Trey Burton is a man known for his incredible football career with the Florida Gators, then Superbowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, and currently the Chicago Bears. But when friends and fans get to know the man behind the game, they quickly see that he is driven not only by his athletic mastery – but by a desire to leverage his immense platform to end slavery.
In 2018, you were nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, an annual award given by the NFL honoring volunteer and charity work. And, there was a specific “challenge” with IJM that was part of the nomination. Can you tell us a bit about what that challenge was, and how you came up with the idea?
The way I came up with it was, literally, I was just talking to my wife (Yesenia Burton), thinking about ways to get involved with IJM - but also raise awareness for children who are getting stuck into the sex trafficking realm. And so we're sitting and talking, and we're like, "Man, let's do something that actually hurts us financially in a way." And so we thought of giving $1000 a catch and $2500 a touchdown - we wanted to give, you know, a substantial amount. And I think it was cool because it was performance based. So it kind of brought the football fans along and got them involved. In addition, towards the end of the year, we made it an opportunity for fans to kind of match the giving in their own way, based on my performance. So overall, I think it was a really cool thing. I think it was a great idea, and it really benefitted IJM.
As a father of 3, hearing about powerful human traffickers preying on young children cut me to the core. That’s why I’m joining @IJM to send rescue by giving $1k per catch + $2.5k per touchdown this season. #TeamFreedom #BearDown 🐻⬇️ https://t.co/BU28Y9uS6X— Trey Burton (@TreyBurton8) September 17, 2018
Trey, it really did – thank you! You have leveraged so much of your public platform to talk about IJM. I'm curious, like why IJM, and what does IJM mean to you?
So my rookie year, that would be six years ago, my wife and I were at a conference. And it was our first one really together as a married couple. And we were thinking about what organization we could possibly link with for the rest of our time in the NFL. And while we were praying about it, probably a week or two in, we're at this conference – and Gary Haugen was the speaker. We had never heard of Gary, and we didn't know anything about IJM. And so Gary goes up, played a video about IJM, and then he spoke for probably 25 minutes. My wife and I were absolutely blown away. I think she might have been crying. Shoot, I might have been crying. There probably wasn't one person in the room who wasn’t crying.
But I didn't know [about slavery in the world], which is a response I get from a lot of people - you don't realize trafficking is a real thing. And so it just kind of broke our heart, and as we got more understanding just about what IJM is and what they do, it was just amazing, you know? The work that IJM does, it's obviously Christ-centered and Christ-based. But it's not something that they're just going to go in there and put a band-aid over the problem and then leave. Everything from the mission, all the way down to how they actually work out that mission and put it in place - every detail about what they do, I'm a huge believer in.
A huge thing you've done is rally other athletes to the work of IJM. What do you tell your fellow players to help like encourage them to be a part of the work of IJM?
I think a lot of the guys are definitely interested in doing stuff in the community. The biggest problem, I would say, is we just don't know who we can trust. Like, if I give 100 bucks to this place, what are they really going to do with it, you know? It's your hard-earned money.
I would also say like, if you're a believer (and really you don't even have to be a believer), but if you hear about children being taken against their own will, and forced to do sex acts…that's wrong. You know? So I’m just like, "Yo, what's going on with this? Have you heard about this?" And then, I just kind of hear their reaction. And then, I think if you have any type of heart, this is something you should definitely be interested in.
What you would say to your fans, and to fans of the team, to encourage them to learn more about IJM?
If you have a passion for the kids who are being forced into trafficking, stolen and taken from their family, or being forced into doing some unbelievable labor in horrible conditions - IJM is the place to be. I mean the track record speaks for itself.
I think once you see the work of IJM, once you feel it, you experience it, man, you're going to have no other option but to be all in. And, you're going to love their work. And, like I said, it's actually making a difference - it's just absolutely amazing!
To keep up with Trey and thank him for supporting IJM, follow him on Twitter!