The Cincinnati Bengals nailed it with the signing of center Ted Karras in more ways than one.
Not only does he hold down the middle of the rapidly improving offensive line, but he has been a source of energy for the team and fans alike. The fire and toughness he displays is exactly what offensive line coach Frank Pollack was looking for when he said he wanted “glass eaters.”
Off the field, Karras is doing something that is just as, if not more exciting than letting fans in Tennessee know that the Bengals are for real.
Karras had some hats made by a neighbor at his Florida home as a gift for his new teammates after signing with Cincinnati in the off-season. Without thinking it would be more than that, he handed them out in the locker room shortly after his arrival. From there, the design became a fan favorite and were in high demand from the first time they hit Twitter.
Chances are, you’ve seen The Cincy Hat appear on your social media timeline a lot in the last few months. Karras has worn them, we’ve seen other players with them on and social media started buzzing, wondering how they could get their hands on one as well.
After seeing the demand for the hats online, Karras didn’t have any interest in selling them.
Fast-forward a couple of months and fans were still asking how to get one, so The Cincy Hat was born. Karras and his childhood friend, Matt Renie saw an opportunity to not only give the fans what they want, but help a great cause in the process.
The Village of Merici is a nonprofit in Karras’ native Indianapolis that helps adults with developmental disabilities. Renie’s mother is the founder, so he and Karras teamed up to give back. Merici is a residential community that allows adults with disabilities to live independent lives, while also providing assistance with employment, transportation and other needs for those in need. Currently, they have 22 residents, many of whom have never lived alone before.
While providing them with independent living, live-in staff members also work to build a tight-knit sense of community to those in the village. With a community kitchen, community spaces and tons of freedom, they provide the best of both worlds to their residents.
I had a chance to talk to Karras about the project and how it is making a difference with the huge response from Bengals fans:
“The goal is, with the income stream from the hats is to create four to five jobs for villagers that lost their jobs in the pandemic,” Karras said.
Karras went on to explain how the hats are fueling an even larger goal for the village as they aim to expand their impact across the state.
“About $20 from every hat, that’s our total net. 100% of the net goes to the village. We’re raising money to provide two more facilities, which will essentially triple the footprint that The Village of Merici has in Indiana. It is unique in Indiana, it's the only organization that provides these services and there are about 400 people on the wait list right now,” he continued.
Not only is Karras in the hearts of Bengals fans for his mic’d up segments and passionate exit from Nissan Stadium, but it is apparent he has a good heart and took a chance to make money and has gained lots of support for a great cause.
You can purchase hats at www.thecincyhat.com, as well as donate directly to the village. With the holidays coming up, you can give a Bengals fan a great gift and support a great cause at the same time.
You can see and listen to my full interview with Karras below.