An NFL player has never forgotten the boost his high school gave to his future, according to those who know him, so he is returning the favor.
Le'Veon Bell, a Pittsburgh Steelers running back, donated $750,000 to the Groveport Madison schools so the district can install a synthetic turf football field. Bell visited last Friday to formally offer the gift, and on Wednesday night, the Groveport Madison Board of Education voted to accept it.
Bell also has committed to launching a nonprofit organization in Groveport Madison, the Bell's Boys Initiative, which he started in Pittsburgh in 2015 to mentor high-school boys and encourage them to set life goals. He and the district are working out the details of that.
"Le'Veon will do anything for Groveport Madison," said Donis Toler Jr., who was principal of Groveport Madison High School while Bell was a student and has stayed in touch with him. Toler now serves as a school administrator near Cincinnati.
"He wants Groveport Madison to have the same facilities as the other suburban school districts," Toler said. "It's just a drop in the bucket for him, but what it means for that community... you just can't fathom that."
About 68 percent of the district's 5,600 students come from low-income households.
Bell, 25, played football, basketball and ran track for Groveport. He graduated in 2010 and then played for the Michigan State University Spartans football team. He was picked during the second round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Steelers.
His mother, Lisa Bell, still lives in town.
District Athletic Director Steve Petros expressed gratitude in a written statement, saying that all sorts of school groups, not just the football team, can benefit. "The new field allows us to host regional and state competitions and events, whereby our booster organizations and local businesses will enjoy a positive financial impact as well," he said.
The Motz Group from Cincinnati will begin the field installation on June 9 and should be finished within 60 days, the district said. A dedication ceremony for "Le'Veon Bell Field at Cruiser Stadium" is tentatively set for the Cruisers' first home game on Aug. 25.
The stadium is right next to the new high school under construction, which should be completed in time for the 2018-19 school year.