In the dog-eat-dog world of SEC football, perspectives can easily be skewed.
But as Kentucky coach Joker Phillips and two of his best players, offensive guard Stuart Hines and linebacker Danny Trevathan, prepare for what will be a pivotal 2011 season for the Wildcats’ program, tucked somewhere in their minds (and very prominently in their hearts) will be a life-changing trip they took to Ethiopia last month.
Phillips, Hines and Trevathan joined Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart on a Kentucky-sponsored mission trip to Ethiopia in May. It was the brainchild of Kentucky associate athletic director Jason Schlafer, who has adopted a child from Ethiopia.
Phillips’ wife, Leslie, and Barnhart’s wife, Connie, also made the trip, a week-long stay that saw the party of seven from the Bluegrass State get as much as they gave.
They visited orphanages, assisted in work projects -- doing everything from planting trees to painting outhouses -- and handed out food and athletic equipment.
“You can't go over there, and if you have any heart or anything in your soul, and not have it change your life,” Phillips said.
One of the things they did during the trip was deliver food in a city called Korah, where people live on a landfill and sift through the garbage all day to find food and tradeable goods.
Phillips said he will never forget that first family they encountered there.
“We went up towards the garbage and went to the first house, and it was about as big as (a) table,” Phillips recalled. “They had two kids, a mom, and the dad was probably at the landfill, sifting through to find food.”
Hines and Trevathan said they will have a hard time getting the kids out of their minds. Several of the kids they came into contact with were HIV-infected, but the Wildcats’ players never blinked, whether it came to showing them how to throw a football or simply hugging them.
“Being here, we have never really been around kids that you have no idea when the last time they bathed or something like that was,” Hines said. “You had no idea if they had some type of disease of whatever. There were definitely some issues that might come up in your head.
“But, the thing was, that we were there for them, and we didn't let that get in our way.”
For more on this touching trip, I'd urge everyone to check out this link.