Former Eldorado High School standout quarterback and current Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Zach Gentry took advantage of the start of the NFL’s “My Cause My Cleats” initiative Sunday to honor four fallen heroes from his home state.
Gentry, who spends the offseason in Albuquerque, was in town last summer when news broke that Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office first responders Lt. Fred Beers, Undersheriff Larry Korea, Deputy Michael Levison and Specialist Matthew King were killed in a crash near Las Vegas, New Mexico, while on their return trip to Albuquerque after assisting with a wildfire.
Sunday, when the Steelers beat the Atlanta Falcons, Gentry honored the first responders with custom cleats.
“It was close to home. That tragedy happened when I was back home between OTAs and training camp,” Gentry said in a release. “I was home, and the wildfires were a big problem in the Southwest. It’s something that really affected the community. When you were driving around you would see people hanging American flags everywhere on highways and stuff. When they brought them into town, it was a little bit out of Albuquerque, they brought them back in the ambulances and it was touching to see the way the community came together and honored them. I want to do something like that, too. It was really close to home and I want to do something to honor their memory.”
The NFL’s My Cause My Cleats program allows players to represent and bring attention to a charity or cause that touches them deeply through custom cleats. Last week was the first week players were permitted to wear them, and they will be able to do so again in Week 14 when the Steelers have a home game against the Baltimore Ravens.
The initiative was created for NFL players to showcase a charitable cause in order to bring attention to it, and the players take part in helping with the design of their cleats.
After the players wear the cleats, they have the option to auction them off to raise money for their cause on NFL Auction, with 100% of the funds raised given to the charity. Gentry’s cleats are not available to bid on yet.
The BCSO re-launched its Air Unit in November for the first time since the deadly July crash.
“The wildfires there are a problem,” Gentry said. “You see them every year in the Southwest and the West. Fighting them is something I wouldn’t want to do or don’t have what it takes to do. I appreciate what they do all of the time. It’s not easy to be a firefighter or a first responder at any time. My cousin is a firefighter in Albuquerque as well. I am sure it’s something they think about. I am sure it goes through their mind. But with all of the training they have, they are fearless. It’s something I wouldn’t be able to do myself and am thankful they are able to do. It’s just so close to home that I want to honor them.”