The tone of his voice said it all.
Love. Passion. Joy. Pride.
It was all there.
Because Joe Haden was talking about one of the people that means the most to him in this world.
His younger brother, Jacob Haden.
The brothers will be making a road trip next week, an amazing road trip that is, heading to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for a two-fold journey.
Haden is a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics, and will be at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. He will walk with the New Zealand delegation in the opening ceremony, showing he is there to support everyone taking part.
“I can’t wait to see all of them compete,” said Haden. “These athletes are amazing. They are really, really competitive. I can’t wait to go out and see it.”
In addition he will be hosting ‘Play and Live Unified,’ a flag football clinic for youth of various abilities conducted by Haden, Jamaal Charles and Dale Moss.
Haden’s support of Special Olympics is nothing new. It began with him supporting Jacob, who is five years younger than him and a Special Olympian. The younger Haden has a cognitive language disorder which affects his ability to speak and communicate verbally.
Jacob calls his older brother Joe his ‘One,’ because he is the oldest sibling. And Joe takes that to heart, always looking out for his younger brother and happily sharing his passion of being involved in Special Olympics.
“He is so excited about it,” said Haden. “He hits me up. We talk three or four times a day, making sure I am still going, making sure I am hyped about it. He is really excited. That is my little brother. I know what it means to him to go there and support it. I have seen a lot of stuff.
“I know it means the world to him we are doing this together. We talk all of the time. He knows the situation I am in. Jacob never asks for me. He will be like ‘One, you are married, I know you have a lot going on.’ I tell him never worry, you are my man. I’ve got you no matter what. I always tell him anything you need.”
While Jacob won’t be competing in the World Games, the trip will be a chance for the brothers to spend time together, to share a passion for Special Olympics and football.
“That is the one thing as you grow is time. Being able to spend that quality time with each other,” said Joe. “Being able to have that one-on-one where you are bonding. We are going to be on this flight for 14 hours. That will be a lot of time to hang out, just kick it. It’s going to be amazing.”
Haden will be supporting 7,500 Special Olympians from 190 nations as they experience the joy of competing on a level playing field, where all are included.
“We have always supported Jacob growing up. Just seeing the smile on his face, and how much he loved it and enjoyed it,” said Haden. “It’s so big being a part of this. At the end of the day, life comes at you fast. It lets you put things in perspective. That is why I like doing Special Olympics. You can get overwhelmed with the little things in life that don’t matter. But when you see these kids, and the genuine joy they have just playing. It’s not all about being out there winning, it’s about being on a team, cheering on teammates, and taking part.
“I get so much joy out of it. It helps me as much as it helps them. It puts things in perspective. At the end of the day getting the joy out of what you do. Being able to see other kid’s situations and their outlook on life. Being able to play in the games and win the medals and the smiles on their faces. Being able to give everyone the opportunity, the equal chance. That is so big. Just being able to compete. Being out on the field.”
Haden is also excited to bring American football to Abu Dhabi, with the clinic hosted by his foundation, One Strong, All Great and Haden Sports and Performance, on March 16-17. It will include two days of drills and activities for 200 individuals, including passing and receiving drills. His entire family, including his parents and his brothers, Jordan, who is an elite trainer at Haden Sports and Performance, and Jacob will be a part of it, along with other members of the staff.
“I can’t wait to do it. It’s a passion of mine,” said Haden. “We will be helping to train them, helping them to learn how to play football. It’s something I have been doing since I was six years old. I have been doing it my whole life. I love it and can’t wait. Nowadays you think people know everything about football, but being able to start fresh, the grass roots, it’s a blank slate. Whatever you teach them that is what they are going to know. I like that.
“I always wanted to do this, and bring football to another part of the world, because I love the game. Just being able to introduce a game to a whole different country. I know the impact it puts on people’s lives to be included and enjoy the games and stuff everyone else is. I am excited to go there and introduce the game of football to them.
“Loving football, having my family involved in it, I think it’s a great thing to do and I think everyone will love it. Everyone will be unified and we can bring a new game to them.”