When two teams take the field, they each want to win. But even during a game, the scoreboard can be set aside to honor a fallen player, as two college football teams showed in their season opener.
Another team is recognizing a disability group through a unique promotion, while a former Olympic star has a powerful message to kids about perseverance. These are some recent examples of people and organizations who have recently made a positive difference in sports.
A Unique Play Honors Deceased Athlete
During a conditioning workout last May, University of Maryland right guard Jordan McNair collapsed, then died two weeks later.
The school will pay tribute to its fallen star throughout the football season, wearing helmet stickers with his No. 79. In their first game of the season against the Texas Longhorns, the Terps took that tribute a step further. On its first offensive play of the game, the team took the field with just 10 men, leaving the right guard slot open. Before the game, Texas agreed to decline the delay-of-game penalty the Terps would inevitably take, showing that even during a game, honoring a life is more important than football.
Orioles Wear Jerseys to Honor the Blind
When the Baltimore Orioles take the field Sept. 18 for a home game against the Toronto Blue Jays, they will be wearing jerseys with the players’ names spelled out in Braille, according to an ESPN.com report. The promotion will benefit the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), one of the largest organizations in the United States run by the blind.
The jerseys will be autographed and auctioned after the game. Proceeds are going to the NFB, which is celebrating its 40th year in Baltimore.
The first 15,000 fans will receive Braille alphabet cards before the game, a blind musician will perform the national anthem and NFB President Mark Riccobono will throw out the first pitch.
Orioles marketing director Greg Bader said the promotion is a “conscious effort to create an environment where everyone feels welcome.”
A Different Kind of Football Jersey
The sports apparel company Adidas is doing its part to help the environment. The company recently produced the first football jerseys made out of used material, which contain 70 percent raw yarn made from fishing nets and other materials recovered from oceanic environments.
The University of Miami Hurricanes introduced the new jerseys in their season opener against LSU Sept. 2.
The project to develop recycled jerseys is a partnership between Adidas and Parley for the Oceans, a conservation group.
“Community service has always been an integral part of our football program, and this partnership with Adidas and Parley helps us continue those efforts,” Hurricanes football coach Mark Richt said via the team’s website.
Olympian Has Great Message about Perseverance
Olympic swimmer Rowdy Gaines knows a thing or two about failure. When he was in high school, the former gold medalist tried out for baseball, football, basketball, tennis and golf. He was cut in all five sports.
After so many rejections, most people would have surrendered to the conclusion that sports wasn’t meant to be a part of their lives, but not Gaines. The next sport he tried was swimming, and he already had track and field next on his list if he didn’t make the swim team.
Swimming ended up being the sport for him. It started in high school and ended in international glory. Gaines won three gold medals, captured 10 world records and was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame.
Gaines, who is now a broadcaster, speaks often to kids, telling them he’s living proof that you should never give up on your dreams. One of his most recent quotes hit a chord for many in the sports world.
“A lesson that I tell kids is that you can find your passion,” Gaines told Greg Bach of the National Association for Youth Sports. “You just have to keep persevering.”
From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr
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