Smithson Tabbed for Wuerffel Trophy and AFCA Good Works Team Watch Lists
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Several times a month, usually on a weekend where he could be relaxing, Fish Smithson steps away from football to be the bright spot in someone else’s day. For his continued efforts serving the community, Smithson was selected to a pair of preseason community service awards as the Wuerffel Trophy and Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team were announced Wednesday.
For Smithson personally, a senior safety and 2015 team captain, all that matters is making a small difference for someone else. Public recognition never crossed his mind while dedicating what little spare time he has to making someone smile.
“Regardless of whether they make an award, I would do community service anyway,” Smithson said. “At one point in time I was one of those who was less fortunate. It was good to see people give back to me and now that I’m in a position to give back to people it feels great to be able to do that.”
When head coach David Beaty took over the program in December 2014, one of the first things he demanded of the players was to bond with the community. As a respected leader on the team, Smithson helped instill Beaty’s message to the rest of the Jayhawks, in hopes of making sure his teammates receive the same self-gratification of helping others.
“I remember when Coach Beaty and his staff first got here and they really drilled in us about community service and about giving back,” Smithson said. “One time we went down and made lunches for the homeless – sandwiches and snacks – and handed them out. They looked at us, smiled and said we made their day and without us they probably wouldn’t have eaten that day. It was big for me and I’m sure it was for everyone else that went.”
Whether it be reading to children at elementary schools, visiting hospitals, walking with elementary school children to school or ringing bells over the holidays, lasting memories are created at each community event.
Specifically, a trip to workout with children who have special needs sticks out most.
“I worked with one kid specifically and we went through footwork drills for football and did exercises on a balance beam. It was good to see him actually start something and finish it,” Smithson said. “His parents were there and they were telling me how much he loved it. They said they hadn’t seen him smile that much in so long. That made me feel like everything I’m doing is paying off.”
The Wuerffel Trophy, known as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service,” is presented annually by the All Sports Association in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Named after 1996 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel from the University of Florida, the Wuerffel Trophy is awarded to the FBS player that best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the The AFCA Good Works Team, which was established in 1992 to recognize a select group of college football players who have made a commitment to service and enriching the lives of others. For 25 years, the players selected have carried on the award’s mission by demonstrating that ‘good works’ extend beyond the football field.
Kansas football players combined for more than 1,000 hours of community service in 2015-16 a list of activities is below.
Habitat for Humanity
Just Food meal preparation
Kansas football’s Community Kickoff (players visit patients at Lawrence Memorial Hospital each Friday of a home football game)
Lawrence youth special Olympics open gym
National Walk to School Day at Lawrence elementary schools
Reading at Lawrence elementary schools
Salvation Army holiday bell ringing
Special Olympic football clinic
Train Like a Jayhawk
“My favorite part is seeing the people that we interact with smile,” Smithson said. “Whether it’s going to the hospital or reading to the elementary school kids. Just seeing their smiling faces and seeing how much we mean to them. That means a lot.”
Kansas is set to begin the 2016 season on Sept. 3, as it plays host to Rhode Island. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m., from Memorial Stadium with a live broadcast on the Jayhawk TV Network and ESPN3.
Season tickets for the six-game home schedule are now on sale for as low as $115. The Family Season Ticket Plan, which includes two youth and two adult general admission tickets, is $400.
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