That commitment to community service is a key reason why the team has been named the Buffalo Funds Five Star NAIA Champion of Character Team for the 2010 football season. Buffalo Funds is the corporate sponsor for the NAIA's Champions of Character program.
"It's awesome for our team to receive this award," head football coach Perry Thomas said. "When you look at our team goals, character development is our number one goal and has been a strong contributor to the continued growth of our program over the past few seasons."
Thomas and his staff from the Kentucky Baptist Convention-affiliated university received the award Jan. 9 at the American Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame dinner in Dallas. The award is based upon the values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
CU senior captain A.J. Brown of Pelham, Ala., agreed that incorporating character into the team's dynamic has brought change to the program.
"It allows players to see people as they truly are, and it helps the team work together for the same goal," Brown said. "Character has helped me by staying true to myself and to my teammates. I believe character has helped the team believe in one another, develop trust, accountability. Now we all have one another's back."
The players often work in classrooms across Taylor County, Ky., where they read in each of three local elementary schools at least twice during the fall season.
"It is a great honor for our football program to be recognized nationally for their dedication to serving others and doing things the right way," said Rusty Hollingsworth, CU's director of athletics. "To receive this award speaks to the commitment of our coaching staff and their dedication to providing young men an opportunity to learn how to become servant leaders for tomorrow."
Leading the Fighting Tigers' service initiative is assistant head coach Jim Hardy, who has accompanied players on spring and summer mission trips to play softball and minister at prisons in Florida the past two years.
In addition to the reading opportunities and mission trips, Hardy divides the squad into 11 service teams, including one player captain. Throughout the year, the service teams participate in various service projects from organized events to helping rake yards for the elderly.
In May, the team volunteered to assist with the annual field day at Kentucky Christian Academy. But when inclement weather threatened to cancel the event, CU football offered to host the event in the school's indoor practice facility.
In the fall, the Tigers participated in the Tailgate for Reading at Taylor County Public Library and helped provide aid around the holidays by working at a local food drive, participating in a campus-wide Operation Christmas Child and volunteering at Supper with Santa for children in the area.
Team members also helped serve the Greenville, S.C., area in November through various projects during participation in the National Christian College Athletic Association Victory Bowl.
"This award is a testament to the commitment of our staff, players and the leadership of coach Jim Hardy," Thomas said. "It also speaks highly of Campbellsville University's commitment to being Champions of Character. I'm very proud of our team for their continued commitment to character development. I am also very grateful that the NAIA has recognized the efforts of these young men."
Megginson is sports information director at Campbellsville (Ky.) University.
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