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Star Linebacker Gives Back to University of Miami

Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, left, receives a check from Jonathan Vilma and his parents. Photos: J.C. Ridley

New lounge on campus to be named the Jonathan Vilma Football Players’ Lounge

Expressing gratitude to his University of Miami family and his parents, alumnus Jonathan Vilma, former student-athlete and current New Orleans Saints middle linebacker, announced a donation of $450,000 during Tuesday’s press conference at Hecht Athletic Center in support of the Theodore G. Schwartz and Todd G. Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.

In honor of Vilma’s contribution, the multipurpose facility, on which groundbreaking is slated for December, will feature the Jonathan Vilma Football Players’ Lounge.

“I don’t look at this as a gift. I look at it as a time to now embrace the future and move forward,” said Vilma. “It’s our job as a Hurricane family to ensure that the current ’Canes sitting right here today reach their potential both on and off the field—and I want to be a part of that.”

No stranger to stellar efforts in both arenas, Vilma led the Hurricanes in tackles for three straight seasons, played on the 2001 national championship team, earned All-America honors, was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004, played in three Pro Bowls, was a starter on the Saints’ Super Bowl XLIV championship team, and was named the Saints’ Man of the Year in December 2010.

Calling him “one of the very best Hurricanes to wear a uniform,” Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst thanked Vilma for his leadership and generosity and thanked Vilma’s parents, Fritz and Nelly, for “raising a truly special young man.”

Vilma’s foundation has raised $200,000 to build schools in Haiti. A first-generation Haitian-American, Vilma played in the Super Bowl less than a month after a massive earthquake ravaged the country where he still has family.

“Football is great, and obviously it’s given me pretty much everything I have,” said Vilma. “But, at the same time, there are more important things out there—for example, Haiti and the earthquake. I want to be rich in a different way: by giving back, by helping others, by empowering others.”

To view the press conference, click here. For more information about the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, visit



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