The whole scene tugged at the heart.
Four of them are in the house, the two largest being 6-5, 327 and 6-3, 251.
Tears aplenty. The faces of family members painted in astonishment.
“Oh, you already started? Honey, it’s just going to get worse.”
Mugshots and police reports depicting the brutalization of the defenseless have been common this summer in college football circles.
This is not another such tale.
With a shaky hand Renee Ballenger pushed the borrowed handkerchief to her eyes, emotions too great to keep within, even with cameras snapping and recording devices rolling.
It was the third home the defensive end volunteered to help build with Habitat for Humanity. For teammate and offensive lineman Marques Pair, it was No. 4.
Freshman Dillon Bates spoke of arriving at the Knoxville lot, seeing nothing more than a slab of concrete and the prideful moment of helping raise the walls. Sophomore Malik Foreman stood by at the dedication quietly with glassy eyes.
The whole scene was a breath of fresh air.
Even though combining with Habitat for Humanity to provide homes for those that have fallen on tough times won’t bring the Tennessee program national news, it’s a beautiful thing to see unfold. Having volunteered with the same organization myself in my college days and never seeing the dedication side of it all, it really puts a “big picture” side to what many college programs do.
Can’t speak for other universities, but Volunteers also make countless visits to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and read books to students at elementary schools.
The aforementioned group, freshman Daniel Helm, sophomore Cameron Sutton as well as former Vols like Herman Lathers, Corey Miller and Marlon Walls are just a few that have given up valuable free time for the benefit of others.
“Just know you make a difference. You make a difference on the field, but you make a difference to us,” Knoxville Habitat for Humanity president/CEO Kelle Shultz said.
These are the types that deserve to be cheered in front of a packed Neyland Stadium of 102,455.
Those that have “aggravated assault/domestic violence,” “aggravated rape,” “aggravated sexual battery,” “driving under the influence” or “theft by deception” attached to their name do not.
Not alone in thinking that right should absolutely be forfeited the moment guilt is found. When the dotted line on a National Letter of Intent is signed and faxed to a school, an agreement is made on both sides to represent not only a team, a program and a university but also a people that have their allegiances sometimes bestowed upon them by an elephant or tiger dangling over a crib.
No man, let alone one 6-4, 336, has the right to punch out a woman or squeeze her neck until she becomes totally limp. He most definitely doesn’t deserve to land on his feet by simply going from one SEC program to another.
That’d mean no Cameron Clear to Texas A&M, no Nick Marshall to Auburn, no Tray Matthews to Auburn, no Cameron Newton to Auburn, no D.J. Pettway to Alabama, etc. Sounds harsh to the “second-chance” crowd but just doesn’t seem right for a 100,000 people to cheer on a guy guilty of raping and beating someone’s daughter, deceiving his university or stealing from a classmate.
Fans can be antagonistic, especially since they have a direct line to many athletes through Twitter. It’s better just to walk away. If Jackie Robinson could do it, then young people generations later should be able to handle themselves in 2014.
“Hey @JoeQuarterback your the worst footbal player your teams got” just isn’t as hard to ignore as handwritten letters threatening the life of your newborn.
Receiving admission and financial aid as a student-athlete is a blessing and a dream fulfilled. The suds still swimming at the bottom of the bottle neck would give a limb to walk in those shoes. Pack on top of that the star status from growing up in a city or town as a premier athlete, the recruiting process courting, the limelight of being a college athlete, and there’s not much left to want.
Shultz referred to the Vols as the “celebrities of Knoxville.”
And, she’s right.
For one day at least, we met college football players that earned that status.