Leighton Vander Esch has come a long way from Salmon River High School in Idaho, but his heart never has. Now he’s taken a step toward repaying his gratitude to his hometown team by improving the facilities he used to pave his way to the NFL.
As reported by the Idaho Press, Vander Esch donated a brand spanking new weight room to Salmon River, paying more than $45,000 to replace former antiquated benches and racks that were sometimes made by teenagers in the school’s shop class.
No more. In addition to the $45,000 Vander Esch paid himself, he also agreed to approximately $35,000 worth of in-kind marketing for Boise Fitness Equipment, which provided the gear to Salmon River.
That makes the total investment $70,000 for Salmon River students before the addition of new Nike uniforms for the school’s football and basketball teams, a result of Vander Esch’s endorsement deal with the company.
“It was the first thing that popped into my mind because it was a big need,” Vander Esch told the Idaho Press. “It just made the most sense. A lot of the racks and stuff were all made in shop class and everybody has been saying we need a new weight room. It was barely even a weight room before, and now to see the excitement level of the guys using the new room has just been awesome.”
If there was any doubt Vander Esch would make the most of the new gear during the offseason, he dispelled that very quickly, working out at 6 a.m. to use the equipment before the start of school. According to Boise Fitness Equipment’s Scott Wilde in the Idaho Press, Vander Esch’s personal connection with the school is readily apparent, and absolutely genuine.
“He carried the big dumbbells in for us and it was just a great time with the community getting involved and the students all helping us unload the truck,” Wilde said. “For being a first year pro and to already give back to his high school and make that kind of change for the community, it says a lot about his character and the phenomenal person he is. I was pretty impressed by him.
“After he helped us he went and watched the girls basketball team play in McCall that night to support the school. It’s just amazing to see what he’s doing for that community.”