The Dr. Phillips football team packed nearly 20,000 meals for Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico Oct. 11 instead of practicing.
The Dr. Phillips Panthers had lost consecutive games — first to Wekiva on Thursday, Oct. 5, and again to Apopka on Monday, Oct. 9.
Despite being heavy favorites going into their matchup with Freedom Friday, Oct. 13, the fact remained that a falter could cost the Panthers their season.
And so, last Wednesday, ahead of the game against the Patriots, the Dr. Phillips football team went to work — but not on the field. The Panthers spent time packing nearly 20,000 meals for the relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
The Panthers joined in on the massive aid effort at the Orange County Convention Center instead of their usual Wednesday practice routine. The opportunity had been brought to head coach Rodney Wells’ attention by the mother of Alesandro Martinez, and although adhering to routine is a crucial part of preparation and football culture, Wells and his staff knew it was the right thing to do.
“It was a tough choice, because everything we do is routine — but we play so much football, you gotta break it up,” Well said. “It’s about practicing what you preach. The pillars of our program are faith, family education and football — community service is a part of all that.”
None of this is new ground for Dr. Phillips. Since Wells took over as head coach, there have been annual community service events that include cleaning up local parks and Halloween festivities for under privileged youth.
The volunteering effort to help the island of Puerto Rico, which reports suggest is still 80% without power, may have come in place of practice, but that does not mean it was taken any less seriously.
“I told the kids before we left, ‘We’re going to work,’” Wells said.
Perhaps not coincidentally, two days after the Panthers lent a hand, one of the program’s most famous alumni — Green Bay Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix — was recognized for his community service. Clinton-Dix was named the NFL Players Association’s Community MVP for Week Five for his efforts to raise money for disadvantaged youth in Wisconsin.
Closer to home, Wells said the team’s captains each had their own teams, noting that the team led by senior Tanner Ingle packed the most meals.
On an individual basis, senior Bobby Johnson took to the event with such enthusiasm that Wells awarded him the team’s weekly “Extreme Effort” award — an honor usually pertaining to on-the-field performance.
“From the moment we got in there, he was literally running back and forth,” Wells said. “(Johnson) was sweating.”
There’s a lot of noise and bitter resentment in our culture today, something I won’t touch with a 10-foot pole in this column.
What I will say, though, is at times when people seem content to shout at one another — whether verbally or through a keyboard — it is important to remember that stepping up and taking action matters.
Doing something matters.
Cheers to the staff at Dr. Phillips for understanding as much and identifying a teachable moment, and kudos to the kids for responding.
And by the way, the Panthers had no trouble winning the game 35-8 and ending their two-game skid.