CLEMSON – The Clemson football team engaged in a team-building exercise Tuesday afternoon, but it didn’t involve pads or running or blocking or tackling.
The labor of love instead focused on packing, boxing and delivering food to families in need.
“That’s what life’s about,” wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said, “being able to serve the community, serve people who are less fortunate than you, serve people who can’t do anything for you in return.
“We’re excited about that today. We’re off of football today, but we’re going to have a great time out here and build team chemistry a little bit.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has his players participate in a community-service project every season during the team’s bye week. This year the team worked with the Golden Harvest Food Bank, which is based in Augusta, Georgia, and has a distribution center in Anderson.
Players separated into different stations to accomplish the tasks, which included prepping cardboard boxes, filling kids’ backpacks and family boxes with food, then distributing to families waiting outside the team’s Poe Indoor Practice Facility.
More than 300 families received vouchers to receive food boxes, and 300 local children were slated to receive food-filled backpacks.
Travis McNeal, executive director of the Golden Harvest Food Bank, said the facility distributes more than eight million pounds of food annually to an 11-county area of South Carolina, including Pickens and Oconee counties.
“The need is great in South Carolina,” McNeal said. “It’s life-changing for us, to see this today. We worked for months to create this logistical piece for Clemson University, for the hungry and for these students. We know this is an important experience that could change their lives today.”
And that was precisely what Clemson kicker Greg Huegel was counting on. Many of the players got to meet personally with the thankful food recipients, who often mugged for photos with the players and hugged their necks.
“A lot of the time, guys don’t realize what they’re blessed with or the opportunities they have in life,” said Huegel, who served as one of five player ambassadors for the inaugural project. “This is kind of a way to show and give each individual an appreciation for what they have. Taking two hours out of our day on a bye week is a very eye-opening for some people.”
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said the community service project couldn’t have come at a better time – four days after the players suffered their first loss of the season at Syracuse.
“The world doesn’t stop moving because you may be disappointed or whatever,” Scott said. “Life goes on, and this is a good opportunity for our guys to get a little bit of perspective for how fortunate they are and also have an opportunity to give back.
“Coach Swinney challenges our players to see themselves as more than just a football player and to use this platform. I love seeing guys when they leave Clemson and what they do and obviously all the positive things that Deshaun has done in the NFL. We want to see that continue. Hopefully that’s the type of culture we’re fostering at Clemson.”
Scott Keepfer, The Greenville News