NY Jets linebacker, a Penn alum, awarded NFLPA’s highest honor

Brandon Copeland has been recognized for his community service work, and positively impacting his team’s city and communities across the country.

Brandon Copeland and Alan Page hold the NFLPA's Alan Page Community Service Award on stage.
New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland, left, and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Alan Page. Image: NFLPA

Brandon Copeland, a linebacker for the New York Jets and a 2013 graduate of the Wharton School, is the 2020 recipient of the NFL Players Association’s (NFLPA) Alan Page Community Service Award, the union announced at its annual Super Bowl press conference on Jan. 30.

Named after Hall-of-Famer Alan Page, a former star defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings who went on to serve as an associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court, the award is the NFLPA’s highest honor, and recognizes “one player who demonstrates a profound dedication to positively impacting his team’s city and communities across the country.”

In recognition, the NFLPA will donate $100,000 to Copeland’s Beyond The Basics foundation, which works to empower young individuals to maximize their potential by exposing them to enriching experiences, opportunities, and people.

“Receiving this award from the NFLPA and my peers is truly humbling, and serves as one of those moments where God lets you know that you are on the right path,” Copeland said. “As I have said before, I hope that the legacy I leave here on Earth is much bigger than just being an NFL player. That is the driving force behind why I work so hard to make a positive impact on the people I cross paths with.”

Brandon Copeland lines up at linebacker for the New York Jets.
Copeland had 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one forced fumble this season. Image: New York Jets

This winter, Copeland demonstrated the power of teamwork and giving. The veteran linebacker put a twist on his annual “December to Remember” by enlisting the help of 11 active and former NFL players across the country. They banded together to host seven different shopping sprees for the holiday season in New York/New Jersey, Tampa, Baltimore, Dallas, Boston, and Oakland. 

Copeland kicked off the initiative with a pizza party, during which he surprised 101 kids in the New York/New Jersey area each with a $200 gift card. Through Copeland’s foundation, his NFL friends were able to follow suit, ultimately providing gift cards to more than 300 foster and underprivileged children across the country. 

This holiday initiative is one of several carried out by Beyond The Basics. Last year, Copeland held his fourth annual youth football camp in his hometown of Baltimore. The 400-plus participants not only learned about the sport, but also about the importance of giving back by packing 1,000 book bags with school supplies and hygiene kits. 

In March, Copeland plans to host The Basketball Classic: Celebrity Edition at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The outreach effort is meant to fill the stands with people who may not be able to afford an event at the arena so that they can enjoy the charity game, as well as a Brooklyn Nets contest that same evening.

Brandon Copeland, holding his son, with Penn President Amy Gutmann and his wife Taylor Copeland.
From left, Brandon Copeland (with his son), Penn President Amy Gutmann, and Taylor Copeland, Brandon’s wife, at the Penn football team awards on Jan. 26. Taylor is also a Wharton alum.

“I look forward to using the NFLPA’s generous donation to continue empowering people, whether it be through community events or taking the time to have a simple conversation,” said Copeland. “Honors and moments like this are a humbling sign that the work of our foundation is making a real impact.”

Copeland, was a standout defensive lineman on the Penn football team from 2009-12. He was a three-time First-Team All-Ivy selection.