::NCSU Football Players Lend A Hand
By Tim Peeler, NC State University
Courtesy Of GoPack.com
Saturday, April 14, 2007
RALEIGH From the day he was hired, new NC State football coach Tom O'Brien said he wanted his players to be winners on the field, winners in the classroom and winners in the community.
Thursday afternoon, a smiling O'Brien joined his wife Jenny and twelve Wolfpack football players in serving lunch at the downtown Raleigh Rescue Mission, where some 120 people had a barbecue lunch provided by local restaurant Red Hot & Blue.
"I think it is important for the players to get out and give something back," O'Brien said during the team's first organized foray into community service since he was hired last December. "It's like anything else [the players] are a little scared at first, because they are not sure what it entails and then when they get here All they will do is talk about it on the bus on the way back and talk to their teammates about what a great experience it was.
"It will be better next time we try to do something here."
Several of the dozen players who participated safety DeJuan Morgan, fullback Pat Bedics, wide receiver John Dunlap, linebacker James Martin II, tight end Anthony Hill, linebacker Ernest Jones, tight end Frank Fields III, defensive end Martrel Brown, offensive lineman Jeraill McCuller, defensive lineman Keith Willis Jr., wide receiver Darrell Davis and running back Kenny Apilli said they signed up to help immediately for the community service project.
"I love to see people smiling and eating and happy," Dunlap said. "I figured I would just help out any way I could."
Willis, a recent transfer from Boston College, said this was a departure from the kind of events that he participated in while playing for the Eagles.
"I never had the opportunity to experience something like feeding adults," Willis said. "We usually would got to a children's hospital and do a lot of work with kids. But this has been a lot of fun."
It was also a great boost for the residents of the Christian-based mission, said Lynn Daniell, who played football at NC State from 1968-71. The native of Wilson said the home which receives 80 percent of its annual budget from individual donations, 15 percent from grants and foundations and five percent from local churches has permanent housing for about 100 residents, with another 20 rooms available as an overnight emergency shelter for women and children victims of domestic violence.
"One of the things that the mission has done is adjusted to the needs of the community," Daniell said. "I would say over the last eight to 10 years, we have moved into helping single women with children who have been involved in domestic violence situations. We typically have 35-40 women with children here as residents and another 20 or so in our over-night emergency shelter."
For more information about making a financial donation to the Raleigh Rescue Mission, visit the organization's website here.
Daniell said this was the first time in his 14 years at the shelter which opened in 1961 and moved to its current location on Hargett Street in 1977 that a local college or professional team had ever come to serve a meal for his residents. He was happy that the coach accepted the shelter's invitation. "It was something Coach O'Brien made very clear when he came here is that he wanted his team involved in the community," Daniell said.
"We did a lot of this at Boston College," O'Brien said. "They gave an award at Boston College for the team that did the most community service. The football team has won it the last three years up there. It's something that every sport was involved in."
NC State has a similar intra-varsity competition through the ImPACK life skills program, in which the 23 varsity teams compete for points in a variety of categories, including community service, support of other programs, athletic achievement, team grade point average and representation in the student-athlete advisory committee. In the first two years of the IMPACK competition, the football team didn't finish in the top three. The inaugural award in 2004-05 was won by the gymnastics program. Last year's award was won by women's cross country.
Through its community outreach and student development programs, NC State athletes have reached thousands of Triangle-area residents and students through efforts like Read-A-Thons, Habitat for Humanity, non-profit organization fundraisers and mentoring programs.
James Hill, an NC State graduate who owns three Red Hot & Blue franchises in the Triangle, provided the meal of chopped pork barbecue, barbecue chicken, beans, cole slaw, banana pudding and sweet iced tea. The meal cost about $1,500, but Hill wasn't looking at the bottom line.
"Raleigh, NC State and the state of North Carolina have given me my livelihood," said the former Louisburg College basketball player who spent his final two years at NC State after a car accident ended his playing career. "We did this kind of thing all the time when I was at Louisburg, and I can still remember those smiling faces when we did it."
O'Brien, a former Marine who is a national director for the "Toys for Tots" campaign, says he wants all his players to take advantage of being positive role models for everyone they meet, especially through outreach programs.
"Hopefully, they recognize that there are people out there hurting," O'Brien said. "They are role models to a lot of people. They can set a good example of what to do. Life is about decisions, right and wrong.
"Hopefully, they will take these experiences will help them make right decisions instead of wrong decisions."
You may contact reporter Tim Peeler at email@example.com ::