Alex Singleton has laced up his cleats countless times throughout his amateur and professional football career. It’s part of his well-honed pre-game routine, something that does not change from game to game. But on December 3, 2023, there was a change. A noticeable and meaningful one.
As Alex took the field against the Houston Texans, his feet were a flash of orange and black. If the Broncos linebacker stood still for more than a second on the sideline, you’d be able to make out a few distinct images on his cleats: a bowling ball and a pin near one toe, a circle of people with their arms raised near the other. But it’s the six letters spelling “Ashley” along the side of the cleat that are the most meaningful.
Ashley Singleton might single-handedly be her brother’s biggest supporter and his biggest critic. When Alex is on the field, he knows the pressure is on to get double-digit tackles and to cause a turnover. With a chuckle in his voice he says, “Ashley cares more about my performance sometimes than the team winning.”
But for Ashley, it’s just because she cares. “I’m the big sister and I support Alex,” she says. And the feeling is mutual. “Our relationship growing up was really good, like Ashley said, you know she shared a room with our sister, and I shared a room with our brother, but we were always all hanging out,” Alex shares about his childhood. “She's the oldest, she showed me the ropes early on, especially how to pick on our younger siblings.”
That love for each other transitioned into sports. Both siblings are accomplished athletes, and it is the support system they provided to each other that propelled them to success. Whether it was Ashley attending Alex’s baseball or football games, or the other way around with Ashley’s involvement with Special Olympics, the Singleton siblings were fixtures on the sidelines supporting each other.
Ashley began competing in Special Olympics at an early age. “At this moment I compete in bowling and soccer and gymnastics [for Special Olympics Southern California],” Ashley says. “My favorite sport is swimming.”
“My whole life has been supporting Special Olympics with Ashley, and that's been so fun seeing her transition through sports,” Alex says as his eyes light up in excitement. Over the years, the support they give each other has never wavered, although it may look a little different. When Ashley is not at a game, she is watching on TV while proudly wearing her little brother’s Broncos jersey, which she also chose to wear for her interview. For Alex, much of the viewing and cheering happens on FaceTime.
“It’s exciting. It is fun. I really love watching the games whenever it's home, or traveling or cheering,” Ashley says.
Alex wanted to pursue football as a career his entire life but says it was near the end of his college career at Montana State that the dream of becoming a professional player started to seem like a realistic opportunity. And now five years into his NFL career, Special Olympics has become the point of emphasis in his advocacy efforts. “You know, my support for Special Olympics changed so much in my life. Obviously, it started out just being my sister's fan, and then it went to becoming a volunteer and coach,” Alex says. “When I went to college, and especially when I played up in Canada, it morphed into using my platform to kind of speak out for Special Olympics, and then, use what I do for a living to be able to represent my sister.”
His passion and pride for the movement of inclusion shine each time he steps foot on the gridiron, regardless of what his cleats look like.
But when it comes to My Cause My Cleats, an opportunity for NFL players to wear custom-designed cleats that bring awareness to charities or foundations that are close to their hearts, Ashley could not be prouder, taking any chance to show off her brother’s cleats. Ashley says with pride, “I love it when he plays football because he's really good at it with his team and he's my little brother.”
“He’s so supportive,” she continues. “We do a lot of stuff together like live workouts.”
“During the pandemic, Special Olympics reached out one time to do a workout, you know, a 30-minute workout to just kind of get people moving. We took it a lot further than that, we did weekly workouts over Instagram and Facebook live,” Alex says.
From the sidelines of Ashley’s Special Olympics competitions to broader platforms like Super Bowl Media Row, Alex has been committed to Special Olympics for years. From supporting virtual opportunities during the pandemic to co-captaining a Polar Plunge team raising money for Special Olympics to representing the organization during high-profile NFL moments, Alex is a true supporter of the movement.
But that’s the way it’s always been. For their entire life, the siblings’ support for one another was on full display. Now from the NFL field to the Special Olympics pool, the Singleton siblings continue to display that family support proudly – sometimes wearing their heart on their literal cleat.