utsports.com--Tennessee football players made time Monday to revisit their youth and assist the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley with a punt, pass and kick competition inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center.
UT’s Partners in Sports student organization helped organize the event, held on campus for the seventh year in a row. Between 80-90 Knoxville area children took advantage of the Presidents Day school holiday to participate and play football with Tennessee student-athletes.
“I came to all these events when I was growing up,” said Anthony Anderson, a Knoxville native who just completed his junior season with the football team. “Anytime I could see a UT player without paying, I was there. I enjoyed every minute of it, and they always made me feel like they were my big brothers.”
The football student-athletes’ contributions were another part of head coach Derek Dooley’s successful Vol for Life program that helps further the players’ personal growth through character education, life skills, career development and spiritual growth.
“It’s really possible because the program allows us to discuss issues that are important and we can examine our life’s path after football,” said Nick Guess, who also will be a senior in 2011. “It’s also a great thing that Coach Dooley encourages us to take the time out of our schedules and make a positive difference in a young person’s life.”
Sport management graduate assistant Josh Pate estimated that 30 UT students helped put this year’s event together in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club staff.
“This is our service project,” Pate said. “The kids seem to enjoy coming to campus and mingling with the student-athletes and just being here on the indoor football field. There have been different challenges and different things we have done each year, but the kids love it and we love it. Usually, our sport management students who have helped out with this event in previous years keep coming back to help us the next year.”
Anderson has been on both sides of events like these from his days as a UT fan growing up in Knoxville. Monday, he was the one signing autographs for perhaps a future Vol or Lady Vol.
“It was an honor, and making them smile made me smile,” Anderson said. “I know a lot of these kids from the summer programs I used to work with when I was in high school. I couldn’t believe they remembered me because they were so much younger then, but I feel they are a part of my family.”