Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Justin Hilton and Poorstar clothing company will host a Heart of Florida United Way fundraiser on March 30th in Orlando.
Several other members of the Bengals are scheduled to attend the charity event, which will be held at the Draft Global Beer Lounge and Grill. A portion of the event proceeds will be generously donated to the Heart of Florida United Way.
Hilton grew up in Florida, where he attended Harmony High School in St. Cloud. After graduating, he played for two years at Butte Community College in Oroville, Calif., and helped lead his team to a National Junior College Championship. He went on to star at Indiana State University before eventually signing a free agent contract with the Bengals in 2012.
Hilton recently took the time to visit the Heart of Florida United Way offices and tour the 2-1-1 helpline call center. He spoke to us about his career and his love of Central Florida.
The United Way has had a longstanding partnership with the National Football League to help raise awareness and funding for community issues. How does it feel to know that the funds raised at your event are helping to make a positive impact in Central Florida?
Hilton: It feels great. It’s a collective effort with the United Way and the NFL. Me being a home town kid from Orlando, Florida it feels even better to be able to give back to my own community.
United Way invites people to LIVE UNITED by advancing the common good and creating opportunities for everyone to have a better life. What does it mean for you to LIVE UNITED?
Hilton: Living United to me means everyone being on the same team and giving back [to the community] and being able to influence kids at a young age.
Many young fans look up to football players as role models. Do you hope to be able to serve as an inspiration for those fans?
Hilton: Definitely. All of us players in the NFL we do it for the fans number one, especially the little kids that have dreams like we did when we were growing up. There’s nothing more surreal to me personally than seeing a little kid wearing your jersey in the stands. Seeing that is what makes me happy.
How important has education been in your life?
Hilton: My parents took pride in us kids being the first ones to be able to graduate from college out of our family. When I was given the opportunity to play college football the most important thing to me was to graduate first and then take that knowledge and apply it to the National Football League.
Do you still have a lot of fans in Central Florida?
Hilton: All my family and friends are still here in Central Florida. I went to Harmony High School [in St. Cloud] originally. I always enjoy coming back to my roots and coming back to the area.