Josh Uche is proud of his Nigerian heritage.
Born to a family of immigrants, the New England Patriots linebacker was immersed in the traditions brought over by his parents, attributing a lot of his own success to the way he was raised and the work ethic he learned from them.
"The discipline to come up through your family," Uche says, answering a question about what his favorite part about Nigerian culture is.
"Things can be difficult, there are trials and tribulations, but it makes you better in the end. It makes you a tougher person so you're prepared for what life throws at you, so I would definitely say the structure the culture brings."
Uche's father was the first to come to the United States when he studied architecture at a university in Louisiana on a student visa in the 1960s.
His father got his degree, secured a good job, and then worked to bring Uche's mother, grandmother, and aunt to the U.S. too.
"That's when he started our family out here," Uche explains. "He busted his ass just to give us a better chance at life and a better opportunity. That's what I'm trying to do now, is extend that."
This week, as part of the NFL's My Cause My Cleats initiative, Uche will wear customized cleats honoring UNICEF Nigeria to pay homage to the opportunity he was afforded growing up.
An agency of the United Nations responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children, UNICEF organizations work in over 190 countries worldwide to save children's lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfill their potential.
In Nigeria, a specific emphasis is put on ensuring mothers have access to good neonatal care, and then, after a child is born, that they have access to shelter, good nutrition, clean water, sanitation, healthcare, and education.
"This is spreading awareness," Uche says.
"I'm in a privileged situation that my dad afforded me. I want to make everybody know that in some of these places back home, life is still difficult. Water, food, resources, education – there are so many challenges in getting these necessities and the more light we shine on it, the more we can help them overcome these challenges to make Africa a better place. Of course, so many want to come to America for better opportunities, but there comes a time when you have to try and make your own surroundings better too – wherever you are. So I'm trying to do that in Nigeria."
His cleat design features a white base with green palms, symbolic of the Nigerian rainforests, with four children wearing backpacks painted on the side with a UNICEF logo.
The front left toe reads "FOR EVERY CHILD," while the other toe, "NA N'NWA NILE," translates that phrase in Igbo -- the language spoken by the Igbo people native to Southeastern Nigeria.
In previous years, Uche has supported other causes dear to him, but this season, he is representing an entire nation.
"I wanted to do something that kind of resonated with my culture and where I'm from," Uche said. "I wanted to give a shoutout to the culture that helped get me here in the first place, and figured UNICEF Nigeria was something my family would be proud of."