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College football also has agents of good

More dirty deeds.

Terrelle Pryor has a new tattoo.

Pryor, the former Ohio State quarterback, may also have a new car. And a new job. Certainly, he has a new reputation. Perhaps you have heard about it.

More good works.

What you probably have not heard about is the story of Ricky McClain, a defensive lineman from State University of New York Maritime College.

He has helped feed the hungry. He has worked with autistic children. Also, McClain has spent time working to help a soldier readapt to sports after losing both legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq.

You may also be aware of the trouble of USC running back Marc Tyler, who admits he spat on one female student but denies charges that he abused another. If you follow college football closely enough, perhaps you knew about that one, too.

What you may not know is the story of Colby Rohde, a tight end from Morningside (Iowa). Rohde has visited Haiti to help with recovery from an earthquake. He has gone to Mexico to help build a house for a grandmother and her two grandchildren. He has gone to Guatemala to lay the floor of a new orphanage.

Yes, it is a messy time in college football. There is too much scandal, too much controversy.

Ohio State has been exposed, and former West Virginia coach Bill Stewart urged reporters to dig up dirt on his coach-in-waiting, and Reggie Bush still hasn't given back his Heisman Trophy. Damien McIntosh of Toledo has been dismissed after being charged with punching his girlfriend repeatedly in the face, USC has had a national championship stripped away, and North Carolina is still waiting to be punished for its academic misconduct.

On the other hand, Matt Greenhalgh of Rhode Island gave the marrow out of his own bones to a stranger.

And thank goodness for it.

Given the unpleasantness of college football these days, you probably need to hear a few of these faith-restoring stories. Yes, there are good guys out there. Yes, there are players who are making things better. Not everyone is getting a handout. A great many players are giving them.

For instance, there is Al Netter, an offensive lineman at Northwestern who traveled to Guatemala to help. One of Netter's jobs was to travel to fields and collect (by hand) cow manure to transport so it could be used as fertilizer.

There is Aron White, a tight end at Georgia who works with children who have Type 1 diabetes. He also helps at a food bank. And with Habitat for Humanity. At Georgia, White is so admired, he gave the commencement speech for his graduating class last fall.

There is Kellen Cox, a wide receiver at Missouri Southern who has traveled to Nicaragua, Mexico and Tanzania to volunteer.

There is Byron Bell, a defensive end from Carson-Newman (Tennessee) who went to South Africa to work in an orphanage.

Now ask yourself: Who is your favorite player in college football?

Those are a few of the 40 nominees (down from more than 130) for the Good Works Team, a 20-year-old program sponsored by the American Football Coaches Association to honor college football players for their community service. Later this summer, two 11-man teams (one for Division I-A, one for the four smaller divisions) are selected from the 40 finalists.

Peyton Manning was on the Good Works team. And his brother Eli. And Tim Tebow. And Christian Ponder. And Trent Dilfer. And Daunte Culpepper. And current Bucs quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt (now a judge). Most of the team members, however, are not familiar names. They're just people helping people.

A bit of disclosure here. For the second straight year, I helped judge the Good Works team, so I'm a little biased when I suggest the good deeds of the nominated players should get a lot more publicity. You cannot read the stories of these athletes and not feel better about college football.

We see so much of how bad people act that we forget how good they can be, too. Ask 1st Lt. Mark Little, who lost his legs in Iraq. He was helped by McClain to learn how to snowboard all over again. Little referred to McClain as a "humanitarian'' and a "jewel.''

You can say the same about others. Texas linebacker Emmanual Achos, for instance, who has helped bring medical supplies to Nigeria, Peru, Egypt and Honduras. Or Boise State receiver Chris Potter, who helped build sports facilities for orphans in the Dominican Republic. Or USC quarterback Matt Barkley. With USC banned from a bowl game, he went to Nigeria to do construction work.

Bowling Green defensive end Ronnie Goble works in a soup kitchen. Kentucky defensive end Jacob Lewellen helps flood victims. Purdue quarterback Rob Henry went to South Africa to work with the children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.

Central (Iowa) tight end Cory Nikkel has hauled stones out of fields in the mountains of Peru. Wisconsin-Whitewater punter Kris Rosholt collects shoes to send to Africa. Florida running back Jeff Demps distributed food at Thanksgiving to the underprivileged.

And on and on. Others read to children or visit hospitals or feed the homeless or welcome vets or speak to teenagers.

In a better world, these would be the players the sportscasters highlight on ESPN. (Just spitballing here, but a one-hour special each year would be nice.) It would be nice to hear more about good works than dirty deeds.

Still, this is better than recognition. This is better than touchdowns, better than a bowl trip and better than making an All-America team.

This is making a difference. This is making college football a better place.

Also, the world.

College football also has agents of good 06/11/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 11, 2011 10:19pm]
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