For college students, Spring Break is one of the best times of the year. It's a chance to get away from the classroom (more than usual, of course) to mix some rest and relaxation with a ton of unsupervised fun.
Immaturity really is a must for this special time of year.
But a few members of Ole Miss' football team decided to use their time during the break for more humanitarian endeavors. Instead of hitting the white, sandy beaches of Panama City, Fla., six Ole Miss players, a team manager and the team chaplain are in the capital city of the Republic of Panama, where they will visit an orphanage, feed the homeless, speak to school-age children and run a free football clinic, along with other activities.
“It says a lot about not only their character, but the environment that Coach [Hugh] Freeze and his staff have brought to this university,” team chaplain John Powell said in a release through the school. “They understand the importance of giving back to those who are in need, and this opportunity gives them a chance to do that in a real way.”
The six Ole Miss players -- senior linebacker D.T. Shackelford, sophomore offensive lineman Justin Bell, junior defensive backs Ontario Berry and Josh Richardson, freshman defensive end Kameron Wood, and freshman tight end John Youngblood -- are being accompanied by 10-15 other college and professional athletes while in Panama.
The players arrived on Monday and will leave Friday. Ole Miss' spring practice begins Sunday.
Since NCAA rules prohibited players from raising money for the trip, Powell raised support for the group through donations and received more than $1,600 above what was needed for travel and living expenses in Panama.
The idea to head to Panama came from former Ole Miss quarterback Michael Spurlock, who went on a short-term mission trip to Panama last year with some of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates and team chaplain Doug Gilcrease. With Spurlok unable to make a return trip this year, he reached out to Ole Miss to see if any players would be interested in going in his place.
It isn't exactly partying on the beach, but there's no doubt that these players will also return from their time away from Oxford with some interesting stories to tell.
“My hope is that we all come back realizing how blessed we are here and that will carry over into how we look at our teammates, how we serve our community, how we approach our education and being grateful for all those things,” Powell said.