SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- About 10 minutes into the Terps football team's charity outreach event at St. Anthony's Dec. 28 in San Francisco, serving food to hundreds of needy and homeless men and women of the city, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall's Under Armour black sweatjacket was gone.
"Gave it to one of the men here who asked me where he could get one of these," Edsall said of literally giving the coat off his back to a man at the soup kitchen, where lines snaked around the block for hours this morning.
A half hour in, both Sal Conaboy and Evan Mulrooney, the Terps' offensive linemen, had given the Foster Farms Bowl hats off their heads to other folks in need. It was that kind of day, as the Terps served and interacted with the disadvantaged for several hours this morning before an afternoon practice at Laney College.
There was chicken stew, vegetables, Rice, bread, lemonade, all of which the Terps helped prepare (from soup to nuts), while busing their trays afterwards. In between, players chatted up the folks, many of whom had questions ranging from what position they played to even having seen them on television this year in their first Big Ten season and their jazzy uniforms.
The offense came first, followed by the defense as they worked in large shifts, both back in the kitchen doing everything from cutting potatoes to stirring large vats of the chicken stew. It was constant motion, Edsall leading the way, as he lapped many of the players, all the while shedding layers to the needy as he went. Deon Long worked up such a sweat he had to pause a moment for some fruit punch.
"This is just a great opportunity for our young men to be able to help out people who are a little bit less fortunate, and give back to the San Francisco community who have been just so gracious during our stay here," Edsall said. "And to really get our guys to undertsnad that football is just a game but this is life."
The players manned several stations, Deon Long and Stefor Diggs hustling full trays out, Derwin Gray behind the counter orchestrating the line of food prep, Joe Riddle and Jake Wheeler busing trays in black aprons. They went at a dizzying pace, all the while the line grew longer and longer outside the historic downtown building. Guests and players alike joked it would be the only workout they would need today.
Terps freshman lineman Damian Prince had been here before. He's had extended family members suffer misfortune in the past, relegated to similar shelters for meals. He also once worked a homeless shelter in Southeast Washington, D.C., while serving with his McNamara basketball team. Prince was working behind the counter moving trays along to the guests today, stationed with Amba Etta Tawo, Kenny Goins and Levern Jacobs.
"I have had people who have had to live in a homeless shelter, come to places like this to get food. Cousins, uncles, aunts. So this puts everything in perspective for me even more out here because I have never seen one this big like this before," Prince said.
Terps slot receiver Jacquille Veii was also running trays out to the tables, the first time he had done such an event. He said the week had been all about the players and fun events so far, so it was nice to do something for someone else. He got bug-eyed when one gentleman asked him about his game.
"This guy, he's like, 'you are a running back, aren't you?" I was like, 'how'd you know?' So he got really excited," Veii said. "But if we can all do this together, it only helps this organziation move things faster to get more people what they need."
Senior offensive lineman Silvano Altimrano, the one native Californian on the team, said he will have some 45 family and friends (even an old high school coach) in attendance at the bowl game. But he enjoyed pausing during the hectic week to help the community out. He was also running trays out to guests, working up a sweat.
"It feels good," Altimirano said."Giving back is always a good thing, and I have never been a part of something like this. The whole team gets together and does something like this, well it's real special."
Goins once worked a Ronald McDonald House event back in Baltimore while a student at Gilman, but had never seen something like this so up-close- and-personal.
"This was a lot different, really real, seeing all these folks and making sure they are getting fed. It's special," Goins said.
Freshman lineman Derwin Gray once worked a soup kitchen in Southeast, DC, but that was only handing out boxed meals and not interacting as much with folks. He had a huge smile on his face as he was a go-to man between the Terps preparing trays, to the players shuttling them out in the large room full of a hugely diverse audience, black, white, Asian, one man even in his Sunday-best suit.
"It's very humbling, it pulls at your heart, because a lot of these people don't have food out there and have to come in here just to eat. It really breaks my heart to see that. But then to help them out? Well, that is a great thing because sometimes people just have a hard time in life. By the time I leave, get out from behind this counter, I am going to go out there and learn more about their stories, ask them some questions."
Terps senior center Sal Conaboy, whose family back in Pennsylvania has dedicated their lives to helping others, and actually around the world, at first worked the back kitchen stirring the stew. He said it was so large that his arms were worn out. Then he threw on a black apron and started distributing food to the growing crowd.
"It's so cool to do this because we are so blessed with what we have. And then to come to the city and have this opportunity and help the people in the city that you hear so much about, well it's really nice," Conaboy said. "People are thankful, they are excited to see us out, some have even said they have seen us play a few games. I'll be giving my hat away in a minute."
As this observer moments later turned a corner to leave the event, Conaboy was hatless, an older gentleman walking away praising him and with a new Terps souvenir.
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