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Players Continue to Lead

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Countless players are very much role models, just maybe not for the reasons some might initially think.

Student-athletes continue to set examples with their advocacy, perspective and volunteerism, making communities better and influencing others to do the same. In addition to thriving with considerable athletic and academic responsibilities, so many of these young adults also make service a part of their already-impressive profile. Such vital work is a leading element of what truly makes college athletics meaningful and special. There is power in that empowerment.

Countless players are very much role models, just maybe not for the reasons some might initially think. Their individual and collective efforts in their hometowns, on their college campuses and, using their individual brands for a collective betterment, on social media make a difference in the world. Plodding stomps at the line of scrimmage or quick cuts in the open field, a large number of players continue to leave footsteps worth following.  

The impact players are making off-the-field are both more direct and far-reaching than the plays they are making on it. Like winning, service can be momentum-based. The margin between idea and inspiration is often far less than ten yards; those playing college football are helping society at large identify the improvement that is needed and, in the ultimate form of leadership, moving the sticks of progress ahead. Their teamwork is a continued foundation for change. Football is a game of inches and so is life; those we cheer for are, for others, fighting for more. 

Many players have spoken out against racial injustice and police brutality in the country, bringing more attention and resources to the Black Lives Matters movement. Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, who was recently honored with a the key to the city in his hometown of Columbus, Georgia, even helped get the Mississippi state flag changed. Student-athletes aren't only often just well-known talents, but prominent voices in discussions over social issues. Their opinion and standing matters and matters more than ever. They are making history.      

Teams continue to help others through participation in all different types of civic engagements. From promoting voting registration and mask wearing to taking part in reading initiatives, to serving food to the hungry to bringing smiles to the faces of the ill, a portion of each student athlete's schedule is time committed to the opportunity to make an impact. The work they do is significant, adding to the greater good.

Players deserve to be recognized and appreciated for their critical community engagement, efforts that have a ripple effect on people's lives. In addition to other similar distinctions, it was uplifting to see so many names on the recent Wuerffel Trophy watch list, recognition "honoring college football's most impactful community service leaders". Attention like that is important, well-deserved and should be talked about more.

What has been accomplished has gotten the attention of the NCAA and college athletics big picture. Recently, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel has "approved rules to allow student-athletes to wear patches on their uniforms for commemorative and memorial purposes as well as to support social justice issues".

Those playing college football already have a lot of responsibility. They make it a point to add even more and to do so for others; it's a lesson we shouldn't let get lost in the shuffle.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports