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How Detroit Lion Stephen Tulloch is giving back

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DETROIT – It only took a split second for everything to change for Detroit Lion Stephen Tulloch.

During a game in September against the Green Bay Packers, Tulloch's left knee buckled while he was jumping up and down after making a sack of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"You don't think you'll get hurt jumping up or whatever, but I did. I didn't think it was anything. I thought I sprained my knee," Tulloch said. "I couldn't move lateral. At that moment, I knew it was something bigger than just a sprain."

He had torn his ACL and was out for the rest of the season.

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"It kills me right now not to be out there with the guys. It's probably the hardest thing I've ever dealt with in my life," Tulloch said. "But I'm going to be back better than ever, man. I'm so determined to overcome this adversity."

His injury may have been keeping him off the field but it hasn't stopped him from his other passion: charity work.  

"I'm not just a football player. I love giving back to people, those who are less fortunate," Tulloch said.

He launched the Stephen Tulloch Foundation in 2009 as a way to help underprivileged youth.

Local 4 was there as Tulloch stopped by Detroit's Davison Elementary School to share an encouraging message with the students and also give them tools to improve their lives -- tablets, calculators and other classroom supplies.

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"I think life is not about money, the flashy things that you have. That's nothing, man. I think it's about leaving a legacy behind and being able to make an impact on people's lives," Tulloch said.

He credits learning those lessons early in life while being raised by his single mother in Florida. But it was his mother's boss who also had an impact on him.

"My mom was taking care of his mom and he gave me opportunity. He gave me a life to be able to study hard, to give me a laptop to be able to go on the Internet to research projects, to give me the opportunity to go to college through SAT tutoring classes," Tulloch said.

He never forgot the impact that man, Jay Lotspeich, had on his life.

"He taught me that the way my mom was living and the way that we were going through life was just temporary, that I would be able to overcome it through my hard work and dedication to whatever it was that I wanted to do. That dedication was football," Tulloch said.

It was on the football field that he met someone else who had an impact on his life.

"I had a friend who had cancer in high school by the name of John Jerret.  That was the first time I had ever heard of cancer. He passed away when I was 18 years old. I talked to him the day before he died and that really woke me up," Tulloch said.

When he made it big in the NFL, Tulloch said he felt the responsibility to come up with ways to give back to honor the memories of Jerret and Lotspeich.

"He would be proud, if he was alive, to see the fact that I'm paying it forward," Tulloch said.

Through his foundation, Tulloch met Ryan Kennedy -- who was in hospice battling cancer. Tulloch recounted the moment he saw Kennedy in bed.

"I had never seen anything like this before in my life. I was in shock," he said. "He had a couple of weeks to live and all he wanted to do was drink Mountain Dew or Gatorade or play Simpsons on his game system."

Tulloch played games and talked football with Kennedy.

"At that instance, I knew I wanted to do more," Tulloch said.

He's made it his mission to be an encouragement in young people's lives because he himself felt the impact.

"Money comes and goes. When you're gone, dead and gone, you can't bring it with you. People remember the good things you did for them and be able to help them in the way that's life changing," Tulloch said.