Cowboys Pitch In For Tornado Victims

This time of year Oklahoma State's BOB (Big Orange Buses) only has a limited number of shuttle runs between Stillwater and the OSU-Tulsa campus. But on Wednesday those buses were loaded with Cowboys football players who were dispatched to El Reno, Shawnee, and Carney as players and some of the support staff could help victims of the fierce weather Oklahoma experienced in the month of May.

For quarterback J.W. Walsh it was as simple as walking nearby fields and picking up pieces of folks lives, listening to them tell the stories of what happened back on Sunday, May 19, as the big storm roared through Carney, a community in the far south border of Payne County.

"I've never seen damage like I saw today," said Walsh. "You see it on TV and on videos but I've never seen anything like that in person.

"It's incredible the amount of suffering that these people have gone through. I kind of put myself in their shoes and we were picking up stuff in the fields and I was out there walking with Austin Hays and we walked right by where the site was where the house had been.

"I said, 'can you imagine going downstairs when the storm is coming in your cellar and then you come back up and you don't have a house.' I couldn't imagine opening the cellar doors and there is no house."

That is exactly what many families did in Carney and many other families across the state of Oklahoma over that two-week period where the weather in the state was so violent.

One Oklahoma State player has seen that kind of damage before up close. Offensive lineman Parker Graham is from Webb City, Mo., a suburb of Joplin. He and his family were involved in tornado relief for friends and family they knew in Joplin two years ago, and Graham saw a lot of damage and his experience helping out in Carney reminded him of how helpless those storms can make you feel.

"They both mirror each other especially when you see the pictures of Moore along with all these other areas in Oklahoma," Graham said. "It's terrible the amount of damage there is and the amount of suffering these people go through. It is nice to get out there and help a family try to get their lives and their home back together."

"It's definitely a tough situation," added Oklahoma State wide receiver Tracy Moore, who missed most of last season with an injury. "You happen to be out there picking up stuff that you would consider a family heirloom and seeing it just destroyed and everywhere around like it was nothing. Things that meant everything to you, like baby pictures and if we can help find and pick up some of these things then that's a good thing."

The amazing aspect of this for the players was how resilient these people are. They've lost so much, yet they are smiling and they are going about the task of rebuilding their homes with the kind of competitive fire and attitude that players take for granted in competing on Saturdays.

These people are competing in the game of life and the effort and the goal are real. College football is important, but this goes so much further, way beyond a game.

"It makes me feel good seeing the smile on people's faces," added Moore. "I could be doing a lot of things, catching extra passes, doing extra class work, but doing something for somebody else that is being tough and picking up their lives, this means something."

"You see it in their eyes that they appreciate what you are doing and then you think if they can one day get back to where they were that is something that you can really appreciate," Graham concluded.

It won't be the last time you'll see the Cowboys out doing this. Graham said that while many players were on one of the Big Orange Bus that other players led by Clint Chelf went off and hit some isolated areas where there was storm damage. The plan is for the Cowboys that want to be involved to continue to help out. The looks on the players I saw says they'll be back.

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