Chester Pitts, 37, was a star player for the Houston Texans for nearly a decade, and now that he’s retired, he’s refocused his life on helping underprivileged children and youth tackle their dreams through work with the YMCA of Houston and The Chester Pitts Charitable Foundation, an arts- and culture-focused initiative he founded with his wife. We checked in with him for this issue to talk about his post-NFL life and why it’s important to give back.
Through your charity, you’ve worked to help give countless young people the opportunities you didn’t always have growing up. What’s something you’ve done recently that you never imagined doing when you were younger?
I recently went to Washington, D.C., and met with senators and members of Congress that I’m friends with. We also got to tour the White House. I took my mom and my kids with me, and just to see the way my 2-year-old daughter lit up made it a really cool experience. Since I’ve finished playing football, I’ve done everything I can to be with my kids and my family. That’s the rock and my foundation.
How have you put yourself in the position to give back to the underprivileged in the way you are doing?
I’m able to do this because someone looked out for me too. I’m a minority owner in companies and businesses that brought in $600 million this past year. That’s strong for a professional athlete, especially. To whom much is given, much is expected. I really want the life of my family and others I touch to be a little bit better. If more people have that same mindset, the world can progress to be where we want things to be. I want us to get to a point where both the poorest and the richest have the same opportunity to be the best that they can be.
People would expect you, an ex-NFL player, to start a sports-focused charity. Why did you decide on the arts instead?
When I was young, I played the organ and the piano, and later in life, I played the oboe. When [my siblings and I] got bigger, and stronger, music went by the wayside. But once I was an athlete, I noticed education budgets were balanced at the expense of children in the arts programs. And with anything you do, you want to fill a void. My wife and I talked for some time about giving back and decided that creating a charitable foundation focused on the arts for kids was how we were going to do it.
What advice do you impress on the minds of the kids who benefit from your charity?
The one thing that no one can take away from you is what’s in your mind. If you decide you can do something and you’re going to accomplish it, then no one can hold you back from achieving your dreams. I don’t buy into luck. I buy into preparation and maximizing opportunity. Once you do that, when opportunities come your way, you make the most of them.