Russell Wilson isn’t the only Seahawk wearing charity cleats in the Seahawks’ next game. He’s just the most recognizable one.
One of the team’s least recognizable players is wearing them, too.
Tyler Ott has a very personal reason to support the NFL’s My Cleats, My Cause initiative this week.
The Seahawks’ long snapper from Tulsa, Okla., and a Harvard graduate has teamed up with kicker Sebastian Janikowski and holder Michael Dickson to pledge $125 for each field goal and extra point they make this season to the March of Dimes.
This month, Ott got Homestreet Bank, the financial institution headquartered in downtown Seattle and a Seahawks corporate partner, to agree to match those donations. That has doubled the donation each successful scoring kick. With Janikowski 15 for 19 on field goals, including the winning one last weekend on the final play at Carolina, plus 33 for 33 on extra points, the cause is up to $12,000 after 11 games.
At the end of the season, Ott will split the money raised by Seattle’s made kicks evenly between the March of Dimes chapter in his home state of Oklahoma and the March of Dimes for Washington state.
The national non-profit that promotes the health of mothers and babies is also the cause Ott is supporting with the cleats he’s going to wear Sunday when his Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field.
Ott was born on Feb. 28, 1992, in Tulsa. He was supposed to be born in late March of that year. He was a month premature, because his mother had a pregnancy complication, preeclampsia, causing dangerously high blood pressure and threats to internal organs. Baby Tyler then spent a week in the neonatal intensive-care unit for premature and at-risk babies at a Tulsa hospital; he thinks it was The Children’s Hospital at St. Francis.
“They are really dedicated to increasing the number of healthy babies, healthy mothers,” he said of the March of Dimes, sitting at his locker before practice Thursday. “Everybody in some way in their families has been affected by the March of Dimes, way back to the days of polio (in the United States). Now they are very involved in premature births.”
So is Ott’s mother.
Laurie Applekamp went from using some of the March of Dimes’ support and services while little Tyler was in the NICU that week 26 years ago to being its executive director for its Oklahoma chapter. Its headquarters is in Oklahoma City.
“Thing is, my mother had cervical cancer before I was conceived, so she was a higher risk to deliver me,” Ott said.
Just before Ott was born doctors debated whether to give his mother injections of antenatal steroids to accelerate the development of the premature infant’s lungs. Those doctors ultimately decided not to, yet he spent that week in the NICU because he was too fragile to immediately go home.
“That was a week my mom couldn’t hold me,” Ott said.
“It makes it easier for her to find meaning in working for the March of Dimes, having been through that. Now, she uses me as an example of a success story, a preemie playing in the NFL.”
Tyler grew from an isolette, an incubator for preemies, in the NICU to 6 feet 3 and 253 pounds, into a guy who makes thudding tackles down field on punts after snapping to Dickson.
Janikowski has a personal reason to be involved, too. His twins were born almost seven years ago four weeks premature.
Now they are kicking for the March of Dimes in addition to the Seahawks.
“I’ve been involved with the March of Dimes,” Ott said, “since the day I was born.”