Ryan Kerrigan did not have a personal connection to the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society when he was approached about hosting the Leukemia Golf Classic in 2015.
At that time, Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo spearheaded the golf outing -- which former Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell founded in 2006. But Orakpo was also entering in the final year of his contract. He needed to find a possible successor.
For Kerrigan, then in his fifth NFL season, this was the type of philanthropic work he sought to become more involved in. He gladly accepted the offer, and he's been running the event ever since.
"The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has done so much for blood cancer research," Kerrigan told reporters Monday morning at the 14th annual Leukemia Golf Classic (LLS), held at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va.
"Just personally being involved year in and year out, the personal impact it has on families and individuals with blood cancers. You'll see our [Honored Hero] Drew this year. I remember I was at a fundraiser for him in November, and he didn't have any hair. Now we can come back and have a fundraiser in late April -- a few weeks back -- and he has a full head of hair now. So you see the progress that's being made on blood cancer research through individuals like him, and that's the motivation to come out and do these events."
The tournament has now raised more than $4.5 million over its 14-year history, including $690,000 this year, which exceeded previous records by more than $100,000. All proceeds benefit the mission of the LLS, which is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
"Ryan does an excellent job," Redskins head coach Gruden said. "He gets great support from the players and the organization, and it's for a great cause. Any time we can all come together and do good for the community, it's a great time for everybody."
A week after participating in the fifth annual Redskins Charity Golf Classic, Gruden and a host of other Redskins were back on the links Monday. Among those in attendance were about a dozen players -- including former first-round picks Brandon Scherff and Jonathan Allen -- as well as president Bruce Allen and Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams. Other alumni, such as Clinton Portis and Chris Cooley, also participated.
Inspiring the golfers were the event's "Honored Hero Patients," as 6-year-old Drew and 7-year-old Josiah have been fighting bravely against their respective diseases. On Monday they were treated as celebrities, talking to reporters and mingling with professional athletes; all while finding time to dance around together before the golf round kicked off.
"Every unique story you hear with each patient hero, it definitely deepens the impact," Kerrigan said. "I mentioned Drew already. Mason Mazzuca, our buddy who unfortunately didn't make it, you see the bad side of blood cancer, of these kinds of things as well. But guys like Josiah, who's doing really well with his leukemia treatment, you see the impact, you get to meet people and know them on a personal level. It really makes you realize what you're doing here is important, and it's having a profound impact on people and their families."
Following breakfast and brief media availability with Gruden, Kerrigan and the two "Honored Hero Patients," the event's 325 golfers hopped into their carts to begin play -- battling through brisk temperatures and rainy weather in support of an essential cause. The round gave way to an evening reception, where the Redskins' entire 2019 draft class joined its new teammates and coaches for dinner.
It was also during this time when Kerrigan received the MasonStrong Award from the Muzzuca family, honoring his longtime involvement with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
"Just knowing that the money is going to a good cause like The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society," Kerrigan said. "The fact that the LLS is able to generate such big funds that they're able to donate to blood cancer research is very gratifying. And I've been to the Leukemia Ball, which is another event that the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society puts on, and they go in to pretty in-depth detail about the way the scientists are working to find cures for blood cancer. When you see that, it really does motivate you to want to raise more money and help fund those cures."