Former NFL player, funeral home owner gives back to Norfolk neighborhood where he grew up

NORFOLK, Va. - A retired Super Bowl-winning football player from this area gave back to the community that he loves.

Tommy Graves, the owner of Graves Funeral Home, has learned a lot from professional football and wants to spread the love of giving during this holiday season.

Photojournalist Dax Gray spoke with the former Pittsburgh Steeler about helping out in the neighborhood he grew up in.

"Well, we are trying to give back to the community in some form or fashion. We want to help out the people who actually helping us do what we do. So it's very, very important that you service a community that you give back to that same community," Graves said.

Related: 'It's become who we are' Local organization serves the homeless during the holidays 

Although it was difficult for him to put into words, Graves shared the satisfying feeling that comes from helping others.

"I can't tell you or describe the feeling that you get from helping others that need your help. There are so many people that need help, that you can't help everybody, but those that you can, you want to try to do that.  We see these people on a daily basis - not necessarily knowing who they are - but knowing that you are giving something back to the people who have helped you, it is where it is with me. These people have helped us, and we are trying to help them," he said.

He also talked about the importance of setting an example for those who may look up to you.

"In fact, I grew up right down the street, and technically I thought this is the last thing on Earth that I would ever do. It's nice to be an example; you never know how many lives you affect until it is over. That's why you always have to be at your best at all times, because you never know who is watching. You never know who is trying to emulate what you are trying to do, and you want to be an example for all," he said.

Graves said he took those life lessons from his days playing football.

"I was blessed to play championship football on every level: In high school, college and professionally. And that's the thing about football and how it parallels life, it's that no matter how good you think these teams are, there is always room for improvement. And basically around here, we chase perfection relentlessly, but perfection is unattainable. But if you chase it relentlessly enough, what you will capture is excellence, and that's what we try to do around here," Graves said.

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