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Brandon Copeland wastes no time giving back in the wake of COVID-19

Brandon Copeland is going "Beyond the Basics" to give back to those struggling in the face of COVID-19.

Brandon Copeland 101 can be summed up succinctly: "You're going to get my all in everything that I do. I don't half-ass a thing."

Copeland has yet to play a snap at Gillette Stadium in a Patriots uniform. Sure, he's certainly played his fair share in Jets green, but that hasn't stopped the new Patriots linebacker from chipping in to help regions that are important to him, including his new football home, in the wake of COVID-19.

No surprise. He is all in.

Copeland and his Beyond the Basics Foundation are supporting three different initiatives to support access to food for those in need and providing meals for those working in hospitals. The Tendea Family Emergency Food Initiative supplies elderly people and those in extreme need with groceries right to their door, while Feed the Fight MD brings meals from local restaurants to hospitals to feed everyone from doctors to custodial staff.

While Copeland is amplifying these existing programs in his hometown of Baltimore, his foundation launched "Be a Blessing," which surprises customers at grocery stores in impoverished neighborhoods by paying for their items. Copeland donated $30,000 to be split and used in neighborhood stores throughout Baltimore, New Jersey, and Boston. Donations made through his foundation will support these programs and will be matched.

With so many people in need right now, it can be hard to know where to start, but the key is to start somewhere.

"It's overwhelming to think about it. I think that was one of the things as a foundation that because there are so many different issues out there, you almost get analysis paralysis, where you're just trying to figure it out," Copeland said. "I want to help here, but is it effective?"

Instead of being frozen by indecision, Copeland dove headfirst into food access, and in providing groceries or meals to those who need it, the hope is that it will also be a source of hope.

"We're just trying to provide people with encouragement and just a nice positive spark. During this time, I think we all are very, very appreciative of any singular moment that breaks up the monotony or the 'routine' of this quarantine life," Copeland said. "By being able to provide that, whether it is a free lunch for a doctor or a nurse who's in the middle of a 12-hour shift or for a family a military vet who they didn't know how they were going to get their next meal, now you hear a ring of the doorbell and it's a week-worth of groceries. To be able to do that and provide that in someone's life during a time like this for us, for myself personally, selfishly, it's the best feeling."

Beyond the Basics began five years ago to help kids realize their full potential by providing enriching experiences and connecting them with role models, and an annual football camp is typically a part of its calendar.

This year, Copeland's football camp, like so many other events, will go virtual. Though Copeland wanted to keep the details of the camp a surprise, registration is free and now open for the May 16 session.

While a football camp hosted via video chat may pose a challenge when it comes to running drills, Copeland made it clear that football has always been the vehicle used to teach much more important lessons.

"The cool thing is we never really cared about football when it came to our camps," Copeland said. "It definitely had drills, working out on the field. You had a bunch of NFL players. You did some drills. We use football as a draw, but the real goal of the camp, which is I think why we had such success, is to help introduce and expose kids to other career paths and having other role models there and career professionals there as opposed to the NFL players."

During the registration process, campers are asked what they want to be when they get older, other than an athlete. They are then given colored wristbands to match with adults who work in those fields, and they are encouraged to engage and seek advice.

There is also a community service portion built into the program, where kids help put together backpacks and hygiene kits that will be donated locally.

"The lesson there is you can give back at any age. You don't have to be older to give back," Copeland said. "It's time."

When looking at the format of the camp, it becomes clear that it's a microcosm of Copeland himself. The combination of community work, social connection and career advice wrapped up neatly with a football bow is the Copeland method.

Though balancing a career in the NFL, a foundation, a college class and all of the responsibilities that come with it may seem like, well, a lot, Copeland said it's important for him to do it now rather than later.

"When I came in the league, I used to think giving back had to do with how high I could get up the ladder and then once I got up there, then I could go ahead and start reaching back and pulling people up. It took getting released and told I wasn't good enough to realize how quickly the platform can be gone from you," Copeland said. "It took that to realize hey I should be doing this and pulling people up the ladder as I go and as climb it myself.

"For me, that is why it's so important to do these things now … This is when my words carry a lot of weight, and it's not to say that it won't carry weight when I'm a former player, but it's a different feeling walking into a classroom or place now as an active NFL linebacker. With great power comes great responsibility and that sounds cliché but it's something that I truly take to heart."

To learn more about Copeland's efforts and Beyond the Basics, check out his website and his Instagram account.

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