Cody Latimer said growing up in Dayton “made me who I am.” So when the Ohio city was ravaged by a series of tornadoes last week, the Giants wide receiver didn’t think twice about what actions to take.
“I felt it was my duty to go back and help serve the community in a time of need,” he said.
That’s what he did.
He participated in the Giants’ OTA on May 28, then hopped on a flight to Ohio and spent the night and the next day helping survivors — and single mothers in particular — begin the long process of piecing their lives back together.
“To be able to jump on a flight and make it there, it was crazy, up all night, no sleep,” he said. “But we got things done, got some families taken care of, and that was the most positive thing about it.”
That meant providing food and clothes and putting families up in hotels.
“I had a single mother, my dad passed, and seeing her struggle to raise kids, I can only imagine single mothers out there losing homes, food and water, having to take care of their kids,” he said. “I just wanted to do what was right, put them in hotel rooms, give them a place to stay so they can go to work, give them food.”
It wasn’t only strangers whom Latimer helped. His mother’s house suffered some damage (she was able to remain there). His uncle wasn’t as lucky.
“House wiped out, car totaled, everything,” Latimer said.
He said he is grateful that the Giants allowed him to spend that time in Ohio even though the team was in the middle of its offseason program. The OTAs were optional, but Latimer said it still was important to him that he have the team’s blessing to tend to more pressing matters.
He did return this past week for the mandatory minicamp. He even caught a touchdown pass from Daniel Jones in Tuesday’s practice.
Latimer returned to the team with his stories from the tragedy.
“There were three tornadoes, one was an E4, so it was pretty bad,” he said of the destruction. “I was heading back to the airport to come back to practice from out there and it was like every street was blocked off. It was so hard to get to the airport. Everything was shut down. Seeing places I used to be at all the time, seeing them destroyed and not there, it’s terrible . . .
Latimer said he hopes to serve as an inspiration, not just to Dayton but to anyone whose hometown suffers an emergency like his did.
“It’s a boost for me,” he said. “It puts a smile on my face. I just hope the energy is passed along. Things that my son when he grows up and gets older can see what his dad did so he’s able to help others . . . It’s great to be able to help everyone as much as I can.”
Latimer insisted that his work in Dayton is not finished. He intends to return this offseason to offer more assistance in any of the many ways he can.
“There are still people suffering,” he said. “I don’t want to be done with that. I’ve been talking to a couple of guys and seeing what else more I can do. There are so many more people who need help out there, so I want to try to keep going. I don’t want it to be just one thing, I want to be able to keep going back there.”
Ultimately, Latimer said, he knows his hometown will come back from last week’s disaster.
“Dayton is strong,” he said. “We’ll recover from it.”