Typically, when Nick Folk lines up to make a kick, he does so in white cleats. As a kicker, you stick with what works, but there is always exceptions to the rule.
On Monday night, Folk will take the field in bright blue cleats for the Children's Tumor Foundation and for his family.
My Cause My Cleats is an NFL initiative that allows players, coaches and staff to represent organizations that matter the most to them through customized cleats. After Week 13, all of the cleats will be available to buy through NFL Auction with all proceeds going to the respective non-profits.
Like so many players who participate, the Children's Tumor Foundation is deeply personal for Folk and his family. Folk's mother is a pediatrician, and when she noticed her nephew, Blake Robinson, had cafe au lait spots, she insisted they be checked out. Cafe au lait spots are a common symptom of neurofibromatosis [NF], and ultimately, Robinson was diagnosed at 18-months old.
NF causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. For Robinson, who is now 21, tumors have mostly grown in his brain, and last year, he had his 20th brain surgery. Even if a tumor is removed, they keep coming back.
Children's Tumor Foundation is dedicated to advancing research, care and awareness. Having seen what his cousin has gone through, Folk wanted to use My Cause My Cleats to bring attention to NF and the work of Children's Tumor Foundation.
"That's part of the reason why I've been so connected to them is because of Blake. It's very personal and close to home, so I'm excited for it," Folk said. "It means the world to be able to do that, to give back to those around me who've been with me since day one."
Whether it's shaving his head in solidarity before a major surgery or doing something like My Cause My Cleats, Folk wants Robinson to know he's supported. He's seen his cousin take everything in stride and with a smile.
"He's a lot stronger than any one of us are. That's for sure. He's gone through way more in his 21 years on this earth than I ever have playing football. It just kind of puts things into perspective that we're playing a game," Folk said. "I miss kick or something like that, people have it out there way worse. Let's pick ourselves up and move on because people do it all the time, just like Blake does. After every surgery, he's got a smile on his face ready to go."
Robinson's mom (Folk's aunt) works with Children's Tumor Foundation, and because their headquarters are in New York, Folk got even more involved when he was playing for the Jets. Though this is his first time participating in My Cause My Cleats to this extent, he hopes people who see him kick Monday night might be inspired to look up NF and Children's Tumor Foundation and realize how common it actually is. According to NF Center, NF1 occurs in about one of every 3,000 births.
"I just hope that people realize that it is a very serious and not as rare as people think it is. If they have time, there's a million ways to give back. Donations, we do runs, all kinds of fun stuff. If I can do anything, just go to the CTF.org and check it out so they can understand where where I'm coming from, where these you know the young ones are coming from. Hopefully we can just kind of create a little bit more awareness."
You can check out Folk's, as well as the rest of the participating Patriots, cleats in the gallery below.
For the sixth straight season, the New England Patriots are participating in the NFL's 'My Cause My Cleats' campaign, which gives both players and coaches the opportunity to wear cleats that are designed to promote a cause important to them. Here's a look at the Patriots' custom cleats.