Thomas Morstead delivers check in overwhelming return trip to Minnesota

The name of Thomas Morstead's charity is “What You Give Will Grow.” But the New Orleans Saints punter never could have imagined growth like this.

Morstead spent an emotional, exhausting and overwhelmingly rewarding day at the Super Bowl on Friday, doing countless media interviews and presenting a check for $221,143 to Minnesota’s Children’s Hospital. It all started when one Minnesota Vikings fan suggested on social media that they should start donating to Morstead’s cause because they respected the way he played through a rib injury in New Orleans’ 29-24 playoff loss to the Vikings three weeks ago.

“It’s been crazy, dude. I’m totally exhausted right now, but it was a great experience,” Morstead said on a phone call Friday night. “The people here are so friendly. I couldn’t believe just walking on the street or at the NFL experience, all these different Vikings fans being like, ‘Holy crap, that’s Thomas Morstead.’ It’s just crazy to think that anyone would know who I am outside of New Orleans.”

Morstead also acknowledged that he has felt a lot of pressure over these past three weeks, knowing that charitable causes like his only get spotlights like this so often -- and wanting to make the most of it.

Morstead helped grow the cause by promising to donate all of the funds received from Vikings fans back to Minnesota’s Child Life program -- and promising to personally fly back and deliver a check if those donations surpassed $100,000. After soaring past that goal, Minnesota’s Children’s Hospital eventually said they had raised enough funds that fans should start donating back to Louisiana’s Child Life program. And Morstead’s charity received more than $100,000 more in donations earmarked for Louisiana.

“It’s cool because everyone’s kind of sharing in the vibes and the good energy. And it’s an opportunity to shine a light on what we’ve been trying to change. So it’s been great,” Morstead said. As the Saints’ 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, Morstead said he was already “blown away” by the support his charity has received locally over the years. “I’m just really happy for everyone that’s involved, whether it’s people that work at the foundation or volunteers. I think everyone feels connected and believes in what we’re doing. So it’s kind of a validation for all those people.”

Child Life became Morstead’s cause of choice when he met a teenager named James Ragan with a “one-in-a-million personality” earlier in his career in New Orleans. Ragan, who had bone cancer, talked about the importance of Child Life programs for people like him and his family and how underfunded they were.

“He passed away, and it’s been a great way to kind of keep his legacy alive and talk about him and what he meant to me and what he meant to other people,” Morstead said.

And it just keeps growing.