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Fifteen University of Tulsa football players, coaches, and support staff bussed to Norman to help with the cleanup efforts.
Fifteen University of Tulsa football players, coaches, and support staff bussed to Norman to help with the cleanup efforts.
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June 18, 2013

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Tulsa, Okla. - The motto for GUTS church and Team Relief is an apt description of the cooperation that occurred on Saturday, June 15th in Moore, Oklahoma. Fifteen University of Tulsa football players, coaches, and support staff bussed to Norman to help with the cleanup efforts from the May 20th EF-5 tornado which hit the area surrounding Moore, Oklahoma. Through the teamwork of GUTS, TU football and Service International, volunteers cleared debris and wreckage allowing the people to continue on the road to rebuilding their lives.

Trey Perry, a volunteer with Service International, expressed his thanks to the group before they headed out to the site. "We appreciate you showing up and doing something you don't have to do, you could be enjoying your Saturday, but doing this is big. I believe in this work. And it certainly makes a difference to the people here. They're bewildered and numb; and by us going in and making a difference, it moves them over from hopelessness to hope, and that's a huge thing," he said.

Volunteers from Wichita, Kansas; Austin, Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma came together to help those in need. And the help was greatly appreciated. Kay Taylor, a local homeowner, had an opportunity to thank the group during the lunch break. "The Lord is with us and we know He'll take care of us and it's with good people like you that are here to help us. We really appreciate it, so thank you," said Taylor.

There had been cooperative efforts between GUTS and Tulsa Golden Hurricane Football program in the past. TU Football assisted with cleanup efforts of the ice storm in 2007 and the Joplin tornado in 2011. Committing to helping the relief efforts in Moore was an easy decision for Tulsa Head Football Coach Bill Blankenship.

"For all of us, it's what we build into our program -- we are the building blocks and serve others. When a tragedy like this occurs - loss of life and taking of property - you want to help someone. This is a way for us to help and do good as a team," said Assistant Head Coach Scott Downing, who accompanied the TU group to the Oklahoma City area.

"Just think about if we lost our own home. If this happened in Tulsa it would be a devastating blow. These people have to rebuild. When they first looked at their homes and the destruction, I'm sure there was a sense of hopelessness. But I think seeing people like ourselves and the many other volunteers that are here working has to give the homeowners the hope they can come back, that they can rebuild, and life can get back to normal," said Downing.

There was a definite benefit to the players who participated in the clean-up efforts. "[Players] see a guy struggling and two or three other guys run over to help; it's not just physical strength, but the support, the camaraderie they give, it translates to the football field. They learn that life is so much more than the game of football. It's so much more precious than that and they have a lot to give. Even though they think they're at their breaking point because they've been working out all week and going to class, they choose to give up their Saturday to come out here and work. I think that things like this help us succeed every Saturday in the fall," added Downing.

Given the choice to be here, the players know they were giving up their Saturday for a worthy cause. With summer classes and workouts in full swing, and fall camp on the horizon, the players made a conscientious decision to help others. "When this tornado hit, it was bad for everyone, not just Oklahoma, but for all Americans. I'm just here to help, that's why all of us are here," said red-shirt freshman quarterback Dane Evans.

"I came out here today because I wanted to make a difference in the community," added red-shirt freshman receiver Josh Atkinson. "I felt it was a calling, that God wanted us to help other people, to help those who have lost so much out here. I felt it was our duty to be here. Being part of The University of Tulsa program, I wanted to support and help Moore out."

Despite the rains that dampened their clothes as the day wore on, spirits were high as volunteers sought to bring hope to a community reeling from tragedy.

-- Thanks to TU Football Operations Assistant Ravi Savitala for providing insight into the Tulsa football teams disaster relief assistance in Moore, Oklahoma.