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NFL players from around the League are winning where it matters most — in the classroom. Their goal is to recruit 99,000 volunteer readers, tutors and mentors. Their game plan is YOU. Help them pull off the ultimate play. Enter the draft today.

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Vinny Rey: Cincinnati’s Unsung Hero

After a milestone season of career firsts, national headlines, and a trip to the playoffs, Cincinnati Bengals’ backup linebacker Vinny Rey maintains a modest goal: to be the same person wherever he is.

A concept so simple, yet so significant—much like Rey himself. 

“The word integrity comes from the word ‘integer,’ which is a whole number in math,” Rey said. “So in order to be a person of integrity, you need to be your whole self wherever you go.”

And over the past three seasons in the NFL, Vinny has gotten to go a lot of places he never dreamed of as a kid growing up in Queens. Whether he’s talking tackle techniques on NFL Live, promoting mentorship at the NFL Draft, or discussing college with kids, the 26-year-old’s message is always the same.

“My whole life, I’ve respected my leaders, and that’s one thing that will never change,” the New York native said. “Now I’m in the position to lead AND be led, and that’s what I want these kids to understand.” 

For a player who balances his off time with community projects, Bible studies, and school visits, being a “whole person” includes being well rounded and grounded, both on and off the field. With a passion for learning and respect for authority, Rey spends every Tuesday (the NFL’s only official off day) at different elementary schools and clubs around Cincinnati preaching his message and paying it forward.

While he spent his first couple seasons on the Bengals' bench, it was Rey’s compassionate character that earned him national attention. In 2012, he was picked up by United Way Worldwide and asked to join their TEAM NFL initiative to lower the high school dropout rate by recruiting 99-thousand volunteer readers, tutors, and mentors. Rey, who has always celebrated mentorship, saw this as an opportunity to bring his message to a national platform.

In his first meeting with the United Way family two years ago, Rey instantly proved himself worthy of the Live United logo and lifestyle. His endearing self depreciation and boyish charm won over the entire group at the United Way TEAM NFL kickoff summit, as he recounted tales of living on friends’ couches his first NFL season and expressed genuine gratitude for being asked to join the historic organization.

In both his career and his life, much has changed since Rey’s TEAM NFL beginnings, but true to his word, nothing has changed about his character. And while he’ll take the field with the Bengals this weekend to battle their way to post-season success, Rey won’t be consumed by the hype.

“My favorite part about football is being connected to the Cincinnati community and having people recognize me for things other than what happens in games,” the aspiring NFL starter said. “I don’t want to be someone who’s a leader on the field but not in real life, where it matters.” 

It’s that unassuming, lead-by-example lifestyle that Rey hopes football fans will emulate, as he encourages them to join TEAM NFL as a volunteer reader, tutor, or mentor for students in 2014. Join Vinny in his mission by signing up for TEAM REY here: