Huddled against the frost of a chilly Friday morning, two opposing football teams joined forces in the ultimate show of sportsmanship. Players and coaches from Texas Wesleyan University (TXWES) and Arizona Christian University (ACU) gathered at Tarrant Area Food Bank’s Distribution Center to volunteer as the kick-off to a weekend of athletics and philanthropy.
Players from TXWES and ACU volunteered on November 1 in honor of the second annual Be Relevant Classic. During that weekend, the two teams volunteered at a food bank and then competed in Fort Worth to spread the message of being relevant. TXWES Athletic Director Ricky Dotson said, “When we talk about being relevant, it’s being relevant to the community, being relevant in our own lives. Being able to help with the food [bank], I think it makes our student athletes understand that there are ways to be relevant in the community other than just playing a sport.”
A prominent theme of the Be Relevant Classic is making sure the team is focused on more than playing and winning. TXWES Head Coach Joe Prud’homme said, “If we’re not giving back, then you just become a taker. We’re really interested in being givers instead of takers, and we talk all the time about the more you give, the more you get in return just from the feeling of satisfaction of helping somebody else.”
The coaches aren’t the only ones who understand the impact of their giving and how their service affects the community. Brandon Rolfe, Wide Receiver for TXWES, said, “A lot of players on this team, their situations aren’t good either, so they can really relate. We like helping each other, and helping others is just something we’re good at.” Since most of the TXWES players live in Tarrant County, they especially understood the impact of their service hours. Avery Childs, quarterback for TXWES, said, “There’s people in need out there, especially in the Fort Worth area, and we love to help. It’s just important to us.”
Because the idea for the Be Relevant Classic began in Arizona, the players from Phoenix are also enthusiastic about community service projects. Being that ACU is a Christian university, charity and service are indispensable to their team’s mission. ACU Defensive Lineman Tyler Hunt said, “Especially since we’re a Christian school, we have that label with our name. So we want to really represent that. We want to step out and show our faith, not just put it on our jerseys.”
Both teams admired how the event brings them together in friendly competition, all while doing good for their respective communities. Isaac Fudge, Offensive Lineman for ACU, said, “It’s always fun to get to know who you’re playing football against instead of being just random strangers. [Volunteering] two years in a row with the same school has been fun to get to know the guys you’re playing against.” Maverick Gamez, Quarterback of the ACU team, agreed: “Once we get to know these guys better [by] doing service projects with them, it’s always more fun when you see them out on the field.”
After packing 25,500 pounds of food in only two hours—the equivalent of 21,250 meals—the teams left to prepare for their upcoming game. In their wake, however, are countless children and families who are now able to get food on the table. Because of the dedicated work of those 82 athletes and coaches—the highest number of volunteers recorded at TAFB—hundreds of boxes of nutritious meals were packed to distribute to the community.
Both football teams are looking forward to the future of the Be Relevant Classic and continuing the tradition of their philanthropy. ACU Head Coach Jeff Bowen expressed his interest in expanding the weekend to include more teams in their conference and possibly growing to be a double header or beyond. Gamez also said, “Hopefully, it’s a launching pad that will grow over the years.”
After an energetic game and a weekend of inspiring change in the community, the final score was a valiant 45-35, with ACU emerging victorious. However, preparing over 25,000 pounds of food for thousands in the community is far from a loss. Next year, the 2020 Be Relevant Classic will be hosted in Phoenix again. The mission remains to focus on serving the community instead of the grind of the game. Gamez said, “You don’t have to be great to serve, but you have to serve if you’re gonna be great.”