PHOENIX — Back in the spring, when Arizona was in lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Prince Amukamara was looking for something to pass the time.
He was isolating with his wife, two children and five sisters in his home on the west side of greater Phoenix, and it seemed as though the only thing he could do was hike. No one was allowed in gyms or restaurants. Boredom was setting in and it was getting harder for Amukamara to just sit around after his daily workouts.
He and two of his sisters — Promise and Princess — were brainstorming things to do and the conversation turned to working for food delivery apps. Why not, they thought? So each picked a different app to work for, and Prince upped the ante: a contest to see who could make the most money. Princess started working for Postmates, Promise started working for Instacart and Prince for DoorDash.
Winner gets bragging rights.
“We come from a very competitive family,” said Promise, who plays professional basketball for French club Charnay. “But, he was like, ‘Oh, I can make more money than you doing this.'”
For the next six months in Arizona and Las Vegas, where Amukamara was a member of the Raiders from May to August, he made more than 300 deliveries working three to four days a week, usually three to five hours a day — but sometimes up to 10 hours a day. He plotted the most efficient routes and knew the best times to make the most money. It started as a game but it became a cause. The money each of them earned became earmarked for their Others Foundation, whose mission “is to be an outpost of hope by providing aid, service and support to those in need,” with causes that include raising money for cancer, for children and for schools.
He treated it seriously — he treated it like football.
“You have to have great attention to detail,” Amukamara said. “And then, also, just being on the other side of it, just knowing that, like, when I order stuff, I want them a certain way.”
There were times when Prince would tell his wife, Pilar, that he was going out to run an errand, but really he’d turn on the app and deliver an order or two. Some days he’d make a few deliveries; some days he’d set a goal of $300 and deliver for 10 hours. Some days he’d bring his 4- and a 5-year-old with him; others — he estimated about 10 of them — he’d dash until 1 a.m.
Those, Pilar said, were a “little out of control.” She’d ask where he was and Prince would explain that there were surge zones with triple the prices that he wanted to take advantage of.
“He just cracks me up,” Pilar said. “Ultimately, I thought it was great, but, yeah, I kept saying, like, ‘When are you going to wrap this up?'”
Amukamara couldn’t stop DoorDashing. He even worked on June 1, Pilar’s birthday. But in the end it was worth it to help the Others Foundation, which he helped start in 2017.
“If we see that somebody is dealing with any time of struggle, the Others Foundation wants to be there for them and walk through it with them,” he said. “So that’s why Others exists.”
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Amukamara has hosted football camps in Arizona and turkey drives in Chicago, but the foundation’s second annual youth conference for freshman to seniors in high school in Arizona was canceled this year because of the pandemic, so the influx of cash helped.
Every night, Amukamara and his sisters would reconvene at home, sit around the table and share their earnings. But Princess and Promise were always wary of how much Prince actually made. They would let him count only the money he made through the app, because they thought he might go to the ATM and take out a wad of cash to swing the final tally in his favor.
“We know he’s the football player,” Promise said. “We didn’t believe that he wasn’t being recognized by these customers and was actually getting tips from them. So it was just kind of weird to grasp our mind around, so sometime we wouldn’t believe him.”
In the end, Price did win. Amukamara estimated he made between $3,000 and $5,000. Sometime over the summer, DoorDash found out Amukamara was working for the company and created a campaign called #WhyIDash. The company then donated $25,000 to Amukamara’s foundation.
“That’s huge,” Pilar said. “We’re a new foundation. Prince has raised most of the money for the foundation, so getting such a large lump sum was extremely helpful. During the pandemic, it’s pretty tricky to raise money and you don’t really want to ask people for money during a time like this, either. So we both thought it was really cool and really encouraging.”
Ups and downs of deliveryPrince Amukamara made more than 300 deliveries working three-to-four days a week for DoorDash during the pandemic. The money raised went to the Others Foundation. Courtesy of DoorDash
Delivering was an ever-evolving journey for Amukamara. The more he delivered, the more he learned.
Like don’t drop off the wrong food.
“I’m not gonna lie, there were times I would put the drinks in my cup dispenser or sometimes I would have two deliveries, and I would deliver someone’s, and I’m like, ‘Oh, shoot,'” Amukamara said. “I would be driving and I would be like, ‘Why do I have a Chick-fil-A frosty that’s melted?'”
Sometimes he’d run back to drop it off or reimburse the customers. One time Amukamara pulled into his driveway and found a meal in the back seat that he forgot to drop off.
Overall, though, Amukamara was pretty good at DoorDashing. He said his overall rating was a 4.8 or a 4.9 out of 5.0.
“You have to be on your P’s and Q’s,” he said. “A lot of attention to detail.”
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Amukamara quickly learned how to maneuver through apartments, sometimes poorly lit late at night. Communication, he said, was key, so he didn’t have to meander through hallways looking for the right doors — sometimes to the point of frustration, Princess said.
Going to so many different homes wasn’t a worry for Amukamara amid the pandemic. DoorDash provided him with a mask, gloves and hand sanitizer.
“I was pretty safe from that regard,” he said.
While no one recognized Amukamara at their doors, he did have two instances of people figuring out who he was.
One was through the app, where his name was listed just as “Prince A.” At first, he didn’t want to use his real name, but for tax purposes, he had to. After one delivery he received a text message through the app: “Oh, s—. Are you really Prince Amukamara?”
Amukamara sent him a selfie to confirm. But the customer’s response still has him laughing: He said he should’ve left a bigger tip. Amukamara instantly took a screenshot and sent it to the group text with his sisters. They couldn’t stop laughing.
Sometimes Amukamara gave aliases such as Bruno or Mr. Smith when he was talking with other DoorDashers. And some of those conversations showed him just how far-reaching the pandemic had become. He’d ask other DoorDashers why they were DoorDashing. Some had been laid off and were collecting unemployment, or DoorDashing would be their second or third income.
They gave him pointers such as to overcommunicate and make sure to use to warming bag.
“They were all happy,” Amukamara said. “It was a whole bunch of tips. It was just like our own community. It was fun. It was like being part of a team.”
Making it worth it
DoorDashing did more than pass the time and get Amukamara out of the house. It helped Amukamara, who grew up in Glendale, Arizona, explore new parts of his home state, discover new restaurants and learn a thing or two about how and what people eat.
“I would say they eat often,” he laughed. “I would say some people are creatures of habit because there were some times where I would deliver to the same spot like twice.”
Amukamara, a nine-year veteran who has started games with the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears, has 10 career interceptions. He is currently on the Cardinals’ practice squad and has yet to be elevated to the active roster this season.
Amukamara, who has made almost $46 million during his career, has always kept raising money for his charity at the forefront. One time he delivered to Sun City, an area west of the metropolitan Phoenix area that is primarily made up of retirees. An older woman gave him a $10 tip in cash. At first, he felt bad taking the woman’s money, but he remembered where the money was going and accepted.
“A few bucks might not change our lives, it can 100 percent change somebody else’s life,” Pilar said. “When people are really low down, even a few bucks can make a difference. And even if it can’t make a difference, I think, most importantly, a few bucks can bring somebody hope, and it’s that hope that keeps people going.”
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