After Deatrich Wise Jr. was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, he almost immediately sought out the team's community relations department.
Beyond looking to make an impact on the field, he wanted to do the same off the field, asking for ways he could help out in his new home. As Wise enters his sixth season in the NFL, not much has changed, but this year he's getting the recognition he deserves.
For all he's done to serve New England over the years, Wise on Thursday was honored with the 2022 Ron Burton Community Service Award at the Patriots Premiere.
"You don't go out in the community for the gratification. You just do it because it's in your heart to do," Wise said after being surprised with the award at the Patriots Foundation's annual fundraising gala.
"It's an honor to win an award of this prestige and to be in the same group as everybody who's won that before and have my name with the Burton family."
Since his rookie season, Wise has participated in more than 40 different Patriots Foundation events, with causes ranging from education, fitness, holiday giving, youth character development, and visiting children and veterans at hospitals – to name a few.
Wise makes it a point to attend signature holiday events including the Children's Holiday Party and Gifts from the Gridiron and is a leader in discussions about the players' social justice fund.
He's also taken planning and logistics into his own hands, using his platform to launch his Big Man Camp, a skills and development camp for young football players, and his Wise Up Dynamics community initiative. His efforts earned him the 2019 NFLPA Community MVP award, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit he made no excuses, taking his football camp and community outreach virtual.
Last fall, though, he was able to host his annual block party with the Mattapan Teen Center for the first time in two years. The event included local vendors, food trucks, cooking demonstrations, and a farmers market, emphasizing the importance of health and wellness. It also highlighted local businesses hit hardest during the pandemic.
"Since I first got here, everything I've been doing in the community has been with help from somebody from the Patriots organization -- whether it's Robyn (Glaser) or Donna (Spigarolo). This is my thank you to everybody who's helped me out with this. From the media staff to the foundation staff. I started out building and playgrounds for the kids and now we're doing block parties and trade programs. It's just really phenomenal."
Wise certainly lives up to the character of the award's namesake.
Former Patriots running back Ron Burton Sr. left a legacy of love and compassion, and despite growing up in Ohio, he remained in New England after his career and poured himself into the community until his passing in 2003.
"At the Patriots we don't have a lot of individual honors. There isn't a team MVP. We don't honor an offensive or defensive player of the year. And we certainly don't award a rookie of the year," Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said, just before announcing the award.
"The one individual award we present annually is named after the first player who was ever drafted by the Patriots back in 1960, before most of you were born. Ron Burton had a successful career, but it was his work in the community that was most impactful and a legacy that his family continues to honor with the amazing work they do at the Ron Burton Training Village out in Hubbardston, Mass."
Wise joins teammates Lawrence Guy, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and Joe Cardona who have all received the award, as well as former New England stars Troy Brown and Jerod Mayo who were all in attendance.
In the process, Wise hopes to inspire all the future Ron Burton Community Service Award winners currently in the locker room.
"They can one day touch somebody in their community. They can one day inspire somebody in their community. Whatever is near and dear to their heart," Wise said of his young teammates.
"I think these guys have a great platform, and anything you put your mind to, you can do it. Just go out there and do it."