured by what kind of character you show when you are confronted by your deepest fears. Each year I am reminded what real heroes look like when we spend time with the kids and the NFL players who are brave enough to face their greatest fears and share them with the world," said Charlie Ebersol, executive producer and founder of The Company. "In the third installment of 'NFL Characters Unite,' we are proud to tell the stories of some of the bravest people I've ever met."
The documentary, narrated by former NFL star and NBC Sunday Night Football Emmy-winning sportscaster Cris Collinsworth, will feature more in-depth stories of the players and their experiences in meeting and mentoring the students. The one-hour special will serve as the launch of Characters Unite Month, a time when the network shines a bright spotlight on the importance of promoting greater tolerance, respect and acceptance.
"As fans across the country get ready to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday and the best of the NFL on the field, we are excited to also share these stories of great men off the field," said Tracy Perlman, NFL vice president of entertainment marketing and promotions. "We are pleased to once again work with USA Network and The Company, and to have GMC join us to tell these important stories."
Sandra Moore, GMC's director of marketing and advertising, explained that the sponsorship is a great fit: "GMC partners with NFL Characters Unite because they share a lot of similar values. They share a common audience, as GMC is the Official Vehicle of the NFL, and they share deeply-held values and motivations to 'Never Say Never.' Whereas GMC engineers never say never to meeting a challenge when crafting their vehicles, the NFL stars featured in NFL Characters Unite embody the 'Never Say Never' spirit themselves in having overcome their adversity and will inspire teens to overcome their own, too."
-- NFL Communications