When one thinks of football players, one tends to have an image of big, tough guys who march onto the field and tackle anyone in their way in order to get the win. Very rarely are the images of playing with young children, providing service work at schools and orphanages or hiking up a mountain associated with football players.
The Drake football team broke the typical football player stereotype by doing much more than play football when it traveled to Tanzania in May.
Last Thursday, those who went on the trip shared their experiences publicly for the first time at Pomerantz Stage in Olmsted. Players presented their experiences in a variety of ways including a rap by senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski, a poetry reading and a painting.
“For me personally, I was and am still overwhelmed by the fact that so many people worked so hard to make (the trip) happen, then that it actually happened and not only that it happened, but that it happened in such an incredible way,” head coach Chris Creighton said.
The team’s trip began with practices alongside the CONADIEP All-Stars from Mexico, the team they played against in the first annual Global Kilimanjaro Bowl. During that time the team also hosted youth football camps for the youth in the area.
“If you could’ve seen them with the kids – there wasn’t a guy that was too cool for school,” Creighton said. “They were just laughing, throwing balls around, playing with kids. It was magical.”
The actual game, the primary reason for the trip, was played on the third day of the team’s tout. After tight play throughout the game, the Bulldogs were able to pull through in the fourth quarter for the 17-7 win. The remainder of the trip was spent doing various service projects and climaxed, literally, with the team climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“When the players first heard ‘let’s climb Mount Kilimanjaro’ they were like, ‘what are you talking about?’” Creighton said. “So then when you go and do it together as a team, I can’t help but think that it’s got to help us believe that we can do anything.”
After spending so much time together in such a unique way, the team grew closer than before, which could benefit them on the field this season. Creighton said that the team was already a close family and that the time they spent together in Africa brought their relationships to a new level.
The experience had a significant impact on the team as a whole and more specifically on the individual players themselves. Junior Cam Good was one of the many players who gained a lot from the experience.
“This trip had such a huge impact on me,” Good said. “As a person, it made me realize how fortunate I am and to cherish everything I have in my life. I saw the struggles people face, yet it doesn’t affect them and they still have a smile on their faces. The trip was really a life-changing experience.”