Vols help relief effort

His family back in Abbeville, La., wasn't uprooted by Hurricane Katrina, but that hasn't stopped one Vol linebacker from helping lead the relief effort for some families who were.

Jason Mitchell enlisted roughly a dozen teammates to spend this weekend loading supplies onto 18-wheelers. The goods will be hauled to shelters in Abbeville, where hundreds of Louisiana natives displaced by the deadly hurricane have relocated.

Naturally, Mitchell is pleased by the response of his teammates. He also is thrilled that Vol fans have rallied around him by donating money and goods to help those whose lives have been wrecked by Katrina.

"It means a great deal to me," he said. "It shows that fans not only support me on the football field but also when I ask for support for my people back home."

Mitchell comes by his community spirit honestly. His mom is helping spearhead the relief effort back in Abbeville.

"She's doing fine," Jason said. "Her main concern is the other people, trying to get them the supplies they need."

Vols helping Mitchell load the trucks include fellow Louisiana natives Ja'Kouri Williams (Plaquemine) and Chris Brown (New Orleans). Brown's family recently lost its home.

Also assisting Mitchell's relief effort was Robert Ayers, who made headlines last spring for his involvement in a much-publicized fight with fraternity members at the University Center. Ayers, who was suspended for the first two games as punishment, welcomed the opportunity to do something of a positive nature.

"Robert Ayers got into trouble but he's one of the guys who came up to me and said he wanted to help out with this thing," Mitchell noted. "Sometimes people make bad decisions but they're always willing anytime I ask them to talk to kids or anything – not because they get credit for it but just because they like helping out."

Jason and his brother Brandon oversee the Mitchell Family Foundation, which provides assistance to single families back in Abbeville. The Foundation funded scholarships that enabled a couple of young women to attend college and also provides turkeys for the needy each Thanksgiving.

"We try to help out people who want to do better in life but don't have the resources to," Mitchell said.

Generous by nature, he naturally jumped at the chance to help Katrina's victims. Several teammates were just as eager to help.

"Many of the student-athletes have been trying to find a way to help," Mitchell said. "This is a chance for us to make a difference in a lot of people's lives."

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