Character Education


Former NFL player Joe Erhmann and high school coaches from around the country discuss the importance of strong character.

InSideOut Initiative

The InSideOut Initiative was co-founded by NFL legend Joe Ehrmann and Minnesota High School League associate director Jody Redman to help transform the "win-at-all-costs" sports culture in high school communities, where value is only defined by the win-loss record, to one that defines and promotes the life-sustaining development of the athlete's inner life.

Powered by the NFL Foundation and piloted in Colorado and Texas in 2015, the InSideOut Initiative catalyzes partnerships with educational leaders, state athletic associations and NFL clubs to redefine the role of interscholastic sports and help intentionally develop the educational, social and emotional well-being of each student athlete.  According to the InSideOut philosophy, there must be a significant shift in what our culture values for coaches to provide student athletes - both boys and girls - with more than physical skill development, strategies and rules of the game. InSideOut provides a blueprint for that systemic change.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro have been formally evaluating the InSideOut Initiative since its pilot inception. Data shows the Initiative is creating the space for intentionally providing character growth opportunities for students through their sports experience.  See full year one outcomes here.

The NFL Foundation is funding statewide implementation of the InSideOut Initiative with NFL clubs in California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, with plans for further expansion to additional states and NFL communities. 

Character Playbook

The NFL/United Way Character Playbook program is a digital education program that helps middle school students learn how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships.  The NFL, along with longtime partner United Way Worldwide and digital learning innovator EVERFI, Inc., created this scalable and evidence-based program which has rolled out in all 32 NFL market communities with NFL clubs and players as well as local United Ways over the past two years.

Character Playbook consists of six interactive modules that support positive character development, social-emotional learning and healthy relationships for students in grades 7-9.  By the end of the program's first year, approximately 1,300 teachers helped 88,000 students in nearly 30 states complete more than 170,000 hours of learning.  This led to a 41% increase in student understanding of key social-emotional topics based on pre-and post-assessment scores.

Building off this success, Character Playbook has expanded to 360 more schools along with the 2017 NFL season launch of Character Playbook LIVE - part of a league-wide initiative to engage more students in the important conversation of why character matters.  This new virtual classroom experience is hosted by NFL clubs and local United Ways.  NFL players virtually join multiple schools in their classrooms and connect lessons taught in Character Playbook modules to life inside and outside of football.


In 2016, the NFL Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to FUTURES WITHOUT VIOLENCE, a nonprofit organization that empowers individuals and communities to end violence against women and children around the world through its groundbreaking programs, polices, and campaigns. The grant award has been used to implement a FUTURES’ COACHING BOYS INTO MEN program in Hawaii with the core goal of teaching male student athletes healthy relationship and character-building skills, respect for women and girls, and that violence never equals strength. The program engages football and athletic coaches and enhance their ability to address issues of relationship abuse and sexual violence head on with their student athletes while also instructing teams on what it takes to be successful in the game and in relationships on and off the field.


Each year, the NFL Foundation creates lasting impacts in the Super Bowl host city. Character Playbook was launched in the Houston market at Pilgrim Academy. At the event, Texans President JAMEY ROOTES, Texans players KURTIS DRUMMOND and JEFF ALLEN, and NFL Legend and Super Bowl champion DONALD DRIVER discussed character development and decision-making with students. The curriculum has been provided to 40 schools in the Houston area via a partnership between the Houston Texans, United Way of Greater Houston, and Verizon.

The InSideOut Initiative was introduced in the Houston market during Super Bowl LI week and expanded to a larger scale through the spring to help inspire high school coaches, athletic administrators, and school communities to initiate individual, communal, and societal change that will reclaim sports as an educational experience. Here, former NFL player and author of InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives Joe Ehrmann takes high school coaches on an InSideOut journey to examine their own character and help develop a coach-specific character game plan for the student-athletes they coach.  

The Super Bowl High School Honor Roll program recognizes the schools and communities that have contributed to Super Bowl history. The NFL Foundation invested more than $1 million toward the program to help the leaders who play a big part in building the game of football and the character of its future players: the high school coaches. More than 2,500 high schools have been and provided a special character- education curriculum, The InSideOut Coaching Character Kit. Created by Ehrmann and Redman, the program is built on a simple premise: To be a better coach, you have to be a better you.