Like any ingenious idea, it's spreading like Parkay. Texans owner Robert McNair says he'll match whatever amount Green puts up. A developer said it would take 20% off one of its homes. A grocery store offered food for a year. A furniture company promised to contribute, then a mattress store, an electronics store, on and on. Hell, even the electric company said it'd pay for a year of heat! What's next? Casinos giving away chips?
In a world in which many NFL players can't see past their hood-ornament necklaces, what planet was Simmons from?
"Asking for a watch or a car, that was going to make me feel uncomfortable," says Simmons. "I'm not saying I wouldn't have enjoyed a car, but I want to be about more than money. Money can ruin you."
Simmons grew up in L.A., the only child of a schoolteacher mom and a dad who was on disability. "I can honestly say every family member I know lived with us [for a time] before they got on their feet," he says.
Green grew up in L.A., too, but it took a move to Omaha, when he was a teenager, before the family could buy its first house. "I remember finally having my own yard," he says, "and feeling some pride in that. Man, my own yard!" Now he owns three homes—in Green Bay, Nebraska and Houston—but the one he seems proudest of is the one he'll never sleep in.
But who will? Green and Simmons want a female head of household with at least three kids. Suggestions are pouring in to Regina Woolfolk, the Texans' community affairs director and wife of former NFL running back Butch Woolfolk. People are even secretly sending in the names of others who have too much pride to ask.
"We had one guy who called about a neighbor," says Woolfolk. "She has several children and was about to be evicted from her apartment. He'd paid her rent for a month, but that was all he had."
A decision is due in the next two weeks on who will get the house. Then a family will be able to say, "Man, our own yard!" And here's what I hope happens next: Every NFL number swap leads to a needy family getting a house. And NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stops fining players money and starts fining them houses. And every time some M.C. hollahs, "T.O. in the howwwwse!" it's because T.O. has bought one for somebody else. And all of it will be because of Jason Simmons's number.
See, life does too begin at 30.
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